Decode those laundry symbols on your clothes with the help of this handy chart. 
Laundry symbols on a clothing care label
Credit: Vast Photography/Getty Images

Sometimes the laundry tag on your clothes, sheets, towels, and more looks more like a set of undecipherable hieroglyphics than a useful list of detailed laundry symbols offering proper instructions for how to do laundry. Fortunately, the pros at Real Simple have offered up a cheat sheet to help you break the laundry symbols code and treat your linens right. Print it out and tack it up in your laundry room, right next to your laundry bag, for quick reference, or keep a copy saved on your phone at all times so you can be sure you’re keeping your clothes clean the right way wherever you go.

The first thing you need to know is what each of the general symbols mean. The icon that looks like a bucket of water describes how to wash the piece, the square with a circle in the center refers to drying, and the iron instructs you on how to—well—iron. The remaining laundry tag symbols refer to bleaching (triangle), dry-cleaning (circle), and non-machine drying (square) requirements.

Each of the above-mentioned laundry symbols have specifications within them: One dot on the icon means to perform that function on a cold or low cycle, two dots mean warm or medium, and three dots mean hot or high.

When it comes to washing your clothes, most of us automatically separate whites from brights. But the experts say that sorting by fabric is another tactic you can take to preserve your pieces. Combine hardy items (like towels, denim, and twill) and keep t-shirts, nightgowns, and other delicates aside for a separate load. (A little laundry room organization can help keep everything neatly separated.)

When drying these pieces, untangle the items as you pull them out of the wash and add each to the dryer separately. This will help them dry completely within one cycle. And don’t overfill the drum—keep it around half or three-fourths of the way full for optimum efficiency. These little tricks, coupled with expert-level knowledge of what those laundry symbols mean, will make your newly washed clothes cleaner than ever.

Laundry Tag Symbols