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A Guide to Washing Instruction Symbols & Cleaning Symbols

Unsure whether your new shirt is machine-washable? Read our easy guide to clothes washing symbols – it will help you avoid any more laundry disasters!



It can be difficult to understand laundry symbols because there are so many of them. You or someone you know might have had the unfortunate experience of taking a new dress or jumper out of the washing machine, only to find it has shrunk to half its original size. When this happens, you often have no choice but to throw the poor garment away. These problems can be avoided by following our guide to understanding washing instruction symbols ­– which will help you maintain your clothes and keep them in perfect condition.

Whatever temperature you wash at, always use a good quality detergent such as Omo Liquid – it’s highly effective at removing stubborn stains. Just read the label on the bottle for instructions, and check the care label on your clothing to make sure it is suitable.

Basic Clothes Washing Symbols

  • The most common washing symbol is the bucket filled with water. This indicates a normal machine wash, where the garment can be washed at any temperature and with any detergent or soap.

  • You may find a bucket symbol indicated with a dot or dots in the middle. This means the clothing must not exceed its indicated washing temperature.

One dot = 30oC

Two dots = 40 oC

Three dots = 50 oC

Four dots = 60 oC

Five dots = 70 oC

Six dots = 95 oC

  • The hand inside the bucket symbol means the clothing should be hand washed

Always be sure to check the amount of dots and to not exceed the set temperature (unless you want another shrunk, damaged, or discoloured jumper).

Ready to put them in the washing machine? Here's how:

Washing Symbols for Ironing

  • The iron symbol alone means the clothing can be regularly ironed at any temperature and with or without steam.

  • An iron symbol with one dot means you can only iron and steam the garment at a low setting (110 oC / 200F).

  • Two dots means you can perform ironing up to a medium temperature (150 oC / 300f).

how to stretch clothes
  • Three dots will let you iron, dry or steam the item up to a high temperature (200 oC / 290F).

  • A crossed out iron means ironing should not be attempted.

Tumble Drying Laundry Symbols

  • The tumble dryer icon (a square with a circle in the middle) indicates the clothing can be tumble or machine dried at any temperature.

  • A tumble dryer with one dot indicates that a machine dryer must be used at a low heat setting, two dots suggests using a machine dryer up to a medium setting, and three dots is up to a high setting.

  • The black circle in the middle indicates that regular drying can only be performed on the No Heat or Air Only settings.

  • The crossed out tumble dryer means the clothing cannot be tumble dried.

Other alternative methods to drying clothes include: hanging them on a washing line, or a bar, inside or out of your home (this can also save a little extra a month on your electric bill).

Bleach Washing Instructions Symbols

  • The triangle symbol means any type of bleaching product can be used during laundering.

  • Two lines inside the triangle shows only a non-chlorine bleach can be used.

  • The crossed out triangle means the clothing cannot be bleached.

Dry Cleaning Washing Symbols

  • The circle symbol indicates that the item can be dry cleaned.

  • The crossed out circle means that it cannot be dry cleaned.

Sometimes, you may find that letters appear inside the circular washing symbol. If you take the item of clothing to your local dry-cleaners, they will happily explain what the symbol means and the products they will use to eliminate the dirt and stains.

Following this step-by-step guide will help prevent your clothes from ending up damaged or ruined. For more information on care symbols and how to wash clothes, be sure to check out the rest of our laundry and washing articles.

  • Whenever you purchase new clothes be sure to consult the washing instruction symbols on the label before placing in the washing machine.

  • If trying out a new laundry product, always check the garment’s care label to see if it suitable for the fabric.

  • Stick to using the appropriate wash setting and a good quality laundry detergent, like Omo.

Originally published