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Unravelling Laundry Symbols

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Unravelling Laundry Symbols

Deciphering the symbols and icons associated with laundering fabrics can be tricky. Here’s a run-down of the most common symbols and their meanings, so you won’t be caught short ever again.

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Wash Symbols

The pictogram showing a bucket containing water is a basic symbol indicating that the item to which it is attached is washable.

The same bucket of water as shown above, with the addition of up to six dots drawn inside it, indicates the ideal water temperature at which the item to which it is attached should be washed. One dot means a recommended temperature of 30 degrees C; two dots 40; three dots 50; four dots 60; five dots 70; and six dots 95 degrees C.

Some fabrics have been chemically treated to ensure they don’t wrinkle, and usually they don’t require ironing. These fabrics are known as “permanent press” fabrics and are designated on the label with the normal bucket of water wash symbol, underscored with a line. The appropriate number of dots (as pointed out above) represent the required wash temperature, which in the case of permanent press is usually low.
When two lines appear below the washing bucket, this indicates that the garment is delicate and requires washing on a gentle cycle. Usually this applies to fabrics like wool, silk or lycra. The symbol also includes the recommended washing temperature, which is written as a figure in degrees Centigrade. It’s best to use a mild detergent for delicates.
This meaning of this symbol is rather self-evident. The bucket of water depicted with a hand means the item is suitable only for hand-washing only and should not be put in a washing machine. Use a suitable detergent – safe for the fabric and your hands – wash and rinse out in a sink or tub.
When you see the bucket of water icon with an X through it, it means the item cannot be washed at all and should be dry-cleaned instead. (Dry-clean symbols appear further on in this article).

Drying Symbols

This is the basic symbol which indicates any item to which it is attached is suitable for drying in a tumble dryer.
A basic tumble dryer symbol with dots added to the inner circle is designed to indicate how hot you need to programme the dryer for. One dot indicates low heat, two dots medium and three dots high heat.
The tumble dryer icon with a line underscored below it indicates that the item it is attached to is made of permanent press fabric which has been chemically treated so as not to crease and require ironing. You should use a permanent press setting on your dryer for this purpose, or in the absence of one use low heat.
The basic tumble dryer symbol with double lines beneath it indicate that you should use a delicate drying setting on your machine.
If you have an item bearing this symbol it should not be put in a tumble dryer, but rather hung on a wash line or clothes horse to dry.

Dry Cleaning Symbols

A simple circle on a care label indicates that the item is suitable for dry cleaning.
A circle with a cross through it means that the item is not suitable for dry cleaning.
If a garment has a label featuring a circle with the letter P inside it, this means it is ONLY suitable for dry-cleaning, and should not be washed at all.
A circle with the letter F inside it means the item to which the label is attached should be dry-cleaned under normal conditions with no special treatment required.

Ironing Symbols

If a fabric item you purchase bears a label featuring the stylised symbol of an iron, it means the item is suitable for ironing. Usually the symbol will contain one, two or three dots. These are to indicate how hot the iron should be when ironing the item. One dot means low temperature, two dots medium, and three dots high.

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