Images showing clothe label

Understanding Washing symbols and Clothing Labels

Washing symbols and Clothing Labels may appear confusing, but are quite easy to understand.

Each clothing label should tell you what the fabric is made from and include up to five symbols that let you know how to care for it. 

Preserving your clothing tags may be one of the most important things you can do when it comes to caring for your garments. It’s not always as simple as distinguishing between dry or wet wash. 

What do the washing labels on clothes labels mean?



This group of UK washing symbols helps you decide if your clothing is safe to wash in your washing machine, and which setting, and what temperature you should use.

It is generally depicted as a bucket filled with water (except for the ‘Do not wring’ symbol). If the garment is machine washable, then you’ll either see dots or numbers inside the bucket symbol, representing the recommended maximum temperature: one dot means 30 °C (meaning that you have to wash your clothing in cold water), two dots 40 °C (warm water), and four dots 60 °C. 

In case you see one line drawn underneath the bucket, it means that your piece of clothing should be washed on a synthetic cycle, while two lines represent the gentle or wool wash cycle. If you find the hand wash symbol on your garment’s fabric care label, wash the item by hand at 40 °C or lower, or use your washing machine’s hand wash program.

  • Bleaching symbols on washing symbols and clothing labels

Before you turn to your bottle of bleach to make your whites shine like they used to, it’s worth taking a look at your garment’s fabric care label to see if the clothing can handle bleaching agents.

  •  Drying guidelines on washing symbols and clothing labels

In addition to washing and ironing, the laundry process also includes drying. To prevent your garment from shrinking or becoming misshapen when drying, you can find several helpful symbols on the fabric care label, informing you of the most surefire way to dry your clothes without causing any damage to the fabric.

  • Ironing symbols on washing symbols and clothing labels

Ironing symbols depict an iron with dots inside representing the maximum temperature that you should use to iron the garment.

  • Dry cleaning symbols on washing symbols and clothing labels

Some garments are better off being handled by a professional: that’s when dry cleaning comes into the picture. The below symbols are intended to help you decide if your piece of clothing should be dry cleaned and to tell the dry-cleaner what solvent to use . However, When dealing with your most delicate pieces of clothing, your dry-cleaner appreciates every help they get.

That’s why fabric manufacturers include many dry cleaning symbols on clothing labels, represented by the combination of a circle and a straight line

Different colors, different care for washing symbols and clothing labels

The first rule of laundry is to check the care label, and the second rule is to separate your darks and lights. Most clothing can tolerate warm water, dark or bright fabrics work best with cold water to prevent color transference. The label will state “Do Not Bleach” if the garment can’t withstand bleach products or “Non-Chlorine Bleach When Needed” if only certain types of bleach can be used.

Our Process at Laundryman when handling washing symbols and clothing labels

At Laundryman, we follow these rules for every order. Your clothes are properly sorted and expertly cleaned when in our care. If you don’t want to deal with rules one and two yourself, the third rule of laundry is to have someone else take care of your laundry for you. That’s where laundryman comes in! We’ll pick up, expertly clean, and hand-deliver your laundry straight to your door, 7 days a week.

Wet wash or dry clean only 

Unless a clothing label reads “Dry Clean Only,” the item can most likely be hand washed with an ultra-gentle detergent designed for delicate fabrics.

Special care items such as outerwear, certain textiles such as merino wool, and delicate embellishments or silk fabrics are better left to a trusted dry cleaning service (especially if the label recommends “Professional Dry Clean Only”).

Caring for upscale fabrics |washing symbols and clothing labels

More delicate pieces will often have the following instructions: “Machine Wash, Gentle or Delicate” and “Tumble Dry, Low Heat.” This means setting your machine to the lowest setting for gentle care at a maximum of 86 degrees Fahrenheit (compared with a fabric like cotton that can withstand 200 degrees). Alternatively, if your dryer does not have a low heat setting, opt to hang dry your item instead. For more refined fabrics such as pure silk, consider using professional laundry services.

For best results: Treat your clothes to a gentle cycle, or hand wash, and always use cold water (below 85 degrees Fahrenheit). To hand-wash, simply fill a basin with cold water and add a gentle detergent. Besides investing in a gentle laundry soap for your most treasured pieces, laundry nets are also a fuss-free way to provide an extra layer of protection for washable items.


As a general rule for heat instructions, the more dots on the label, the higher the temperature. But consult the breakdown below for specific temperature limits:

Machine Wash

  • Normal: Water temperature does not have any heat restrictions
  • Cold: Water temperature should not exceed 85 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Warm: Water temperature should not exceed 105 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Hot: Water temperature should not exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit


  • Low: Temperature should not exceed 230 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Medium: Temperature should not exceed 300 degrees Fahrenheit
  • High: Temperature should not exceed 390 degrees Fahrenheit

When it comes to clothing maintenance, the fine print matters. If you’re pressed for time or unsure of specific treatment requirements, consider the array of services offered at a dry cleaner—from Dry Clean, Launder & Press to Hand Wash—to ensure your top pieces are well taken care of.

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