How To Read Laundry Symbols: A Guide to Laundry Care

How To Read Laundry Symbols: A Guide to Laundry Care

The simple part about washing your clothes can often be picking the laundry detergent, the hard part about it is understanding how to actually wash them. AspenClean has been around long enough to know that the most common washing mistake is not reading the label first or, perhaps, you’ve read it but you don’t fully understand what it means...

Well, don’t worry, we are here to help! We know that reading laundry symbols can be like reading another language, so we’ve put together all laundry symbols and their meaning so that you can wash your clothes like never before.

Read on for our essential laundry symbols guide and expert tips.

What are laundry symbols and where to find them?

Washing Machine Symbols on Your Clothes
 Dry clean 


Laundry symbols were designed to help increase the lifespan of our clothes and can be found on the labels of your clothes and fabrics. As laundry is done all around the world, the industry created five basic washing instruction symbols to make it easier for everyone to follow. Once you master these five basic shapes you will become a laundry professional in no time!

So before we get started, make sure to double check your fabric labels for instructions because each fabric will have a different instruction and we all know that when we get stains on our clothes we want to act quickly to remove all stains especially those made by spilling wine

How to wash? Decode the washing machine symbols

First up are our washing machine cycle and water temperature symbols, and, they are probably the most important symbols you need to follow. Alicia, our president and co-CEO of AspenClean, warns that if you don't follow the care instructions, you could cause damage to your clothes. "For example, what might happen if you put a dry-clean-only garment in a washing machine? The garment may shrink - not just a little, but significantly“.

It is also important to know the right symbols for the different washing cycles and temperatures. For instance, as seen in our guide below, the wash temperature is marked in degrees Celsius or by the number of dots in the washtub, depending on the country you live in. For example, 30° represents a cold wash, 40° represents a warm wash and 50° represents a hot wash. On the other hand, the more dots in the washtub they are, the hotter the temperature of your wash will be.

Crack the laundry care symbols

Laundry care symbols

Meanwhile, the wash cycle is indicated by a washtub with horizontal lines underneath it, with each line representing a different cycle.

  • No lines = Normal wash cycle
  • One line = Machine wash, permanent press cycle
  • Two lines = Gentle cycle
  • Three lines = Very delicate cycle

AspenClean Tip: Permanent Press

Cycle is a great way to protect your clothes prone to wrinkling, shrinking or colour-fading.

Following instructions is important, right? Well, this applies to laundry detergent too. As well as knowing how to wash your clothes, it is important to know how much laundry detergent to use in HE washer as well as in regular machines with each wash.

For example, whether you are using AspenClean natural Unscented Laundry Detergent, Unscented laundry pods, Lavender, Eucalyptus or any Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent, you should use 1 oz. for regular loads.

The following descriptions can be used as a general guide to laundry load sizes:

  • A small load size will fill the washer drum by a third and weigh less than six pounds.
  • A medium or regular load of washing will half-fill a drum and weigh about six pounds.
  • A large load will fill the drum three-quarters and weigh about eleven pounds

AspenClean Tip: Extra care should be taken not to overfill any type of washing machine as the clothes need room to get cleaned. Simply, leave a gap between the clothes and the top of your machine.

How to bleach? Decode the bleaching symbols

Before we advise you on “how to dry clean,” we thought we should give you some extra information on “how to bleach.”

First, you must remember that the bleach symbol on a clothes tag is a triangle containing different symbols inside. The symbols indicate how you can bleach the garment, if at all.

How to Bleach

  • If the triangle is empty, you can use bleach when washing the garment.
  • If the triangle contains two diagonal lines, you can use non-chlorine bleach only, such as hydrogen peroxide or oxygen bleach.
  • If the triangle contains the letters "CL, “ you can use chlorine bleach, such as bleach containing sodium hypochlorite.

It is important to follow the care instructions on the clothes tag to avoid damaging the garment or causing it to lose its colour or shape. If you are unsure how to care for a garment, it is always best to err on the side of caution and only use bleach if the tag specifically indicates that it is safe to do so.

How to dry clean? Decode the dry-cleaning symbols

Dry cleaning at home isn’t for everyone and, chances are, if it's an expensive piece of clothing, you’ll want to leave it with the dry cleaner professionals but the good news is that most garments labelled as “dry-clean” only can, in fact, be cleaned at home - once you follow the instructions and understand the symbols that is. So if you’re willing to take the chance we’ve outlined below the meaning behind each symbol.

Dry-cleaning symbols
  • Letter inside the circle = shows which chemical the dry cleaner can use on the fabric
  • Bars beside circle = determine the amount of care each item of fabric needs
  • “X” over circle = means you must not dry clean the item

How to dry? Decode the tumble dryer symbols

Let us ask you, have you ever ignored the label and dried clothes you shouldn’t have and ended up shrinking them? The answer is more than likely yes!

Sure enough, we’ve all been guilty (us included!) of throwing clothes into the dryer for a few minutes, thinking they’ll be fine - when actually they won’t. The good news is that most tumble drying problems aren't because of the fabrics but because of the drying technique, meaning they can easily be fixed by following the drying symbols.

Dryer symbols

Everything you need to know about drying can be found in the square symbol on your fabrics. Similar to the washtub symbol, the number of dots represents the temperature of the cycle.

  • One dot = low temperature
  • Two dots = medium temperature
  • Three dots = high temperature

AspenClean Tip: Regularly clean your tumble dryer lint traps and vents to increase the lifespan of your dryer. We recommend cleaning your lint traps after every use to help dry your clothes more quickly (keeping energy bills low) and to prevent fires while cleaning your vents once a year.

How to iron? Decode the ironing symbols

Last but not least is the iron-shaped symbol. With offices and workplaces back open it’s time to start remembering what those ironing symbols mean. As we know some clothes can be ironed while others can't, so it's important to read the label - before you end up burning a hole in one of your favourite tops!

Similar to the washtub and dryer symbols, the number of dots signifies the different temperatures you should use when ironing different fabrics.

Ironing symbols
  • No dots = any temperature can be used
  • One dot = low temperature (generally used on silk or wool fabrics)
  • Two dots = medium temperature (synthetics)
  • Three dots = high temperature (linen or cotton fabrics)

AspenClean Tip: Keep your iron clean to prevent a build-up of brown stains or residue. We recommend gently wiping down your iron after each use, using a damp microfiber cloth - once your iron has cooled down of course!

You are now an expert in laundry symbols but if you still have doubts or have more questions about laundry detergent, washers and dryers, you can find a lot of the answers in our article on the 10 most common laundry questions. If you are still curious or have questions about our dish soap or other natural cleaning products, check out our other laundry tips!

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