What do the wash symbols mean?

Wash LabelsIf you’ve ever wondered what the various wash symbols mean you are not alone. Some of the wash labels on laundry are pretty cryptic. It’s not possible to work out what many of them mean. Some people don’t seem to bother too much with them, but that could result in damaging and shortening the life of lots of laundry (why are my clothes getting stretched?).

Wash label examples with explanations of meanings

This label (from a thin jumper made of Acrylic) contains several common wash symbols. The first symbol (a container of water showing 30) means the maximum temperature it should be washed at is 30 degrees. This is a fairly obvious one to work out, but do you know what it would mean if this symbol had a line underneath it – or two lines?

The lines under the container of water with a wash temperature

If there is a single line or dash underneath, it means wash on a cycle with reduced agitation. It’s not suitable for a cottons wash (even if the temperature indicated is 40 degrees). The wash agitation action of the drum on a cottons wash (the most commonly used cycle) is too strong for any item with the single line or dash underneath. Find a wash cycle with the same line under to prevent damaging the item.

The other symbols

Two lines (or dashes) underneath this symbol indicate even less tolerance to wash action and mean you should wash on a delicates or other gentle wash cycle. Most wash cycles have these symbols on the control panel or programme selector so you can match items up with the right wash cycle.

The second symbol (a triangle with a cross though it) means do not bleach. The third symbol is a rectangle shaped like a tumble dryer with a small circle inside and a big cross over the top. This means do not tumble dry. The same symbol without the big cross indicates you can tumble dry it on any cycle – but if there is a small dot inside the circle you can only tumble dry on low heat.

Two dots indicate high heat can be used. It is clearly important to observe this symbol. If an item of laundry says do not tumble dry then it clearly cannot stand up to the heat and agitation involved and will obviously eventually suffer damage. The fourth symbol on the above photo is clearly an iron. In this symbol the single dot indicates it can be ironed on low heat only..

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.. Two dots mean medium heat, and three dots indicate high heat can be used. Obviously a cross means it cannot be ironed. Clearly an iron with a cross through it means do not iron. The final symbol, a circle with a cross through is one I had to look up myself and it means do not dry clean.

Take note of written instructions above symbols

 Wash label

Take note of the written instructions above these symbols, which could easily go unread if concentrating on the icons. This item of laundry should be washed inside out, reshaped whilst damp, and ironed whilst inside out. These are equally important instructions to follow if you do not want to damage the item.

The wash symbols in the photo above are very similar to the first label except that the item can be tumble dried on low heat but can be ironed on high heat. Many modern items of clothing have wash instructions bordering on ridiculous. make sure you always read and understand the labels when buying anything new.

Other wash symbols
  • The wash container symbol used to indicate maximum temperatures but with a hand instead of a number means – HAND WASH ONLY
  • The same symbol but with a cross through it instead of a number (or hand) means – DO NOT WASH BY HAND OR MACHINE (presumably it will be dry clean only)
  • A triangle with CL inside means – CHLORINE BLEACH CAN BE USED
  • A square with a single line inside means – DRY FLAT
  • A square with 3 vertical lines inside means – DRIP DRY ONLY
  • A square with a loopy line from top left corner to the right means – DRY ON A WASHING LINE OR HANG TO DRY
Symbols related to dry cleaning

A circle with a letter (A, F or P) inside means – DRY CLEAN ONLY. The various symbols relate to which chemicals can be used but we shouldn’t need to know those details. Basically if there’s a circle with one of those letters inside it needs a dry cleaner to wash it.

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