Washcare Symbols – What do they all mean?

Posted on 30/03/2016 in Product Information, by Jon

Laundry and wash care logos

How do you, or rather how should you wash your favourite t-shirt? In the washing machine at 40°C with “˜medium agitation’ or hand wash only? Do you send it off to the dry cleaners for washing in a hydrocarbon solvent (there are many to choose from!) or do you tumble dry it at a low, medium or high heat setting? It’s not even over then, because what about how you should set your iron in order to remove those untidy, pesky creases that definitely can’t still be visible for your Auntie Joan’s meal tomorrow evening ? Understanding wash care labels can be a tricky task, yet essential to ensuring that your clothing garments still look and feel of a high quality for months, or even years, after you’ve made the initial purchase.

Here at Soabar, we believe that any label should seek to make understanding wash care instructions an easier task, not a more confusing one. That’s why we’ve put together a complete guide to wash care symbols, so that next time you go to put a wash in, you’ll know exactly what needs to be done to ensure your clothes are washed to perfection. Bleaching, ironing, washing and drying, we’ve got it all explained clearly on one handy page.


Suitable for bleachIf you see a triangle clothes washing symbol on your clothing label, then this refers to a process known as bleaching. Using strong liquid bleach will remove the colour from your clothes, as unlike colour safe bleaches used in detergents, it is often used as a disinfectant. It’s really important then to make sure that you read the care   label carefully to make sure that your clothes can be bleached, to avoid a colour stripping disaster!

Use only chlorine bleachA triangle with a small “˜Cl’ in the middle means that it is fine to use chlorine bleach on your clothes. It is important however to make sure that you use the recommended strength solution, which is usually 1 part bleach to 100 parts of water.

Non chlorine bleach dry cleanAlternatively, the triangle washing symbol may contain two diagonal lines. This means that non-chlorine bleach is needed- that is one that is colour-safe.

Do not bleachA triangle with a cross through the middle means that you should not bleach the product.


Washing Symbols

suitable for machine washingThe washtub clothes washing symbol is most commonly used to indicate whether the garment is suitable for washing. It will rarely just be an empty washtub however, as the information inside and below the symbol indicates further how you should go about washing the product. The recommended temperature is indicated by the number clearly displayed inside the tub, and the amount of agitation that should be applied is signified by the number of bars underneath.

Wash at 40 normal spinIf a washtub has no bar underneath, then this means that the washing machine can be used at maximum action with a normal spin. The number in the middle of the tub means that the garment can be washed at 40°C.

Wash at 40 medium spinIf the tub has a single, unbroken bar underneath then this indicates that the item is suitable for a synthetic wash. On some washing machines this may be called a “˜Permanent Press Cycle’ and is typically used for knits, polyesters and acetates. The machine should wash with a medium agitation yet a slow spin so the clothes do not get wrinkled. The number in the centre again indicates that the garment can be washed at 40°C.

Wash as wool maximum temperatureA washtub symbol with two bars underneath means that the clothing item needs to be washed as a wool product. On some washing machines the dials may explicitly have a wool wash setting, however on other machines this is known as a “˜delicate’ wash. The machine’s action is reduced so that water is extracted from the laundry, and the spin is also slowed for the same purpose. This offers a greater level of protection for some fabrics, yet may also decrease the level of clean in some instances.

Hand wash onlyA hand being dipped into the washtub means that the item should be hand washed only. The garment is too delicate to machine wash, so correspondingly the temperature of the water should be cool also. It is important to take great care when handwashing clothes, and to rinse items out thoroughly using cold water.

Do not machine washIf there is a black cross through the middle of the washtub, then this means that the item is not suitable for washing. Instead, it may be that the garment should be dry cleaned, which we will cover next.

Dry Cleaning Symbols

Suitable for dry cleaningYou’ll know if you need to dry clean a garment if you see a circle containing a letter on the wash care label. This letter refers to the solvent suitable for the item, with the most common being given as examples below. A bar underneath the circle indicates that a milder process is required.

Dry Clean P symbolIf you see this symbol, then there are 2 main pieces of information available. The first is that the garment can be dry cleaned, as indicated by the circle, and the second is the type of solvent that can be used. In this case, the p represents the perchloroethylene solvent, which is the one most commonly used for clothing garments.

Professional Dry Clean LogoIf there is an additional line under the symbol, then 3 pieces of information are on offer. The garment should be professionally dry cleaned, only a perchloroethylene solvent should be used and the bar indicates a milder process.

Dry Clean with SolventMore recently, this symbol can be found on garments that can be dry cleaned. This is because the letter f represents the solvent r113 and hydrocarbon, which is more environmentally friendly than others, such as perchloroethylene. It requires a milder process, which means that it is best suited for embellished or delicate garments.

Dry clean with any solventIf the circle contains the letter a, then this means that the garment is suitable for dry cleaning in any solvent.


Do not dry clean

A black cross through the circle however means that the garment should not be dry cleaned. If you see this wash care symbol, then it is likely that the item should be machine washed or washed by hand instead.

Drying Symbols

Suitable for Tumble dryingIf the circle is inside a clear box however, then this represents tumble drying. The number of dots indicates on what heat setting you should tumble dry your garment.

Tumble dry on low heatIf the circle inside the box contains one black dot, then this means that you can tumble dry the garment on a low heat setting.

Tumble dry on medium heatIf there are two black dots inside the circle, then a medium heat setting should be used to tumble dry the garment.


Tumble Dry on high heat

Three dots inside the circle means that a high temperature should be used in the tumble drying process.


Do not tumble dryIf you see a box with a circle inside but with a black cross through the symbol, then this means that you should not tumble dry the item. Instead, a natural method is a better means of drying the garment.

Recommended drip dryThere are other natural methods that can be used to dry your clothes. If the wash care label shows a black box with the three vertical lines inside, then this means that drip drying is recommended.

Line or Hang to dryWhite boxes with a curved line starting in the top left hand corner and finishing in the top right hand corner mean that you should hang/line dry the garment. Excess water should be removed first to ensure a quicker drying process.

Dry FlatIf there is a small, horizontal line in the middle of the box, then this means that you should lay the item flat to dry. You will see this displayed on the wash care label of delicate items of clothing that could otherwise be distorted by vertical drying.

Ironing Symbols

After the washing process, it is important that you continue to use the correct methods to care for your clothes. This will help to ensure they stay looking and feeling brand new, even if it’s been a long time since you initially brought them!

Suitable for ironingAn iron symbol shows you what temperature your clothes are best ironed at. Once again, the dot system is used to indicate this. The more dots that are visible, the hotter the iron needs to be.

Cool IronOne dot inside the iron indicates that a cool temperature is required. This is usually 110°C, and is most suitable for use on acrylics, nylons and acetates.

Warm Iron SymbolTwo dots in the iron symbol means that a warm temperature should be used, which is around 150°C. You will usually see this symbol on the care label of garments made from wool and polyester mixes.

Hot IronThree dots is the maximum iron temperature, which is usually around 200°C. This setting is the one most frequently displayed on care labels, as it is used for clothes made from cotton and linens.

Do not ironFinally, a black cross through the iron symbol means that the garment is not suitable for ironing.


And there you have it! A complete run down of the most common symbols that will be displayed on the care labels of your clothes. It is worth noting though that the international standards for the symbols vary depending on which country you are selling in. Europe, Asia and America all have their own slight variations of the symbols explained above, so if you are unsure as to which to use it may be best to have a look on numerous textile websites. The links to these can be found at the bottom of this page under the “˜External Links’ sub-heading.

Thank you for reading and we really hope that you found this post useful. Be sure to contact us if you have any queries or questions, or alternatively contact us using any of our social media platforms.

We produce a full range of care labels on polyester satin and nylon taffeta with sustainable options available made from 100% post consumer PET plastic bottle, if you would like us to produce your wash care labels please get in touch.

We hope that you’re having a lovely week!

Team Soabar

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