Laundry Symbols and What They Mean

Laundry Symbols and What They Mean

Proper laundering helps appropriately clean and efficiently dry clothing. It also increases its longevity, helping garments retain their size and shape. Not only do you need to understand and select the best settings on your washer and dryer, but you should also follow the care symbols found on everything from clothing to bedding and bath towels. 

Although some tags and packaging offer written care instructions, laundry symbols are standardized to provide universal imagery for how to care for items. The graphics represent five types of laundry care, and the symbols will always be presented in the same order: washing, bleaching, drying, ironing, and dry cleaning. Each of the five types has a base symbol and variations to indicate specific care details. Here’s a quick guide to deciphering laundry care symbols.


Washing Laundry Symbols 

The basis of the washing symbols looks like a wash basin or tub of water. Washing symbols offer directions for machine washing as well as hand washing. 

  • Basin with a hand above: Hand wash only; do not clean in the washing machine. 
  • Basin with dots inside: The maximum water temperature you should use to wash items. The most common variations are described here, though you may find even more dots for higher temperatures.
  • Basin with one dot: Cold water
  • Basin with two dots: Warm water
  • Basin with three dots: Hot water
  • Basin with numbers inside: Also indicates a maximum water temperature for washing. However, instead of dots, it’s represented in a Celsius temperature. 
  • Basin with 30: Cold water
  • Basin with 40: Warm water
  • Basin with 50: Hot water
  • A basin with lines under it: Indicates the cycle you should choose on your washing machine. 
  • Basin with one line underneath: Permanent press cycle
  • Basin with two lines underneath: Gentle/delicate cycle 
  • Basin with an X: Do not wash

You may also find a laundry symbol that looks like a twist of rope, a piece of candy, or even a bowtie—this is the ring symbol, referring to ringing out an item. If you see the ring symbol with an X over it, that item should not be rung out when washing.


Bleaching Laundry Symbols

A triangle is the basis for symbols related to bleaching guidance.

  • An empty triangle: Use any bleach
  • A triangle with two diagonal lines inside: Use non-chlorine bleach only
  • A triangle with an X over it: Do not bleach


Drying Laundry Symbols

A square is the foundation for drying symbols. A square and circle indicate directions related to tumble drying with a machine, and the circle will vary to indicate heat settings for the dryer. A square with other elements inside—not a circle—gives direction for non-machine drying. 

Dryer Symbols

  • Square with a filled-in circle inside: Tumble dry with no heat
  • Square with an empty circle inside: Normal setting or tumble dry with any heat
  • Square with circle and one line underneath: Permanent press setting
  • Square with a circle and two lines underneath: Delicate/gentle setting
  • Square with a circle and one dot inside: Low heat
  • Square with a circle and two dots inside: Medium heat 
  • Square with a circle and three dots inside: High heat 
  • Square and circle with an X over it: Do not tumble dry


Symbols for Non-Machine Drying

  • Square with a curved line connecting the top two corners: Line dry or hang dry
  • Square with two small diagonal lines in the top left corner: Line dry in the shade 
  • Square with three short vertical lines inside: Drip dry
  • Square with a dash inside: Dry flat


Ironing Laundry Symbols

Look for an iron symbol for ironing guidance, including the use of steam. Variations in the symbols largely refer to maximum temperatures settings.

  • Iron with one dot inside: Iron with low heat, 110 Celsius
  • Iron with two dots inside: Iron with medium heat, 150 Celsius
  • Iron with three dots inside: Iron with high heat, 200 Celsius
  • Iron with an X over it: Do not iron
  • Iron with dots underneath: OK to steam 
  • Iron with dots underneath and an X over it: Do not use steam  


Dry-Cleaning Laundry Symbols

A circle symbol represents dry cleaning guidance. Some variations, like letters inside the circle or dashes outside the circle, are intended for professional dry cleaners only. Here are the two you need to know: 

  • Empty circle: Dry-clean only
  • Circle with an X over it: Do not dry-clean




  • All photos used in this blogpost are sourced from the internet, and the rights belong to their respective owners
  • McGuirk, K. (2024, January 30). Laundry Symbols and What They Mean. Better Homes & Gardens.
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