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Washing Machine Labels Explained


Confused by clothes labels? Never put your clothes at risk of being ruined again with our guide to what they all mean.  

Wash temperature

wash temperature symbol

The leftmost symbol on a laundry label suggests the temperature at which the item should be washed. This information is conveyed in one of two ways: you’ll either have the temperature spelled out for you in a miniature laundry basket, or you’ll have it conveyed via a series of dots. One dot means 30°C, with an additional dot being added for every ten degrees above that. So, 50°C would be three dots, and 70°C would be five.

permanent press setting symbol

If there is one line underneath the basket, then you’ll be able to launder the garment only in a machine with a special permanent press setting. This usually appears on coloured clothes.

delicates setting washing symbol

If the basket has two lines underneath it, use the delicates setting. 

hand wash symbol

If there’s a hand in the basket, then you’ll need to wash the item by hand, while if the basket is crossed out, you won’t be able to launder the item at all and will have to get it dry cleaned instead.

dry clean only symbol


Bleaching information is conveyed via a triangular symbol. 


If the triangle is white, then you’re okay to bleach the item. 

okay to bleach washing symbol

If it’s got lines through it, use a non-chlorine bleach. 

do not bleach symbol

If it’s black or crossed out (or both), don’t bleach the item at all.


A circle inside a square conveys drying information. 

drying item on cold setting symbol

If the circle is black, dry the item using a cold setting. 

dry item on any setting symbol

If it’s white, you can use any setting. 

One, two or three dots mean low, medium and high heat respectively, while permanent press and gentle are conveyed with horizontal lines at the bottom in the same way that they are in washing symbols.

unsuitable for machine drying

A cross through the drying symbol means that the item is unsuitable for machine drying. 

do not wring item symbol

If you see a cross through what looks like a sweet wrapper, then don’t try to wring the item out – you’ll damage it.


Again, the ironing temperature will be conveyed via the number of dots in the middle of the iron symbol. 

ironing temperature symbol

One dot means low, or around 110°C; two dots means medium, or around 150°C; three dots means high, or around 200°C. 

do not steam iron symbol

If the iron has a cross beneath it, then you shouldn’t steam the item, but you may iron damp items at the indicated setting. 

do not iron symbol

If the iron is crossed out, don’t try to iron the garment.


dry cleaning info symbol

Dry cleaning information comes in a circle. This is one symbol you won’t need to worry about, unless you’re dry-cleaning clothes yourself. 

do not dry clean symbol

The only exception to this rule comes when the circle comes with a cross through it: which means that the item is unsuitable for dry-cleaning.