Laundry Symbols Guide for Washing, Drying and Ironing


Finding your clothes shrunken or stained can put you in a spin cycle. Understanding how to read laundry symbols can help you avoid these pitfalls when washing, drying, ironing or using bleach. Review our laundry symbols guide before doing your next load to help keep your clothes fresh and lasting longer.


You can also download our laundry symbols PDF to print for your laundry area or keep on your phone for reference!



What do Washing and Drying Symbols Look Like on My Clothes?

Have you noticed icons on the labels of your clothes, sheets or towels? These pictograms, dots and lines are instructional laundry symbols for washing, drying and taking good care of your items. They are fairly straightforward to identify:


  • Washing symbols look like an inverse trapezoid with a wavy line at the top. You might think of it as a wash tub with water, just like they did it in the old days!

  • Drying symbols are square, often with a circle in the middle (like a dryer with the interior spinning drum)
  • Bleach use markings take the shape of a triangle.
  • Ironing pictograms look just like the iron itself.


That’s only the tip of the iceberg, though. Reading laundry symbols can be like decoding another language, but once you get the “grammar” of it, you’ll understand what laundry symbols mean and how they help you know how to care for your clothes.

What Are the Lines and Dots on Laundry Symbols About?

The basic primary shapes of laundry symbols can get slightly complicated when you add dots, underlines, strikethroughs and more detailed info about what you can and cannot do in the washer or dryer. Fortunately, though, these symbols are consistent across the different laundry categories. In other words, a single-dot washing symbol means something similar to a single-dot drying symbol.


Washing Drying Ironing
One dot = Machine wash, cold One dot = Tumble dry, low temp. cycle One dot = Low temp.
Two dots = Machine wash, warm Two dots = Tumble dry, medium temp. cycle Two dots = Medium temp.
Three dots = Machine wash, hot Three dots = Tumble dry, high temp. cycle Three dots = High temp.


The following guides will help you with all the do’s and do not’s in the laundry room.

How to Read Washing Symbols

Wash your clothes at the right temperature and on the proper cycle to reduce wear and tear over time, shrinkage, and set-in stains. It would be unfortunate for color bleed to make a plain white shirt look like it's covered in red wine stains. After all, you’d surely prefer to remove stains on your clothes than cause them by not following the right washing instructions.


Look for the washer tub (inverted trapezoid) on your item’s care label for washing instructions. Dots inside the shape reflect the recommended water temperature, and lines underneath indicate the specific wash cycle. Any exed-out image means “Do not.” As you might expect, items that should be hand-washed will typically have an icon of a hand dipping into the washing tub symbol.


Washing Symbols Guide

Washing Symbol What it means
Machine Wash: Normal
Machine Wash: Permanent Press
Machine Wash: Delicate
Wash by hand
Do not wash/submerge in water
Do not wring
Chlorine bleach acceptable
Use a non-chlorine bleach
Do not bleach


What does 30, 40 or Another Number Mean in Laundry Symbols?

Some clothes might use numbers instead of dots as a symbol for water temperature. It’s important to note that the numbers are in increments of 10, and all of them are in degrees Celsius. A cold wash is at 30ºC (85ºF). Warm is 40ºC (105ºF), while warm/hot is 50º (120ºF). The hottest recommended temperature for safely washing a garment is 60º (140ºF).


What Is the Triangle Laundry Symbol?

Any time you see a triangle symbol on an item’s care label, that refers to bleach. An empty triangle means you can use chlorine bleach, while a filled-in triangle with an “X” means you should not bleach. A triangle with two diagonal lines suggests the garments can be whitened or brightened using a non-chlorine bleach such as OxiClean™ Versatile Stain Remover or a detergent that contains OxiClean.

Decoding Drying Symbols

TheIt’s not fun when you put your favorite shorts in the wash, only for that same pair to shrink to the miniscule size of a James Bond swimsuit. Knowing the symbols that show which clothing you can tumble dry, hang dry or dry flat can play a large part in helping your garments keep their size and shape.


Drying symbols guide

Drying Symbol What it means
Tumble dry, normal
Tumble dry, no heat
Do not tumble dry
Line dry
Shade dry
Drip dry
Dry flat
Do not dry

What Do the Ironing Laundry Symbols Mean?

Ironing can be a necessary process for rooting out wrinkles after garments go through the washer and dryer. But improper ironing can also permanently damage certain fabrics. The next time you’re preparing to iron your freshest button-down or smooth out your favorite skirt, make sure you read the symbols for a safe and straightforward ironing process.


Ironing symbols guide

Ironing Symbol What it means
OK to iron
Can iron with steam
Do not iron with steam
Do not iron


Can you steam clothes that say “Do Not Iron”?

Avoid using a clothes steamer on any fabric with a wax coating, velour, velvet or suede and take caution when steaming garments with plastic or add-ons like buttons. Otherwise, you’re probably in the clear to steam an item to get rid of wrinkles, even if a “Do Not Iron” symbol is present.

What are the Laundry Symbols for Dry Cleaning?

Dry cleaning laundry symbols are quite easy to understand. If the article of clothing in question has an open circle, then it can be sent to the cleaners. But an “X” through that circle means it cannot be dry cleaned.


Note: Dry clean only items will typically have a “Do Not Wash” symbol (an X through the washer tub symbol) that precedes the dry cleaning symbol.


What does A, F or P mean for laundry symbols?

These letters refer to items that should be dry cleaned and the acceptable methods of dry cleaning for each item. “A” means any, as in the cleaners can use any solvent. The letter “F” means any solvent except for Trichloroethylene, while “P” means the cleaners must use petroleum solvents. You don’t need to stress over these, since they are meant to inform your local dry cleaner. Still, the more you know!

Other Laundry Symbols to Look Out For

Washing, drying and ironing symbols are among the most common. But what are some other icons you might see on your articles of clothing? Keep an eye out for the following markings, which typically provide instructions that apply to the recommended method of professional dry (or wet!) cleaning:


  • Open circle with a “W”: A item that should be professionally wet cleaned (at your dry cleaners).
  • Filled circle with an X across it: Item that should be dry cleaned but not wet cleaned.
  • Any circle with a diagonal line somewhere around the shape refers to the method of dry cleaning.

Look and Feel Good by Following Laundry Symbols Instructions

With your newfound mastery of laundry symbols, you can help keep your clothes happy and healthy while staying away from the dangers of shrinking and staining. Get the most out of your laundry experience by trying these Arm & Hammer™ laundry detergents and additives:


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