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Washing Hacks: How To Read Laundry Symbols On Clothes Labels

Published by cheree
Published on 25 January 2013

If you want to save your knitwear from shrinking disasters and your whites from turning murky then you've got to get domesticated with the language of laundry. Not the most glamorous task ever asked of us. Agreed. But if it means we can avoid dying our best dress fluorescent pink then we're on board. Here's the hacker's guide to washing symbols so you never have to face a shrunken, child-sized jumper again. Amen to that.

Laundry symbols on clothes labels

Ever looked at those tiny, obscure washing instruction symbols, ignored them and hoped for the best? It ended in disaster didn't it? Taking care of your fashion finds is easy when you understand how to read the laundry symbols on clothes labels (if you haven't already cut them out that is. Guilty!)

They're your answer to keeping your delicates delicate and your whites white for as long as possible. Respect them and you're winning, ignore them and you'll be wishing you read the small print.

That's why we've put together a one stop guide to understanding washing instruction symbols. From tumble drying and ironing to coat hanging (yep that's a thing), we've decoded everything for you so you'll never have to cry tears over your spoilt garb again. Happy days!

Washing symbols

Hand wash only, rinse normally, dry with care.


Machine wash at the indicated maximum temperature in degrees Celsius:

30° for coloured delicates. Reduced mechanical action, normal rinse and spin.

40° for coloured T-shirts and elasticated underwear. Reduced mechanical action, normal rinse and spin.

60° for coloured blankets. Normal mechanical action, normal rinse and spin.

95° White sheets/blankets. Normal mechanical action, normal rinse and spin.

The lines underneath the symbol indicate the type of programme to use:

No line Cotton programme (max speed). Normal mechanical action, normal rinse and spin.

One line Synthetic programme (moderate speed). Reduced mechanical action, decreasing temperature rinse and reduced spin.

Two lines Wool programme (minimal speed).

Do Not Wash

Don't you even think about washing that dress if it has this symbol on it with a cross through the middle.

Do not wash

Drying symbols

Can be tumble-dried.

The dots in the middle indicate the maximum temperature:

No dot No temperature restriction.

One dot Low-temperature dry (maximum 60°).

Two dots Normal dry.

Do not tumble-dry If there's a cross through the circle and square like this, tumble drying is a big no-no.

Leave to drip-dry/air-dry and iron as soon as dry.

Hang on a coat-hanger to dry.

Dry flat.

Ironing symbols

Iron at the following temperature:

One dot Cold iron (110°) for acrylic, nylon and acetate.

Two dots Hot iron (150°) for polyester and wool.

Three dots Very hot iron (200°) for cotton and linen.

Do not iron (or iron only in part taking extreme care).

Dry-cleaning symbols on clothes labels

Dry clean. The letter indicates the type of wash required:

Blank or A Dry clean with all types of solvent.

F Dry clean with petroleum-based solvents such as R113 and hydrocarbon (mineral essences). Cannot be machine dry-cleaned.

P Dry clean with usual solvents such as perchloroethylene, solvent R113 and hydrocarbon (but not trichloroethylene). Can be machine dry-cleaned.

W Dry clean in water only with no products. Cannot be machine dry-cleaned.

The lines indicate restrictions:

One line Restricted wash (quantity of water, mechanical action, washing and drying temperature).

Two lines Highly restricted wash (quantity of water, mechanical action, washing and drying temperature).

Do not dry clean.

Bleaching symbols

Can be bleached.

Do not bleach.

Essential tips for clothes washing

For all fabrics:

  • Avoid high temperatures as far as possible.
  • Machine washing is always much better than hand washing (if allowed).
  • Drying clothes in the sun makes them matted.
  • Use alternative whitening agents to bleach, which attacks the fibres in fabric.
  • Lined clothes should always be thoroughly dried.
  • Make sure you select the setting for the most delicate fabric for a garment with a mix of two different fabrics when ironing.

More handy info

  • Wool shrinks in overly-hot water and loses its shape when hung up.
  • Cotton irons well; coloured cotton should be washed separately.
  • Silk does not tolerate hot water or tumble-drying and should be dry-cleaned.
  • Wool, silk, fabrics that run in the wash and garments with metallic and leather parts should never be allowed to get wet.

Got any top tips for caring for your clothes? Tweet us @sofeminineUK

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