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Wash or Dry Clean? How to Read Clothing Laundry Labels


No one likes taking their clothes out of the laundry only to discover that their new sweater is suddenly a few sizes smaller or their white clothes are suddenly a bright shade of pink. Unfortunately, these things can happen if you’re not careful about reading the laundry labels on your clothes and following the directions. 

However, even if you look carefully at laundry labels, you might need help understanding them. Often, the laundry labels on clothes include symbols that may seem mysterious or incomprehensible if you’re not familiar with them. Here's a look at what you need to know about reading clothing laundry labels. 

Laundry Symbols

One thing that you may see on the label is a figure that looks something like a bucket of water. By itself, this symbol means that it’s fine to machine wash this article of clothing. If you see a hand in the bucket of water, that means that the clothing is hand wash only. The bucket symbol with an X over it means that the item should not be washed. You may also see a circle, which means dry clean only, or a circle with an X through it, which means do not dry clean. 

The bucket of water symbol may also be used to indicate the temperature at which the clothes should be washed and the type of washing machine cycle that you should use. If you see the symbol with a dot inside, that means that the water should be cold – the temperature should be between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Two dots means that it’s a warm wash, with the water temperature no higher than 105 degrees. Three dots means that it’s a hot wash, where the water temperature can be up to 120 degrees. You should also look for lines underneath the symbol. No lines mean that it’s a normal wash. One line means to use the permanent press cycle and two lines mean to use the gentle cycle.

Drying Symbols

Washing your clothes properly also means paying attention to how you dry them, and there are a number of drying symbols that can tell you how to carefully dry your favorite clothes. A box with a circle inside of it means that you can tumble dry the clothing. The same box with a circle inside of it and an X over the picture means that you should not tumble dry the clothing. A box with a curved line at the top means that you should hang the item to dry, and a box with a line in the middle of it means that the item needs to dry flat. A symbol that looks like a bowtie with an X over the top means that you should avoid wringing the item to dry it. 

As for information on dryer temperature, you should look for circles. An empty circle means that any temperature is fine. A circle with three dots inside of it means to use high heat. Two dots stand for medium heat and one dot means low heat. A solid circle means that the item should not be exposed to any heat or put into an air dryer. 

Understanding and following the instructions provided by these symbols can ensure that your favorite clothes stay in great shape.