Decoded: What the Laundry Symbols on your Clothes Mean

Understanding the hieroglyphics (pictograms) on the care tags of your garments will allow you to wear your clothes longer and save you money.


The wash tub symbol gives directions for machine washing. Sometimes a dot will be used to indicated temperature. Other times you may see a temperature in Celsius.

One dot – 30C is cold wash (65 to 85F), two dots – 40C (105F) is warm wash, three dots – 60C is hot wash (140F). Canadian tags might have as many as 6 dots or 95C (200F) for diapers or heavy-duty white linens.

A line under the symbol indicates a milder cycle for clothing items that are permanent press or “easy-care.” A double bar calls for a very mild washing cycle (woolens).


A triangle symbol refers to bleaching. The empty triangle means any bleach may be used. The triangle with two lines indicates that oxygenated bleach is permitted but not chlorine bleach.

Because mislabeling can happen, it is best to spot test an item before bleaching.


The square is the symbol for drying. If it has a circle in it then it is ok to dry at the highest setting.

Similar to washing, dots inside the square indicate low, medium and high temperature settings. Lines under the square indicate the permanent press setting should be used.

A square with two diagonals lines (not shown) refers to line drying and the item should be dried in the shade.


The empty iron symbol means regular ironing may be needed and may be performed at any available temperature with or without steam is acceptable. If dots are inside the symbol they indicate low, medium or high heat tolerance.

Professional Cleaning

A circle is used for professional cleaning. An empty circle means dry-clean with any solvent, any cycle any moisture and any heat. Letters within the circle are intended to tell professional textile cleaners which solvents can be used during the cleaning process. For example, the letter P indicates Dry-clean, tetrachloroethylene (PCE) only.

A Circle with a W is used for a professional wet-cleaning process.

Lines underneath indicated gentle items need shorter cycles. Lines at 45 degree positions tell the professional such things as low heat, no steam or reduced moisture.

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