Wash Care Labels: What Do They Really Mean?


Before washing your clothes, are you in the habit of reading wash care labels? If you are, good; if not, it is time you should because these labels are meant for keeping your clothes in good condition. Without reading care labels, you might end up pulling out saggy, discolored, damaged, or shrunk clothes from the washing machine. Unfortunately, the damage caused by improperly washing a piece of clothing cannot be undone. This is how vital paying attention to washing labels is. They are attached to your clothing for a good reason.

What do washing symbols indicate?

If you see a wash symbol which is represented by a bucket which is filled with water, it will tell you the proper machine setting or temperature that you should use when washing the clothing item. If you see a ‘normal wash’ symbol, look for the corresponding temperature value or the 1 to 6 dots which indicate the ranges of temperature you should choose.

  • One Dot means 30C or 90F
  • Two Dots means 40C or 105F
  • Three Dots means 50C or 120F
  • Four Dots means 60C or 140F
  • Five Dots means 70C or 160F
  • Six Dots means 95C or 200F

Hand Wash

The hand wash symbol has a standard wash symbol which consists of a hand at the top. For this symbol, you should avoid placing an item of clothing into a washing machine. This symbol indicates that you should wash your clothes in a small tub or sink with your hands so the cleaning liquid will be rubbed into the fabric and rinsed thoroughly. It is also imperative that you check the detergent liquid if it is suitable for handwashing. Choose milder detergents as they are not only safe for your garments but your hands as well.

Permanent Press

The Permanent Press Symbol can be distinguished by one line under the standard wash care symbol. Avoid ironing your garment if it contains this symbol as permanent press fabrics have undergone chemical treatment to prevent wrinkling and retain the garment’s original shape.

Do Not Wash

If you see a standard wash symbol and a cross through it, it is an indicator that the item of clothing should not be washed. After your garment gets dirty, you should have it dry cleaned.

Gentle Cycle

This symbol consists of two lines below the symbol of a standard wash. The gentle cycle saves items of clothing made of delicate materials like wool or silk. Vigorous washing of delicate clothing can damage it.

The use of bleach as indicated on washing labels

Another way that you can take care of your clothes is by reading the labels to find out whether or not using bleach is an appropriate washing method.

Non-Chlorine Bleach Only

If you see a triangle which is filled with diagonal lines, it is an indicator that you should use non-chlorine bleaches for clothes with this label. It is also important that you read the ingredients on the bleach to find out if it contains chlorine.


The symbol contains a triangle that does not have anything in the middle. It indicates that you can use bleach on the clothing.

Do Not Bleach

You should not put bleach on the clothing if the symbol has a solid triangle with crossed lines. Any bleach can damage the garment.

Different ways to dry clothing based on wash care labels

Tumble Dry, Delicate Setting

The symbol contains double lines which mean you should use the delicate setting.

Tumble Dry, Permanent Press

This is a single line beneath the dryer symbol, and it means that you should use a Permanent Press setting.

Tumble Dry

The square with a circle inside is the basic tumble dry symbol.

Do Not Tumble Dry

If your item of clothing has ‘do not tumble dry’ label, which consists of a cross through the drying symbol, it means that you should leave the garment to drip-dry outside.

You will know the heat setting when putting your clothes in the tumble dryer by checking the number of dots inside the circle. If you see three dots, it means that you should tumble dry high. Two dots indicate tumble dry medium, and one dot indicates tumble dry low.

The proper way to iron your clothes based on wash care label symbols

Before you iron your clothes, be sure to check the ironing guidelines indicated on the label.

  • Three dots mean you should iron clothing on high.
  • Two dots mean the iron should be set to medium.
  • One dot recommends ironing on low.

What do dry cleaning symbols mean?

Do Not Dry Clean

The symbol contains a crossed-out circle which is an indicator that you should not dry clean the clothing.

Dry Clean Normal

If you see a letter ‘F’ enclosed inside the circle, it is an indicator that you can dry clean the item under normal conditions.

Dry Clean Only

A letter ‘P’ inside the circle means that you should dry clean the item only.

Dry Clean

A circle represents this symbol, and it means you should dry clean the item.

Knowing the wash care labels helps you understand the proper way of washing your garments. Be sure to familiarize yourself with these symbols as they can help ensure that your clothes stay in good shape.