A guide to washing instruction symbols and cleaning symbols

It can be a catastrophe if you don't read an item of clothing's washing instructions correctly! We explain clothes washing symbols here to help you out!


clothes washing in a washing machine

Key Steps:

  • Whenever you purchase new clothes be sure to consult the wash care label before placing in the washing machine.
  • If trying out a new laundry method, such as using bleach in your wash, always check the garment’s care label beforehand.
  • Stick to using the appropriate wash setting and a good quality laundry detergent, like one by Persil, and you can help prevent any laundry disasters from happening!

It can be difficult to understand clothes washing 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 instructions symbols ­– which will help you maintain your clothes and keep them in perfect condition.

Clothes that can be washed at 30 degrees Celsius will benefit from being washed with a biological detergent – these contain enzymes which help to break down stains even at lower temperatures! We like Persil small & mighty bio for effective stain removal. Just read the label on the bottle for instructions.

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 do not exceed the set temperature (unless you want another shrunk, damaged, or discoloured jumper).

Here are more tips on how to use a washing machine:

Cleaning 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).
  • 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 Cleaning 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 show 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.

Originally published