Laundry tags – what do all those signs and symbols mean?

Laundry tag tips

When it comes to your clothing and soft furnishings, caring for them the right way matters. Some fibres are more delicate than others, with luxurious materials like mohair, merino wool, cashmere, silk and baby alpaca wool requiring different care. Either way, you should follow the instructions on the laundry label to ensure the most appropriate upkeep.

Laundry tags and labels are more than just a helpful way to share information about the contents of an item or garment as Fibre2Fashion explains:

“The wear and tear of everyday life can take a toll on any fabric, but clothing with proper care instructions will last much longer than those without them. Different fabrics require different cleaning methods, which may include machine-washing or dry-cleaning depending on what’s listed on the label. Everyone should know how to read their garment labels before wearing or washing them to be properly cared for and not become damaged in the wash cycle.”

Following the care instructions displayed on the label, however, is often easier said than done. Most are presented as symbols that can be as difficult to read as cryptic clues without the right knowledge. With this in mind, we’re here to share an essential guide to laundry signs and symbols…


The most common washing symbol is the bowl with water. This simply means that the item is machine washable. There may also be a temperature displayed within this symbol, with 30°C representing a cold or cool wash, 40°C representing a warm wash and 60°C representing a hot wash.

If the bowl symbol has a single line underneath, the item should be washed using the synthetic cycle on your machine. If there are two lines, use a gentle or wool wash cycle for the best results. As you might have guessed, a hand dipping into the bowl means hand wash only, whilst a bowl crossed out means it cannot be washed at all.


Laundry symbols providing information on bleaching are generally displayed as a triangle. A triangle with a cross means the items cannot be bleached. A striped triangle means the item can be bleached but only with an agent that contains zero chlorine. A triangle on its own is found on garments or items that can be bleached.

Check the tag


You may see a square symbol with a circle inside displayed on the laundry label. This refers to how the item can be dried.

If the square and circle are there, the item can be tumble-dried on any heat setting. The same symbol with a single dot in the circle means it can be tumble-dried but only on low heat. For items that can handle high heat, there will be three dots within this circle.

If no dots are present, and there is a single line underneath the symbol, the item can be tumble-dried on the synthetics cycle. Two lines mean you should dry using a delicate or gentle setting. If the whole symbol is crossed out, you should not tumble dry the item. For dry clean-only items, a single circle will be detailed on the label.

There may be a square – with no circle – present on the label. If this square has three vertical lines within, you should drip-dry the item. A single, horizontal line means it can be dried flat.


The ironing symbol is one of the easiest laundry signs to decipher. An iron with a single dot means the item can be ironed up to a temperature of 110°C, two dots is a maximum temperature of 150°C, and three dots means the item can withstand ironing temperatures of up to 200°C.

If the iron is crossed out, the item or garment should not be ironed. A cross underneath the iron symbol means that the item can be ironed but not steamed.

Are you the proud owner of a So Cosy throw but are unsure how to care for it? Read our wool care guide right here.

Images: Kmpzzz, New Africa /