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Demystifying Laundry Care Symbols and their meaning

Trying to sort out what your laundry care labels are telling you? The system of symbols—dots, dashes, and icons—can be a little hard to decipher. But you’ll get the best possible cleaning results wash after wash when you follow the manufacturer’s guidelines.


Machine wash, normal

The item can be laundered in up to the hottest water possible, using any type of detergent or soap, with the regular agitation and spin speed. (When this symbol includes a hand, it indicates hand wash only.) Numerals inside the icon indicate the highest recommended water temperature.

Bleach when needed

The item can be treated with any commercially available bleach product.

Tumble dry, normal

You can dry the item in a machine dryer at up to the hottest setting. A system of dots indicates the recommended temperature range, from low to high.

Line dry

Hang the item or garment from a line or bar, indoors or out. Tumbling dry could damage this item.

Iron, any temperature

The item or garment may need ironing, and you can iron it at any available temperature, with or without steam. An iron symbol with an “X” through it means the fabric should not be ironed at all. A system of dots indicates the recommended temperature range, from low to high.


This means you should dry-clean the garment only—do not machine wash or dry. A letter inside the circle indicates the type of chemical that can be used.


The more dots you see on the tag mean the more heat the clothes can take. One dot means cool or low heat, two dots for warm or medium heat, and three dots for hot or high temperature.


As for bars, the more bars you see, the gentler of a cycle you should use. One bar means permanent press cycle, two bars means gentle/delicate cycle, and bars in the shape of an “X” mean do not wash.

Did you know?

Downy helps protect your clothes from 50 mph spinning in your washing machine.

Downy helps protect your clothes from 60 times the G Force of a space rocket launch.

Downy helps protect your clothes from a dryer hot enough to cook ribs.