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I’m a Laundry Expert…
This is What Your Care Label Symbols for Your Clothes Mean

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From bleaching blouses in your kitchen to running clothes through a rinse cycle in your white washing machine, knowing how to care for your clothes is written on their labels. In fact, with five symbols, you’ll have everything you need to know about cleaning your clothes in the best way. But with 74% of Brits admitting they don’t fully understand their laundry labels, deep diving into what they mean is a must.

Salah Sun, Head of Product Marketing at Beko Plc UK & Ireland, says: “Throwing a pile of laundry in your washing machine isn’t uncommon; we’ve all done a quick drum dash without looking to see what we’re putting inside – but this can damage your clothes. Spending five extra minutes separating your laundry could make the difference between bright whites and red dye disasters. 

“Everything you need to know about your clothes is on their labels. Knowing your symbols and clothing inside out can help you avoid laundry mishaps and keep your favourite clothes lasting longer.”


The washing symbol is usually the first symbol on your care label. It is easy to spot as it looks like a bucket filled with water – imagine this being your traditional washing drum. Inside the water, you might notice a number of spots. Depending on what is inside the water on the symbol, you’ll need to wash your laundry at different temperatures. 


The numbers correlate directly to the temperature you need to use on your washing machine, so separating laundry by temperature can be a good way of sorting your laundry cycle. If your symbol has spots rather than numbers, you can also set the temperature for your clothes. One dot means 30 degrees Celsius, whereas six dots equal 95 degrees. 


Salah says: “Washing your clothes at the right temperature is important for the long-lasting quality of your favourite items. Following the care label instructions can keep your outfit looking new and lasting longer, getting you more wear for your money.” 

Your washing symbol may include a hand, indicating hand-washing only, while a cross through means the garment isn’t machine washable. If you notice a line underneath your washing symbol, this means you can machine wash and permanently press, whereas two lines indicate machine wash on a delicate cycle.


Bleaching can be a good option for keeping your clothes white. If your shirts are dull and greying, giving them a bleach bath can be a way of bringing back their vibrance, but not every item can or should be bleached. 

Your clothing care labels will let you know how, and if, you should bleach your specific items. This symbol is a triangle.


There are four variations of this symbol that might appear on your care label. These are:

  • An empty triangle – this means you can bleach this item.

  • A triangle with a cross through it – don’t bleach this clothing.

  • A triangle with two diagonal lines inside or a triangle with CL inside and a cross through – both of these symbols indicate that you should use non-chlorine bleach.

Salah says: “If you forget what the triangle is trying to tell you, think of a warning or a stop sign. Using bleach on the wrong items can ruin your laundry, so looking for the small triangle can help you know if you can or can’t bleach these items.”


The ironing symbol is easy to spot as it is designed to look exactly like an iron. There are only six variants of the ironing symbol that you can find on your clothing label to help you know the best ways to leave your items crease free. 

An iron symbol simply means you can iron your clothing. This can be found on most items. However, a few materials don’t do well with pressure or heat, so an iron symbol with a cross through means you shouldn’t iron these items. You might also see an iron with a cross below it. This means you shouldn’t steam your item, but ironing without steam is fine. 

As with the washing symbol, your iron symbol can also indicate the heat level you should use. This symbol uses the dot method. One dot inside your iron symbol suggests a low temperature, two indicate a medium temperature, and three recommend using a high temperature. 

Salah says: “When it comes to chores, ironing isn’t everyone’s favourite. But you could be ironing items you don’t even need to. Check your clothing labels first to ensure you’re not adding unnecessary items to your chore list – or damaging your clothing with a too-hot iron.”



Your drying symbol will look like a square on your clothing tag. This is important if you want to know the best way to dry your clothing, especially if you have a washer-dryer. An empty square indicates that you can tumble dry your item on any heat setting without worry.  

Salah says: “There’s a handful of drying symbols you’ll want to know to keep your clothes looking their best. If it isn’t simply an empty square, knowing the right method of drying for your specific clothing is important for the longevity of your clothes. Wool, for example, should typically be air-dried flat to prevent it from shrinking, or on a gentle dry cycle.”

A square with a cross through represents ‘do not dry’, and a square with a circle in the middle (so that it looks like a tumble dryer) with a cross through means ‘don’t tumble dry’. A square with a filled black circle in the middle means ‘tumble dry with no heat’. 

As with the washing symbol, a drying symbol with one line beneath it means a permanent press, while two lines indicate using a delicate cycle.

The drying symbol also shows you what position to dry your clothes in. A square with a flat dash in the middle means to dry it flat, like with wool items, while a square with two diagonal lines in the top left corner means to dry in the shade. Hang dry is shown by a square with a semi-circle at the top, like a washing line between the two upper corners of the square, while drip dry is represented by a square with three vertical lines inside. 

Professional cleaning

The final symbol you might encounter is professional cleaning. You might consider this for an expensive suit, bulkier items, or a piece of clothing that is sentimental to you. Professional cleaning will be symbolised with a circle on your care label.

Salah says: “There are 10 professional cleaning labels that you might come across, but most won’t apply to your home laundry. The most important two for non-professional cleaners are quite self-explanatory – and the rest your local dry cleaners will be able to decipher.

“You’ll need to be able to recognise the empty circle which indicates that the item is fine to be professionally cleaned, while items that cannot be professionally cleaned will be a circle with a cross through it.”

Knowing what your clothes are trying to tell you is important for keeping them looking and feeling as fresh as possible. You don’t want to find out you’ve used the wrong setting, and now your favourite wool jumper is misshapen. Instead, separate your laundry based on colours and care symbols to ensure that each item is getting the right care. 

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