Laundry Labels: What Does That Symbol Mean?!


Have you ever had a t-shirt shrink so small that a miniature poodle could wear it?

Let’s be honest, we’ve all experienced some ‘oopsie-daisy’ accidents in the laundry care department at some point in our lives. But what if we told you that there was a way to avoid these unwanted shrunken and color blurred results?

You know that little tag that’s attached to your fabric? Now is a good time to give that laundry label the attention it has been dying for, and to look at the care symbols printed on it. Before washing, drying or ironing an item of clothing, it is a good idea to read the laundry labels.

Laundry labels and the symbols on those labels are there to help you, and taking the time to understand the meaning of the symbols can help you to avoid those ‘oops’ moments.

Every circle, triangle, and square has a meaning, and we’re here to help you understand the five basic laundry labels and their symbols so that you can become the laundry expert you are destined to be.


  1. How to Wash Clothes Symbols

The wash tub shape tells you how to wash – or how not to wash. In the wash tub is a Celsius water temperature or dots to indicate what water temperature you should select. One dot for cold, two dots for warm and three dots for hot water.

If there are lines under the tub, they tell you what washing machine cycle to select. One for permanent press, two for gentle. If there is no line, any washing machine cycle can be used.

If the washtub has a hand reaching into the water, the garment should be hand-washed.

(PSSST… We all have delicates and athletic/athleisure wear that is recommended for hand washing.  Molly’s Suds All Sport is your versatile, go-to hand and delicate wash! And when it’s time to wash your swimsuit, wash it in a bucket, basin, or sink with Molly’s Suds SWIM — even if you didn’t go in the water. 

A twisted cloth indicates that you should not wring the fabric. Instead, squeeze gently or wrap in a thick towel to absorb water.


  1. How to Dry Clothes Symbols

Did you know that over drying is one of the most damaging things we do to our laundry? These drying symbols help you select a dryer cycle and a temperature to reduce the damage.

The square drying symbol also lets you know whether to dry clothes naturally or with a tumble dryer.

  • Three vertical lines in the square mean the clothes should be hung to drip dry rather than placed in the dryer.
  • A curved line in the square means to line dry.
  • Two slanted lines in the corner of the square mean to line dry in the shade away from harsh sunlight.
  • A horizontal line in the center of the square means to dry the garment on a flat surface to prevent stretching.
  • A circle in the square means tumble dry. The dots will indicate heat levels – one dot for low, two dots for medium, three dots for high heat.
  • The lines under the square indicate the type of cycle to use – no lines mean you can use any tumble dry cycle, one line is for the permanent press cycle and two lines are for the gentle cycle.

Replace the need for toxic fabric softeners with Molly’s Suds hand-felted 100% Wool Dryer Balls, which last up to 1,000 loads, or three years, in the dryer, and reduce drying time by 15-30%.

  1. How to Bleach Clothes Symbols

Sometimes symbols on how to bleach your clothing aren’t printed. But when you do see the triangular shape, it will offer help on how to select the right type of bleach.

  • An X over a solid color triangle means Do Not Bleach at all.
  • A triangle with two slanted lines means use a non-chlorine or oxygen-based bleach.
  • A clear triangle means that any type of bleach can be used on the fabric.

Often you’ll find a label will have no symbol but states “No Chlorine Bleach”. If you see this, you can still use an oxygen-based bleach safely (our Oxygen Whitener does a fabulous job!) on all fabrics except wool, silk, and leather.

Don’t love bleach and what it does to your clothes? Check out our tips and favorite natural bleach alternative.


  1. How to Iron Clothes Symbols

Sometimes, wrinkle-free is the way to go. Look for the iron-shaped symbol to guide you as you select a temperature setting and whether to use a dry iron or steam.

Remember! the X means don’t do it. An X through the steam coming from the bottom of the iron means use no steam.

The dots in the iron indicate temperature.

  • One dot: Low-temperature setting
  • Two dots: Medium temperature setting
  • Three dots: High-temperature setting


  1. How to Dry Clean Clothes Symbols

A dry clean only symbol can save you a great deal of money, and help you stay headache-free.

With dry cleaning, there are symbols for the cleaning chemicals and the type of cleaning cycle to use that your dry cleaner will understand in selecting the best cycles and chemicals for the job. It’s good to always pay attention to the dry clean only symbol. Doing so will help you determine whether to dry clean or wash.

(Looking for some additional information on laundry care? Check out Textile

Be sure to check out our DIY page for natural alternatives to many household cleaners – we update it often! You can also join us in the fold by subscribing to our newsletter to get notified when new DIY’s are published, new products are released, sales on Molly’s Suds products, and more!