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What do the laundry symbols mean?

When in doubt, always check the label. Here’s your guide to the most common laundry symbols found on care labels.

How to read laundry symbols

Before washing any garment, the first thing you should do is look for the laundry symbols. Every garment should have these washing instruction symbols on the care label, and luckily, these symbols are universal. But they are not always self-explanatory, so here is a quick guide to help you decipher what they mean.

If your garment is missing its care label, you can find general care advice for the most common types of textiles in our care guide.

Washing symbols

Follow these instructions when machine washing to prevent your garments from shrinking or becoming misshapen. It's especially important to pay attention to whether or not the item is machine washable, as well as the maximum temperature for each garment.

Washing symbols with descriptions
1. Machine washable: Any garment with this machine wash symbol is safe to wash in a standard washing machine. However, this does not mean that it can be washed in high temperatures. Always check the maximum recommended temperature to avoid shrinking.

2. Hand wash only: Garments with hand wash symbols should only be washed by hand or with a gentle hand wash cycle. Hand washing is always recommended when possible since it puts less of a strain on the clothes. Read more about hand washing.

3. Wash at max. 30°C: Any garment with this symbol should not be washed with a temperature setting higher than 30°C. Washing in higher temperatures would likely cause the item to shrink.

4. Wash at max. 40°C: Any garment with this symbol should never be washed in temperatures higher than 40°C.

5. Wash at max. 60°C: Avoid washing in temperatures higher than 60°C. High heat is really only necessary for durable items like linen bedsheets and tablecloths.

6. Gentle wash cycle: A washing symbol with two horizontal lines below means that the item can be machine washed, but only if the washing machine has a gentle or wool cycle.

7. Not machine washable: If you see this symbol, always hand wash or dry clean your garment.

Drying symbols

Also following the drying instructions when tumble drying will prevent your garments from shrinking or becoming misshapen. The general symbol for tumble drying is a square with a circle inside. Below are some variations of drying symbols found on most care labels.

Drying symbols with descriptions
1. Tumble drying allowed: A plain tumble drying symbol simply means that the item is made to withstand being dried in a tumble dryer.

2. Tumble dry on the gentle program: Some tumble dryers will have gentle programs for delicate items. If you don't find this option, choose the lowest possible heat level to minimize wear and tear, and remove your items promptly.

3. Tumble dry on the high program: This symbol would typically be found on items that are made to withstand higher temperatures, like sheets or tablecloths.

4. Hang dry: If you see this symbol, let your garment line dry in the air without any added heat. Most garments will last longer and keep their shape if you let them slowly dry on a drying rack or on a hanger.

5. Drip dry: A square icon with three vertical lines inside means your bedding should be drip-dried. Not to be confused with hang drying, drip drying is when you hang the item in your shower to dry, allowing excess water to drip down the drain.

6. Flat dry: Some items of clothing, like knitted garments, should be flat-dried to maintain their shape. Place the garment on a towel, roll it up, and carefully squeeze out any excess water. Then lay it flat and leave it to dry.

7. No tumble drying: Never tumble dry items with this symbol. Most garments with this symbol will be harmed on shrunk when dried in a tumble dryer due to the heat and rigorous movements. Hang dry, air dry, or flat dry these garments to help them last longer. Read more about gentle ways to dry your laundry.

Dry cleaning symbols

The 'dry clean only' symbol means that your garment should be dry cleaned by a professional. It can come with different letters or lines, instructing the dry cleaners on the required process. But note that many of these garments can be hand washed.

Dry cleaning symbols with descriptions
1. Dry clean only: Some 'dry clean only' items with a dry clean only symbol could be ruined when exposed to water. Bring this garment to your nearest environmentally-friendly dry cleaner.

2. Do not dry clean: Garments with this symbol on the care label can be easily damaged by solvents used in dry cleaning processes.

Ironing symbols

If you wish to iron a garment, always follow the ironing instructions to prevent the textile fibers from being damaged beyond repair.

1. Iron at max. 110 °C, 2. Iron at max. 150 °C, 3. Iron at max. 200 °C, 4. Do not Iron, 5. Do not Steam

Ironing symbols with instructions

Bleaching symbols

Some want to brighten up white clothes using bleach. This is not something we recommend, as the bleach is bad for the environment and wears hard on the textile fibers. We recommend using our high-efficiency White Laundry Detergent for your white textiles, as it helps your white clothes stay white without using any bleach. If you still wish to bleach, here are the most common symbols.

1. Bleaching Allowed, 2. Non-Chlorine Bleachable, 3. Not Bleachable

Bleaching symbols with descriptions

It's best to avoid machine washing

Remember that the best thing to do is always to avoid washing. Airing, steaming, misting, and brushing off surface dirt are alternative ways to make your clothes look and feel fresh for longer in between washes. And when it is time to wash, try to be as gentle as possible. If your garment is stained, but not otherwise dirty, it is always better to hand wash it since you can focus only on the stained area.

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