Learn the International Laundry Symbols to Take Care of Your Clothes

Now that my boys are in college I realized that there are things I never bothered teaching them and this is one of them: laundry symbols. These are the symbols on the tag placed inside your clothes, where they describe the fabric content and the recommended laundry method. It may seem obvious to many but if you have boys, you’ll understand that it’s not something that they find interest in and doesn’t cross their radar so I have to point this out.

In the United States most of the casual clothes that the youth wear are wash and wear items, which means you just throw it in the washing machine and dryer and you’re good to go. It’s very stress free and requires little thinking.  Nowadays, the fabrics are so sophisticated that they even have washable wool, cashmere and various synthetics. There are even smart washing machines that can “hand wash” too! – Amazing.

I remember when I was young and threw a wool sweater in the laundry and it came out just the right size for my teddy bear! With mistakes like those, you learn quickly. How many of you have turned your whites into a lovely pink or baby blue. Yes, I admit that I have done that too. Today, most of the fabric dyes don’t run as easily and they recommend washing in cold water to prevent this. And as I mentioned earlier, the washing machines are technologically so far advanced, mistakes are not as common.

However, pricier clothing as well as clothing made in Asia and Europe tend to require different care. In fact, I know many Asians still hang their clothes to dry.

Did you know that there are international laundry symbols? With clothes made all over the world, the person who came up with this concept was brilliant. These symbols are really well done as their images are simple, easy to understand and very clear. All you have to do is remember a few basic shapes and their meaning, especially those that do not depict a specific picture. Here are the basic symbols:

A bucket with water means wash, and with a hand means Hand Wash.  A square with a circle represents a dryer, if it has one dot inside it means low heat, two dots means Normal Heat and three dots means high heat.  The triangle is a symbol for bleach and the “X” obviously means No Bleach.  The square with a horizontal line means Dry Flat and lastly the iron with just one black dot means Low Iron.

The best chart I found was at the Textile Affairs website and this is their chart.  You can download a pdf. version by clicking here.

PhotobucketNow you can laminate this chart and leave it by your washing machine, or just memorize the symbols!

Here is an example of a label from my rain jacket.  Let’s see if you can figure out the symbols.

Laundry Label

Cold water wash, no bleach, tumble dry low, low iron and no dry cleaning.  See wasn’t that easy?

Now you can do all your washing without having to worry about ruining your good clothes! Please pass this on to your friends and kids in college too.




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About the author

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, is an interior designer, specializing in a contemporary Asian aesthetic and serves the Greater Seattle Area through her company, 3 Frogs Design. She's also a certified Feng Shui consultant from the Blue Mountain Feng Shui Institute.

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