A Quick Digital Guide to Clothes Washing Symbols

Are you washing your clothes properly?

Do you pay attention to the washing requirements of individual garments, or just throw everything in the machine together and hope for the best?

It’s easy to go for the latter, especially when clothes tags have so many confusing symbols on them.

If you’ve ever wondered what they all mean, you’re in the right place.

Read on for a guide on what all those clothes washing symbols mean.

Understanding Clothes Washing Symbols


Washing symbols are the ones that look like buckets filled with water.

They use dots and lines to show exactly how garments should be washed.

The number of dots in the center of the symbol indicates the temperature of the wash you should use. If there’s only one, use a cold wash. If there are two dots, use a warm one. Three dots mean you should use a hot wash.

Look at the bottom of the symbol for any lines.

If there’s one line underneath, it means you should use the permanent press cycle setting. This is most commonly used for synthetic fabrics. In this type of cycle, clothes are washed in warm water and rinsed with cold water on a slow spin. This helps to reduce the formation of wrinkles.

Two lines mean you should use a gentle cycle. This is usually seen on woolen garments.

Not all washing symbols use dots and lines. You might see one that looks like a bucket of water with a hand in it. This means a garment is not suitable for machine washing, and should be washed by hand only.


Square symbols tell you how to dry your clothes.

If there’s a circle inside the square, it’s suitable for machine drying. However, there’s more to it than that.

If the circle is black, don’t use any heat at all. If it’s white with one dot or more inside, you can use heat. One dot for low, two for medium, and three for high.

As with the washing symbols, lines underneath the square indicate the type of cycle you should use.

If a drying symbol has just a horizontal line inside, the garment should be dried flat. Vertical lines mean it’s suitable for drip drying.


Ironing symbols are simple.

They consist of a little iron outline with dots inside to indicate the appropriate temperature. Or, they have an ‘x’ to show that you shouldn’t use steam, or indeed any ironing at all.

Follow these symbols and use the best iron, and your clothes will stay looking great for longer.

Dry Cleaning

If your garment tag has a blank circle on it, it’s appropriate for dry cleaning only.

This means you shouldn’t attempt to wash it yourself.

If you’re looking for fur coat cleaning, leather cleaning, or anything particularly delicate, seek out a professional cleaning service.

Maintain Your Machine

Following the instructions on clothes washing symbols isn’t all you need to do. If your washing machine isn’t working as well as it should be, it won’t wash your clothes properly.

In fact, it could even damage them.

See our range of washing machine repair manuals to learn how to get your machine working its best.