Complete Guide to International Laundry Care Symbols

Complete Guide to International Laundry Care Symbols

Many people tend to neglect the international laundry care symbols given on cloth care labels and do laundry irrationally. This irrational washing system is the reason why your colored clothes tend to lose their color; silk starts to get covered in fuzzy lint and loses its shine, and t-shirts start to shrink. So, what should you do if you don’t understand the laundry icon meanings? While you are unaware of these facts, we would like to tell you that every circle, triangle, and square on cloth care labels have some meanings. These shapes are actually laundry codes that are supposed to be followed during wash routines. Properly following these laundry instructions will give you the assurance that repeated washing treatments won’t ruin the fit and appearance of your garment.

Do we have to follow the international laundry care symbols exactly?

There are also international laundry symbols which are common and are provided by cloth manufacturers as small solutions to their customers’ big problems. These washing instruction symbols and signs are actually guidelines for the customers to follow during their wash routines so that their apparel lives longer. Every cloth type has different types of guidelines depending on the combination of fabric, construction techniques, and thread decoration. Customers mostly tend to buy clothes that have easy washing instruction symbols rather than complicated and time taking ones, which might be hard to decipher.

The type of laundry symbol guide provided on cloth care labels has evolved over time throughout the world as some are established as the government regulation and others as international standards. There are five basic washing symbols that you need to know by-heart to become a laundry expert. Now let’s start understanding what do laundry symbols mean?

Below is a Complete Guide to International Laundry Care Symbols

Some rarely known facts about laundry symbols meaning on care labels

  • The country of origin, which is listed on the care label of cloth, is actually the country where the garment was stitched.
  • If a product has been imported without a care label with clothes washing symbols then, it should made sure that the label is attached before the garment is sold.
  • Care labels are generally found attached on the bottom or side of the garment. These are supposed to be permanently attached so that it is available to the consumer at the time of purchase.
  • The accuracy of the care instructions given on the label is the responsibility of either the manufacturer or the importer who directs the production.

Care labeling systems

There are five different care labeling systems that are used on care labels for the understanding of consumers.

  • The International Care Labeling System
  • The Japanese Care Labeling System
  • The Canadian Care Labeling System
  • The European Care Labeling System
  • The American Care Labeling System

International Laundry care symbols

The clothes washing symbols given on cloth care labels are for the customers to take care of so that their products can be used for a longer time. The wash labels were produced as a part of the International Standard Organization. They chose not to use words instead of symbols so that consumers all over the world could find it easy to understand. The basic shapes also transcend continent borders as there are variations in Europe and Asia.

The care instruction symbols have been mandated by the governments of the US and many other countries for the identification of fiber content of the fabric and provide proper care instructions.

There are these five basic symbols used by the international community for washing, drying, bleaching, dry cleaning, and ironing. You just need to know the laundry icon meaning of these five basic symbols, and you would easily understand the others as well, but just remember one thing that an ‘X’ through any symbol clearly means ‘Do not do this’! What do laundry symbols mean?

The clothes washing symbols

The washtub-shaped icon tells you how to or how not to wash that particular cloth. The temperature required to wash the garment is either indicated through Celsius water temperature or dots: one dot for cold water, two dots for warm, and three for hot water. You need to be aware of the laundry symbols meaning to take proper care of your clothes, especially while washing.

The wash cycle to be used for the garment is indicated by lines under the washtub: one for permanent press, two for gentle, and if in case there are no lines at all, then it means that you could use any wash cycle.

If there is a hand laundry icon reaching out to the washtub, then it means that the garment is to be hand washed. The sign of a twisted or wrung cloth which looks like a hard candy indicates that the fabric should not be wrung at all. If you need to dry the cloth, then instead of wringing it squeeze it gently or cover it in a thick towel to squeeze it dry.

How to bleach laundry symbols?

The how to bleach this cloth symbol might not be found in every garment. But if you see a triangular clothing care symbol, then it will tell you how to bleach the garment.

  • An ‘X’ on a solid color triangle means that the cloth does not require to be bleached at all.
  • If there is a triangle with two slanted lines, it means the garment has to be bleached with a non-chlorine or oxygen-based bleach.
  • A clear triangle laundry codes mean that you could use any type of bleach on the garment.
  • If you happen to see that there is no symbol but just a “No Chlorine Bleach” sign, then you could use an oxygen-based bleach on all fabrics except on silk, leather, and wool.

The dryer symbol in clothes

How we often destroy our garment’s quality is by over-drying it; hence, the international laundry symbols help you in choosing the correct dryer cycle and temperature for your cloth. The square-shaped symbol helps you understand whether to dry the clothes naturally or to use a tumble dryer.

  • Three vertical lines in the square indicates that the cloth has to be hung to drip and dry naturally. And it must not be placed inside a tumble dryer.
  • If there is a curved line inside the square dryer symbol in clothes, it means that it has to be line dried.
  • The two slanted lines in the corner indicates that the cloth has to be line-dried, away from direct harsh sunlight, in the shade.
  • The washing symbols with a horizontal line in the center indicates that the garment needs to be dried on a flat surface to prevent stretching of the fabric.
  • If there is a circle in the square, it means that you could tumble dry the garment. There will be dots which indicate heat levels: one dot for low, two for medium and three for high heat.
  • The line, care instruction symbols, under the square show you which type of cycle to use. One line indicates a permanent press cycle; two lines indicate a gentle cycle, and no lines mean that you can use any tumble dry cycle.

How to iron a cloth laundry symbols

You would find an iron-shaped symbol on the cloth care label of the garment. It would advise you on how to iron the garment. This one of the international laundry symbols helps you to regulate the temperature before ironing that particular cloth. And it also tells whether to use steam or dry iron. As we have already mentioned in the beginning that an ‘X’ symbol always means do not do it. So, in case you see an ‘X’ sign through the steam emerging from the bottom side of the iron, then it means that you are not supposed to steam iron the garment. The clothing care symbols such as dots given inside the iron help you to regulate the temperature of the iron accordingly:

  • One dot means you have to work with a low-temperature setting.
  • Two dots mean that you have to work with a medium temperature setting.
  • And three dots mean that you have to work with a high-temperature setting.

Dry cleaning laundry icons

There can be times when a cloth label shows a dry clean only laundry symbol guide, which eventually eases you off of heartache and a great deal of money as well. But there can also be situations when your cloth label might show a do not dry clean symbol.

You will also find certain specific dry cleaning symbols that will help in choosing the appropriate type of wash cycle and cleaning chemicals. These helps not only you but also your dry cleaner.

If you are not an expert at washing clothes, then always blindly trust the dry clean only or do not dry clean symbols to make sure that your garment is properly taken care of.  And in case your garment is not much expensive, and you feel like taking a chance. Then maybe you could follow common guidelines to decide whether to wash or dry clean it.

Also, don’t worry if you are using a home dry cleaning kit. They usually use a provided universal stain remover that works on all kinds of fabrics.

Avni Porwal