The Washing Symbols on Your Clothes Explained: A Simple Guide

Caring for your treasured garments is our aim.

Clothes are very important possessions for many people. They can say a lot about you, your personality, and your professionalism. When you look well turned out it demonstrates your attention to detail.

Clothes look great when you first buy them, but over time they can begin to look tired and unloved. Washing them has a lot to do with this, and with the huge variation in fibres and materials used in the clothing you own, it’s no wonder that some clothes simply wear out quicker than they should. Are you guilty of shoving your washing in your home washing machine all together?

It’s not enough to separate your whites and colours – you need to read the labels!

Almost all clothing has a washing label. This is the manufacturer’s guide on how to wash them and it usually based on their own testing. Following this advice is recommended if you want years of pleasure from your favourite garments, without having to replace them.

But what do the label symbols all mean? You wouldn’t be the only one who gets confused about this!

We thought we’d give you a helpful little guide on the washing labels on your clothes to help you clean them sympathetically and care for them better, helping them last for longer.

We always read the labels when you bring your laundry, ironing or dry cleaning to us, so we know a thing or two about it.

Here’s our little washing label cheat sheet!


The tub symbols

If  your label has a tub symbol, then this means you can wash your item in then  washing machine. Good news if you’re in a hurry. The temperature you can wash your clothes in is shown as a maximum number and you should not exceed this.

In addition to this, some labels will just show a series of dots instead, and these can range from 30 to 80 degrees. One dot means wash at or below 30 and six dots means at or below 80 degrees.

Washing labels with temperatures

Some other symbols that you’ll need to pay attention to are those which tell you to hand wash only. Although obvious, you’re well-advised to pay attention to these.

Hand wash only washing label

Three more on the washing side of things include machine wash, delicate wash, and very delicate, which is indicated by the addition of more lines under the tub symbol.

machine wash, delicate wash, and very delicate,


The dryer symbols

Some clothes are fine to tumble dry, and others will get ruined if you do. This is really important to pay attention to, and if you’ve ever shrunk yours or someone else’s favourite top then read on!

The tumble dryer is shown as a circle in a square and with some added details tos how the temperature that you should be drying the clothing at. These range from normal, to low, to medium.

Of course, you should always check for the label DO NOT tumble dry when you buy a new garment. You don’t want to risk them changing shape or shrinking. These garments should be left to drip-dry on a clothes horse near a radiator, in an airing cupboard, or outside on your washing line rather than putting it in the dryer.

Tumble drying symbols on washing labels

You may also come across a tumble dryer symbol with lines underneath it, and this is to tell you when you have to use a more delicate setting. For these clothes you’re better off hanging them out to dry if you can.

Tumble drying advice


The ironing symbol

Next, we have the ironing symbols. Some clothes can’t be ironed, and some need a little more care than others. The labels will be your guide here and once again you’re advised to use these as the rule rather than risk ruining your favourite clothing.

From regular ironing shown with a simple iron, most labels will then show the temperature as low, medium, and then high with one, two, or three dots respectively. If you see a BIG cross through the iron then this means DO NOT iron. So don’t!

Ironing symbols on clothes washing label

One symbol that might confuse you is the one below. This doesn’t mean don’t iron; it means don’t steam.

Do not steam washing label

By the way, a non-iron shirt doesn’t mean that you can’t iron it. It simply means that it looks ironed even if you don’t iron it. Sometimes it can get some wrinkles, or you might prefer it to look more crisp. It’s perfectly safe to iron the shirt. 

Dry cleaning

The circle symbol

And then we have the advice for people like us – dry cleaners. This will also tell you that your clothing is suitable for dry cleaning and what type. Or you might also have the simple message ‘dry clean only’ which speaks for itself.

From the simple single circles meaning you can dry clean, to the instructions varying from any solvent to petroleum only, here are the dry clean labels explained:

Dry clean washing labels
Dry cleaning washing labels

For a dry cleaners, you might be surprised to learn that we prefer not to dry clean at all.

We use a wet cleaning process called Lagoon which you can read about here.  Lagoon is an Electrolux system that we use which is a true alternative to dry cleaning and gives us what we knew and loved from dry cleaning, without the parts we didn’t like!

More washing labels you might come across

There are more that you might find in your clothing and those are all shown below. The above are the most common and the ones you’ll probably want to be more familiar with.

If you need help with your laundry, ironing or dry cleaning in Reading then you know where to come. It’s a lot less confusing to just hand your clothes over and let us worry about how to care for them!

For now, here’s the full cheat sheet for those pesky washing labels.

Washing labels explained

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