Washing Symbols Explained - Clothes Doctor

Washing Symbols Explained

As warmer weather peeks over the horizon, you might be starting to reach for summer dresses rather than those winter jackets. But do you remember how to wash those clothes that have been in storage for the past few months properly? It's easy to throw them in with the rest of your wash, but with our handy guide on what those washing symbols actually mean, you can wash and dry confidently and without the fear of fading, shrinking, discolouration or damage to your favourite items.

So what are these mysterious symbols actually telling you to do?



The first symbol you see is most likely a washing instruction. 

  • If the label has a tub symbol, the garment can be machine washed. 
  • The number of dots in the tub corresponds to the suggested washing temperature. The more dots, the higher temperature you can wash at, given that a single dot indicates that you should not exceed 26°C.
  • The number in the tub is the highest recommended washing temperature for the garment. 
  • The lines underneath the tub tell you what washing machine cycle to select. A single line indicates that the you must select a synthetics cycle, and two lines indicate for a gentle wash cycle. If there is no line, you can select any washing machine cycle.
  • If the tub symbol has a cross, you should not wash the item. 

There may also be specific symbols for hand washing. 

  • If the tub symbol has a hand, the garment can be hand washed.
  • The twisted symbol indicates that the garment can be wrung. If the twisted symbol has a cross, the item should not be wrung. 

We recommend hand washing delicate garments such as silk or cashmere, because the more gentle the wash, the less likely the garment is to shrink or sag.



 2. Bleaching


The next symbol on the care label is likely to be a bleaching instruction. 

  • The empty triangle symbol indicates that the garment can be bleached if necessary. 
  • The triangle with two lines inside indicates that the garment can be bleached using a non-chlorine bleach only. 
  • The triangle symbol with a cross means the garment should not be bleached. 

Although we advocate reducing toxins in your home by choosing gentle detergents, and washing with lower temperatures where possible, if your garment is heavily stained, sometimes you just gotta hit it with something stronger! Try the soft power of our No.10 Tough Love Stain Removal. It's oxygen-based which makes it kinder on your clothes and the environment, but it still has that power factor which will lift almost anything! 

SHOP No.10 


3. Drying

The drying symbols might be the most complex, as there are many different variations of the symbols that might appear on your clothing. These symbols contained in a square are referring to machine drying instructions. 

  • A blank circle contained in a square means that the garment can be tumble dried. 
  • Similarly to the washing instructions, the number of dots in the symbol indicates the temperature it can be tumble dried at; the more dots, the higher temperature. 
  • If the symbol has a cross, the item should not be tumble dried.

So what can you do with those items that cant be tumble dried? 

  • A square with a curved line at the top indicates that the garment should be hung out to dry.
  • A square with three lines inside suggests that the item should be drip dried
  • One horizontal line within a square indicates that the garment should be dried flat - this protects structured garments from becoming misshapen.  
  • A square with two lines in the corner means that the garment should be dried in the shade.
Drying coloured items in the shade means there is less chance of the colours fading due to the UV rays in the sunshine, however, drying white garments in the sun will help keep the clothes whiter for longer as the UV rays can have a bleaching effect.  


 4. Ironing 

Ironing items that shouldn't be ironed, or ironing at the wrong temperature, can damage your clothing. Help keep those clothes looking and feeling great for longer by following the ironing instructions on the care label!

  • The item can be ironed at any temperature if the iron symbol is plain.
  • Again, the dots in the symbol correspond to what temperature the item should be ironed at. Delicates like silk or wool may have one dot, suggested a cooler iron temperature (maximum 110 degrees). Cotton or linen may have three dots, meaning they can be ironed at up to 200 degrees, but always check the label of whatever you're ironing!
  • The small lines underneath indicate that the item can be steamed. If these lines are crossed out, the item should not be steamed. 
  • If the whole iron symbol has a cross, the garment should not be ironed.

We recommend steaming garments where possible to refresh your clothes without the need for a full wash! Try adding a dash of our No.3 Eco Wash for Cashmere & Wool to your steaming water to soften your clothes while adding a light fragrance of Himalayan cedarwood - which helps keep the moths at bay too! 



5. Dry Cleaning 

  • A blank circle indicates that the item should be dry cleaned only.
  • If the circle contains a letter, this is an instruction to the cleaner of which solvent to use when cleaning the item.
  • If the circle is crossed out, the item should not be dry cleaned. 

Dry cleaning symbols can sometimes be deceptive though, the truth is most 'dry clean only' garments can actually be washed at home, with the right technique and gentle detergent. Read our guide on what can and can't be washed at home to know more.  



eco friendly detergents

Whether you're digging out the summer clothing, or still prefer to wrap up in some layers, if you can understand the washing symbols on the care labels of your garments, you'll be able to to wash them correctly, increasing the longevity of your favourite garments. You'll be wearing that summer dress for years to come! 

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