40+ Fabric care labels & Laundry washing symbols with their meanings

All store bought clothes and fabrics (ready-to-wear garments as well as fabrics from the bolt)  have these labels stitched on them. Unless the clothing is too precious, none pays any attention to them. Mostly at their own peril.

You really ought to read it diligently every time you make a purchase. Just imagine the horror if the shirt you bought for a Himalayan trekking ( one of the few you packed) is dry clean only.

A knowledge of the basic care symbols is essential for a number of reasons like this. The details in the fabric tab and those symbols will tell you everything you need to know about the care and upkeep of your garment.

All about fabric care labels

International care labeling code is based on 5 basic symbols.- Washtub (Washing), Triangle ( Bleaching), Iron ( Ironing) , circle ( Dry cleaning) and the square ( Drying).

Modifications to these symbols tell a whole story of how you should care for the cloth in question. You generally do not ignore it. Sometimes you have to but that is another story altogether. (Like when you try to add fabric texture or when you have to shrink clothes)

One thing general about these symbols is that if there is a cross across any of the symbol that denotes the cancellation or negation of the process

Fabric care labels for different kinds of fabrics

Learn more about wool fabric care here

Learn more about washing and caring for silk clothes here

Learn more about polyester fabric care here

Learn more about Linen fabric care here


Learn more about Rayon fabric here








Laundry care symbols

Some of the most common laundry care symbols are as in the table below

This symbol means garment is machine and hand washable.The temperature Nos suitable will be indicated inside the tub
laundry care symbol washing lingerie9This means that the item needs to be delicately handled. Wash in delicate cycle in your washing machine without too much clothes ; Do not use fast spin.
Do not buy lingerie with this symbol. You cannot wash it
You can iron this item; The temperature will be indicated
This item may be drycleaned
laundry care symbol washing lingerie2This item can be tumble dried
Do not wring
Dry flat
Drip Dry
Dry in shade
Bleach if needed

The general guidelines for these clothing care symbols include

  1. If no water temperature or dryer setting is mentioned, it is safe to use any setting, even hot water and hot tumble drying.
  2. If no ironing instructions are given, it should not be necessary to iron the garment. If ironing is needed to preserve the garment’s appearance, instructions must be given. The label need not mention any ironing temperature if the regular use of a hot iron will not harm the garment.
  3. If bleach is not mentioned, any type of bleach may be used, when needed. If bleach is unsafe, then the label must say “no bleach” or “do not bleach.” If non-chlorine bleaches are safe, then the label should say “use only non-chlorine bleach when needed.”
  4. If no warnings are given, no adjustments are needed to the care process listed on the label.
  5. If the label says do not dry-clean, don’t assume you can. The type of dry-cleaning solvent does not have to be specified if all are safe. If not, the particular solvent to be used should be listed. A “Dry-clean” label means you can use a coin-operated machine. “Professionally dry-clean, short cycle, tumble warm” means you cannot since a coin-operated machine could not be adjusted to follow the process

Ref : http://digitalcommons.unl.edu.

Washing care symbols for Laundry in more detail


1. This symbol means that you can launder this in a washing machine with water, detergent or soap and maximum agitation.

2. This means that the article should not be machine washed. This usually accompanies symbols for drycleaning care

3.Machine wash in Permanent Press setting. This is intended for Permanent Press fabrics which have been treated with chemicals to ensure they resist wrinkles and retain their original shape.This will have a cold rinse before spinning at a reduced time. If a piece of clothing is permanent press, it usually means that you shouldn’t iron it

4. The two lines under the bucket denotes that the fabric should be washed in a gentle or delicate setting only. This is usually used for beaded sequined fabrics, wool, silk etc which needs gentle agitation

5. A hand inside the bucket denotes that the fabric is suitable only for handwashing

6. Two broken lines under the bucket means that the fabric is to have the minimum agitation. The number inside the bucket denotes the initial maximum temperature setting

7  One  broken line under the bucket means that the fabric is to have a medium agitation only.

8. When there are no lines under the bucket it means the maximum agitation is ok

The dots inside the bucket ( like the numbers) will be representing initial maximum temperature setting for the fabric

One Dot – 30ºC
Two Dots –  40ºC
Three Dots – 50ºC
Four Dots –  60ºC
Five Dots –  70ºC
Six Dots –  95ºC

Drying care symbols for fabrics

 dry care symbols for fabric care labels

1 This symbol indicates Drying 

2 This indicates that you should not use the washing machine for tumble drying the fabric

3 Drip dry – this indicates that the garment should be hung without wringing, hand shaping or smoothing

4 Dry in the flat – This is given for clothes/ fabrics which may stretch if hung on a line; they should be laid horizontally in a rack for drying. 

5 Dry in the shade – This is given for clothes which may fade or get damaged in direct sunlight

6 Line dry – which means that you can hang them on a clothesline to dry

Ironing Symbols 

1.This shape of an iron box indicates that the garment is ironable at any suitable temperature

2. This denotes the garment is not suitable for ironing.

3. Garment is to be ironed at a low heat setting

4. Garment is to be ironed at a medium heat setting

5 Garment is to be ironed at a high heat setting

6. This symbol indicates that you cannot use steam on this cloth though it can be ironed

Drycleaning symbols 


1 This indicates that the garment/fabric should be drycleaned at any temperature, with any solvent and any moisture

2. 3 & 4 Denotes the solvent to be used in drycleaning

5,6,7 Denotes other restrictions

Bleaching Care symbols for laundry

bleaching laundry care symbols

1 This indicates that you can use any type of bleach on the fabric

2 This denotes that the garment should not be drycleaned

3. This symbol indicates that you should only use non-chlorine bleach on the garment. The ingredient list of bleach will clearly say whether it contains chlorine or not. 


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