Taking care of your clothes is important, but it can also be confusing. For every t-shirt or pair of jeans that you can simply throw in the washer and dryer without thinking twice, there’s a wool sweater or silk blouse that requires much more delicate laundering. If you’re hoping to finally decode those laundry symbols on your clothing tags, here's a helpful guide.
This one’s simple — machine-wash the garment and don’t worry too much about the exact settings.
Washtub With One Line Underneath
Machine-wash these clothes too, but use the permanent press cycle. This helps prevent shrinking, wrinkles, and fading.
Washtub With Two Lines Underneath
If you guessed that this means to machine-wash the garment with a different cycle, you’re a quick study. The two lines indicate a delicate cycle, which uses colder water and a slow spin cycle.
Washtub With a Hand
These items are too delicate for the washing machine and need to be hand-washed. A sink or small tub works best, and there are mild detergents designed specifically for hand washing. It’s more work, but your garments will last longer.
Washtub With an X Through It
Don’t wash anything with this symbol at all — take it to the dry cleaners.
Washtub With One Small Dot
Anything with this symbol can go in the washing machine, but colder temperatures are ideal — between 65°F and 85°F.
Washtub With Two Small Dots
That second dot indicates that warmer water is okay for these items, usually at a maximum temperature of 105°F.
Washtub With Three Small Dots
Heat these bad boys up as much as you want, because they can withstand water temperatures of up to 120°F.
If the triangle doesn’t have anything in it, it means that the item in question can be bleached.
Triangle With Diagonal Lines
These can also be bleached, but only if it doesn’t contain chlorine. If you’re not sure whether the bleach you use has chlorine in it, just check the list of ingredients.
Triangle With an X Through It
Sometimes the triangle will be filled in, sometimes, it will be empty aside from the big X going through it — in any event, don’t use bleach.
Square With a Circle Inside It
We’ve now reached the drying section of laundry symbols. This one is probably the most common and indicates that you can tumble-dry the item. As with washing, there might be dots as well — one dot indicates low heat, two for medium heat, and three represents high heat.
Square With a Filled-in Circle
If the circle is completely filled in, throw the item in the dryer with no heat at all.
Square With a Circle Inside It and a Line Underneath
Once again, the line underneath means to use the permanent-press setting.
Square With a Circle Inside It and Two Lines Underneath
Just like before, the two lines below the main symbol are for the delicate setting.
Square With a Circle Inside It and an X Through It
As you’ve probably noticed by now, an X through just about anything means to not do it. In this case, that means not to tumble dry. Anything with this symbol should instead be hung to dry, though you can use an extra spin cycle to remove as much excess water as possible first.
An empty circle with nothing else around or inside it is for items that need to be dry-cleaned.