You’ll find a variety of symbols printed on just about any fabric item you buy these days. Usually, you can locate these on the item’s tag.

Though often ignored, these symbols are vital to understanding how to properly launder your clothes and other fabric items.

There are a few dozen laundry symbols which you’re likely to encounter. Some are much more common than others. It’s worth learning what these symbols mean. Once you understand them, you’ll be able to simply glance at the tag on any fabric item and rapidly determine the best way to take care of your fabric when laundry day comes around.

Let’s take a look at the most important and common laundry symbols you’re likely to come across.

Most Common Laundry Symbols

Washing Symbols

Washing Symbols

Washing symbols let you know the best way to wash your fabrics. They indicate if you can use a washing machine versus hand washing or dry cleaning your fabrics, what temperature they should be washed at, and what type of cycle you should use with your washing machine.

Here’s a quick rundown of the most common washing symbols:

  • Tub with water: Washing machine safe
  • Tub with water crossed out with X: Do not use in washing machine
  • Tub with hand in water: Hand wash only
  • Circle: Dry clean only
  • Circle crossed out with X: Do not dry clean

You’ll also find washing symbols related to temperature. These will usually include dots for cold, warm, or hot. Some tags may include a printed number corresponding to the optimal washing temperature.

  • Tub with one dot: Wash cold, between 65-85 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Tub with two dots: Wash warm with a maximum temperature of 105 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Tub with three dots: Wash hot with a maximum temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit

Information relating to the type of washing cycle you should use will take the form of a tub with lines underneath it.

  • Tub with no lines underneath: Normal Cycle
  • Tub with one line underneath: Permanent Press Cycle
  • Tub with two lines underneath: Delicate Cycle

Drying Symbols

Drying Symbols

Drying symbols let you know the optimal way to get your clothes dry. Failing to adhere to these recommendations can result in damage to your clothes, or shrinkage from too much heat.

Here are the most common drying symbols:

  • Circle enclosed in square box: Tumble dry safe
  • Circle enclosed in square box crossed out with X: Do not tumble dry
  • Square with curved line near top: Hang dry only
  • Square with straight line in middle: Dry flat
  • Ribbon crossed out with X: Do not wring out

Drying symbols related to the optimal drying temperature will be indicated with dots or in some cases with a number printed corresponding to the ideal drying temperature.

  • Circle with no dots: Any heat
  • Circle with one dot: Low heat
  • Circle with two dots: Medium heat
  • Circle with three dots: High heat
  • Circle filled in with color: No heat (tumble only)

Dryers can also be set to different cycle types. Symbols indicating the ideal cycle will be indicated with a circle enclosed in a square box with lines underneath it.

  • Circle in box with no lines underneath: Normal cycle
  • Circle in box with one line underneath: Permanent press cycle
  • Circle in box with two lines underneath: Delicate cycle

Bleaching Symbols

Bleaching Symbols

Not all fabrics play well with bleach. It can work great to get stains out of certain fabrics, but others should not be bleached or only used with non-chlorine bleach.

This will be indicated by one of three triangle symbols.

  • Triangle: Bleaching allowed
  • Triangle crossed out with X: No bleaching
  • Triangle with two lines inside: Non-chlorine bleach only

Ironing Symbols

Ironing Symbols

Ironing can be a great way to get wrinkles out of your clothes, but not all fabrics respond well to ironing. Some can handle a gentle ironing, but turning up the heat can spell disaster for your favorite shirt.

Ironing symbols take the form of a stylized iron. Dots inside of the iron symbol indicate how much heat should be used when ironing.

  • Iron with one dot inside: Iron on low heat
  • Iron with two dots inside: Iron on medium heat
  • Iron with three dots inside: Iron on high heat
  • Iron crossed out with X: Do not iron
  • Iron with X underneath: Do not use steam when ironing

Other Laundry Symbols

We’ve gone over the most common ironing symbols, but there are many more lesser known laundry symbols.

It might be worth printing out a laundry symbol legend chart and pinning it up in your laundry room to keep track of all of the symbols and have them ready where you need them most.

But for most laundry items, the symbols we’ve discussed above should be more than enough to get you by.

Happy washing!


What types of clothes should always be dry cleaned?

Look at the tags on your clothing for the laundry symbols which will indicate if the item is dry clean only or washer safe.

If my tag ripped off, what can I do to make sure I launder it properly?

You can attempt to contact the manufacturer to receive instructions as to how to properly launder the garment. If you can’t reach the manufacturer, you may be able to determine the best way to launder it based on the type of fabric it is made out of. When in doubt, gently hand wash and allow to air dry.

Are there different symbols for different countries?

Yes. You may encounter different laundry symbols on garments from other countries.

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