How to Decode Laundry Symbols in a Flash With a Printable Cheat Sheet

Decipher those confusing laundry symbols on your clothes with this handy chart.

Laundry symbols on a clothing care label
Photo: Vast Photography/Getty Images

Sometimes the laundry tag on your clothes and linens looks more like a set of undecipherable hieroglyphics than a useful list of detailed instructions for how to do laundry. Fortunately, we created a laundry symbol cheat sheet to help you decipher the most common laundry symbols. For quick reference, print it out and tack it up in your laundry room or keep a copy saved on your phone. Who knows? You might find yourself checking it when you're shopping to make sure that trendy boyfriend blazer isn't dry clean only.

Laundry Symbols Meaning

The first thing you need to know is what each of the general symbols means.

  • 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.
  • 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 has 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.

Laundry Tag Symbols

Save our laundry symbol cheat sheet printable.

Helpful Laundry Tips

If decoding symbols wasn't enough, we're also sharing a couple of game-changing laundry insights. For starters, most of us automatically separate lights from darks. But the experts say that sorting by fabric is a tactic you can take to preserve your pieces. Instead of sorting by color, combine hardy items (like towels, denim, and twill) and keep T-shirts, nightgowns, and other delicates aside for a separate load—likewise for other large or bulky items like throw blankets and sheets. (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.

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