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#SmellySocks Guide to Laundry Care Symbols

Have you ever opened the dryer to find your favorite shirt was five sizes smaller than when it went in? It happens to the best of us. Following those emoji-like symbols on your shirt’s care tag could have saved you the mourning, and not too mention, the money to replace your shirt.

Guide to laundry care symbolsThe laundry symbols on your clothing care tags are your guide to taking care of your clothes. Think of them as a cheat sheet for getting the most out of your clothes. Here are the most common symbols you’ll find and what they mean. 

washing care symbols

The washing symbol is fairly straightforward. One dot indicates cold water, two dots for warm water and three for hot water. One black line indicates you should wash your clothes on the “permanent press” cycle and two lines means to wash them on “gentle cycle.”

Bleach symbols

The dreaded bleach spot happens to the best of us. Always check the tag before doing any sort of stain care. Non-chlorine bleach or color-safe bleach is indicated by a triangle with two dashes.

Dry care symbols

Like the wash symbol, the drying instructions are fairly straightforward and follow the same rules. Some clothes such as sweaters may have special instructions directing you to dry them flat. This is so the fabric retains its shape. When wet, some items are heavier and can lead to stretching.

Iron care symbols

Ironing may seem like a lost art these days, however heading into a job interview with a wrinkled shirt will do less than impress your prospective employer.

Dry clean symbols

The universal symbol for dry cleaning is a circle. Dry clean only can mean added costs and time. Before buying a piece of clothing that is dry clean only, consider if you have the time and the money to take care of the item properly.


Stacy Wang, MEd, RD, LRD, Extension Associate

Filed under: #smellysocks, #adulting
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