Laundry symbols (care symbols, washing signs)

Laundry symbols (washing signs)

Laundry guide to common care symbols

A laundry symbols, also called a care symbols, are  the pictograms which represent a method of washing, for example drying, dry-cleaning and ironing clothing. Such symbols are written on labels, known as care labels, attached to clothing to indicate how a particular item should best be cleaned. There are different standards for care labels for the different countries/regions of the world. In some standards, pictograms coexist with or are complemented by written instructions.

Laundry care symbols with instructions in Japanese. The four symbols shown indicate that the garment must not be washed in water, must not be bleached, may be ironed only with a protective pressing cloth, and must be dry-cleaned.

Treatment indicated by the symbols is “the maximum permitted treatment” and is not required or recommended. GINETEX states that “milder forms of treatment and lower temperatures than those indicated on the label are always permitted.” For example, if a symbol indicates washing in hot water and tumble drying, washing in cold water and drying on a clothes line are also acceptable.

The Canadian system was formerly the most colorful one, using three colours: green for “go ahead”, yellow for “be careful”, and red for “stop”. This system has been abandoned with the decision to move to a common North American scheme.

GINETEX, based in France, is the European association for textile care labelling, and formed in 1963 after academic conferences in the late 1950s were formed to define one standard of labelling.


The care label describes the allowable treatment of the garment without damaging the textile. Whether this treatment is necessary or sufficient, is not stated. A milder than specified treatment is always acceptable. The symbols are protected and their use is required to comply with the license conditions. Incorrect labelling is prohibited. A bar below each symbol calls for a gentler treatment than usual and a double bar for a very gentle treatment.

Washing symbol

A stylized washtub is shown, and the number in the tub means the maximum wash temperature (degrees Celsius). A bar under the tub signifies a gentler treatment in the machine. A double bar signifies very gentle handling. A hand in the tub signifies that only (gentle) hand washing (not above 40°C) is allowed. A cross through washtub means that the textile may not be washed under normal household conditions.

Washing symbol Wash at 30°C Wash at 40°C Wash at 50°C
Hand Wash Do not wash

Bleaching symbol

An empty triangle (formerly lettered Cl) allows the bleaching with chlorine or oxygen. Two oblique lines in the triangle allow only oxygen as a bleaching agent. A crossed triangle prohibits any bleaching.

Bleaching allowed
(chlorine and oxygen)
Bleaching with
oxygen allowed
Bleaching with chlorine
allowed (obsolete)
Do not bleach Do not bleach (obsolete)


Drying symbol

A circle in the square symbolizes a dryer. One dot requires drying at reduced temperature and two dots for normal temperature. The crossed symbol means that the clothing does not tolerate machine drying. In the U.S. and Japan, there are other icons for natural drying.

Tumble drying

Tumble drying symbol Tumble drying
(low temperature)
Tumble drying
Do not tumble dry


Natural drying

Drying symbol Line dry Dry flat Drip dry
Dry in the shade Line dry in the shade Dry flat in shade Drip dry in shade

Ironing symbol

The iron with up to three dots allows for ironing. The number of dots are assigned temperatures: One point means 110°C, two points means 150°C and three points means 200°C. An iron with a cross prohibits ironing.

Ironing symbol Iron at low temperature Iron at medium
Iron at high
Do not iron


Professional Cleaning symbol

A circle identifies the possibilities of professional cleaning. A bar under the symbol means clean gently, and two bars means very gentle cleaning.

Chemical cleaning

The letters P and F in a circle are for the different solvents used by professional dry cleaners.

Professional cleaning
Dryclean, hydrocarbon
solvent only (HCS)
Gentle cleaning with
hydrocarbon solvents
Very gentle cleaning
with hydrocarbon
Dryclean, PCE only  Gentle cleaning
with PCE
Very gently
cleaning with PCE
Do not dry clean


Wet cleaning

The letter W in a circle is for professional wet cleaning.

Professional wet cleaning Gentle wet cleaning Very gently wet
Professional wet cleaning
is not allowed

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

One Response to “Laundry symbols (care symbols, washing signs)”

  1. Mercy Butterfield says:

    Modern dry cleaning uses non-water-based solvents to remove soil and stains from clothes. The potential for using petroleum-based solvents such as gasoline and kerosene was discovered in the mid-19th century by French dye-works owner Jean Baptiste Jolly, who noticed that his tablecloth became cleaner after his maid spilled kerosene on it.,;

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