Laundry Symbols 101: How To Decipher Those Circles And Triangles

Curious About Those Laundry Symbols? This Guide Will Help You Get Sorted

October 17, 2021 Updated November 23, 2021

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There’s a good chance that you’ve done laundry for decades yet still have trouble identifying laundry symbols. There’s also a chance that you didn’t know that laundry symbols existed until right this second since it’s not exactly common practice anymore to check out tags on casual everyday items. Still, like with all languages, it’s worthwhile to know just in case you happen to be traveling abroad or simply don’t know the best way to launder new clothes or new bedsheets.

Speaking of travel, people who frequent international destinations may find laundry symbols particularly helpful. If you’re unfamiliar with the common language of a different country, laundry symbols may end up being the best way to make sure that you’re not sabotaging your wardrobe. But they can also be excellent for beginners. Not everyone had a mom or dad who taught them how to launder clothes, so these symbols provide an easy and accessible education on their own. You might not even notice them on some of your best suits, sweaters, dresses, or even your kid’s stuffed animals. It’s like a secret surprise! So, if you just bought something new and don’t know the best way to take care of it, that’s a solid bet in making sure it lasts a long time.

The best thing is that when you’ve mastered laundry and washing machine symbols, they don’t seem quite as intimidating anymore. Here’s some more information about the laundry symbols chart so that you’re fluent next time you need to hit up the laundromat.

Laundry Symbols

Laundry Symbols

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Sometimes, you may see slightly different symbols for the wash cycle, but they all have one thing in common — dots. The dots used for the washing machine symbols can often stand for “heat.” So, if you want to wash something in cold water, you’ll look for the “wash” symbol with the least amount of dots. In fact, it may just be a wash symbol. Sometimes, charts make this even easier and include the temperature inside the wash symbol so that there aren’t any errors.

Of course, you might not know the exact temperature of the water when you put laundry in the machine. Many washers only have “hot, cold, and medium” temperatures assigned to them. If you were a nurse washing clothes that you worked in, you’d opt for hot water. Same if you’re a mom with kids who can’t seem to come home from the playground without a ton of mud on their jeans.

Dry-Clean Laundry Tag Symbols

Dry clean tag — laundry symbols.
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Often, you’ll see the words “dry clean only” on a tag. But if you’re traveling overseas, you might not be able to figure out whether or not a piece can go straight in the wash when you return home.

Luckily, laundry tag symbols for clothes that need to be dry-cleaned are pretty easy to remember. Usually, “dry clean” is indicated by a circle. “Don’t dry clean” is a circle with an “X” through it. Sometimes, dry cleaning tags may get more advanced and indicate terms for “short-cycle” or “no steam,” but unless you’re a dry cleaner, you probably don’t need to remember those quite as often.

Dryer Symbols

So, washing symbols are pretty easy to figure out — but what about dryer symbols? Drying clothes is an art form, and you want to make sure you do it correctly. (Especially since certain clothes shrink pretty quickly if they’re not dried correctly!)

Similar to wash symbols, some dryer symbols utilize dots to let you know the best temperature to dry clothes in. (That is, if you don’t just dump them all in there like many of us do. Don’t be ashamed.) The more dots, the higher the temperature, with three dots often being “high heat.”

There are other symbols related to drying clothes, though. Here’s what they look like:

  • Hang Dry — This looks like a square envelope or a towel just about to fall off the clothesline outside.
  • Drip Dry — This symbol is a square with three vertical lines.
  • Dry Flat — This is a square with one horizontal line in the center.
  • Dry In Shade — While a rather specific request, this symbol is a square with two lines in the upper lefthand corner.
  • Do Not Dry — This drawing is a square with an “X” over it.
  • Do Not Tumble Dry — This drawing is a square with a circle inside with an “X” over both.

Right by the dryer symbols, you might see the ironing instructions. As per usual, the more dots in the iron, the hotter it can be.

Bleach Laundry Symbols

Bleach is always a tricky thing to mess with unless you’re strictly doing a load of whites. Fortunately, clothes washing symbols may be able to help you ensure you won’t accidentally destroy your garments. The symbol for bleach is a triangle. Do not bleach is, you guessed it, a triangle with an “X” through it.

But wait, there’s more. A triangle with two lines inside is the symbol for “non-chlorine bleach,” and a triangle with “CL” inside is “chlorine bleach.”

Next time you buy yourself something nice, go ahead and see if you can decipher the laundry tag symbols. After reading this guide, you might have learned a brand new skill.

Laundry Tips

On top of understanding laundry symbols, keep these laundry tips in mind to ensure you have a successful wash day. Here are a few spots of advice to remember.

  • Once you get a stain on your clothes, put stain remover or detergent on it ASAP. This will help it come out in the wash.
  • To avoid fading your darker clothes, turn them inside out before putting them in the wash. This will help the clothes retain their color.
  • Liquid detergent is cool, but powder detergent is even better! It’s more affordable and doesn’t dissolve after the first cycle, so you’ll get an even deeper clean.