What Do Those Washing Symbols on Your Clothes Mean?

You know those hieroglyphics-like symbols on clothing labels? They’re intended to give consumers important cleaning information. But can anyone really decipher them? We sure can. Here are a few of the most common ones, explained.

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Washing Symbol: Hand Wash

If you see this symbol on an article of clothing, it means “Hand Wash Only.” Any item with this tag is one of the things that should never end up in your washing machine.

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Washing Symbol: Do Not Wring

Sadly, this symbol is not a reminder to make sure there are no wrapped candies in your pockets when you throw your clothes in the washing machine. (Though that is great advice.) Instead, it means that you shouldn’t wring out that particular article of clothing. These are the 14 things that should never end up in your dryer.

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Washing Symbol: Iron or Steam

This symbol, depicting an old-fashioned iron, means that you can (you guessed it) iron that article of clothing. Take a closer look at this laundry symbol on your clothes, too. Often the iron has one, two or three dots inside it, representing the appropriate level of heat. Find out the 10 laundry mistakes you’re making and how to fix them.

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Washing Symbol: Hang to Dry

This one’s a little less self-explanatory than the others! But it means you should hang that article of clothing to dry, rather than throwing it in the dryer. If you’re dryer goes on the fritz, then you’ll need to know these tips on drying clothes outdoors.

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Washing Symbol: Do Not Dry Clean

What a plain, generic circle means could be anyone’s guess. But we’ll help clear it up. When it comes to laundry symbols, the circle indicates dry cleaning. And if you see a circle with an X through it? It means you shouldn’t dry clean that item. You can use dryer sheets for one of these 22 brilliant purposes.

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Washing Symbol: No Steam Finishing

The dry clean circle returns! The positioning of the little line around the circle can be confusing because the specific position indicates different things. If it’s in the upper right like this, it means that you should dry clean the item, but with no steam. Here are the nine things you never knew your dryer could do.

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Washing Symbol: Machine Wash

Though this one looks like it could also mean “Hand Wash,” since it does look like water in a regular old bucket, it actually means “Machine Wash.” Nothing complicated here — just toss it in the machine! (Check first for other laundry symbols with more specific instructions.)

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Washing Symbol: Wash at 105 Degrees

Sometimes you’ll see specific temperatures inside the “Machine Wash” symbol, advising the washer about what temperature the clothing should be washed at. What can be frustrating for the American crowd, though, is that these number are in degrees Celsius, not Fahrenheit. So this laundry symbol means you should wash at 40 degrees C, or 104 degrees F. Make sure you do this one task with your dryer to stay safe.

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Washing Symbol: Machine Wash, Permanent Press

Nope, this doesn’t depict a drink sitting on a coaster. The little line under the regular “Machine Wash” symbol means that you should wash that article with the Permanent Press setting. A double-line underneath the Machine Wash symbol means to use the delicate or gentle cycle. Fortunately, we have an easy to follow guide for how to fix both you washer and dryer.

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Washing Symbol: Do Not Wash

Don’t put anything with this symbol on it in the washing machine — or in that bucket of water to wash by hand, either. If something has the “Do Not Wash” symbol on it, have it dry cleaned.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest