Laundry Icons And Their Meanings Printable

I was doing a load of laundry the other day trying to get ready to go on a weekend trip. I was in a bit of rush, running around grabbing things laying around the apartment that I thought I might want to bring with me, and one thing I grabbed at the last minute was a lightweight black shawl/jacket/thingy from H&M. It was covered in cat hair (cuz that’s pretty unavoidable) so I figured I’d toss it in the laundry before packing it.

Now, I’m usually really careful when I do laundry. I separate lights and darks, I wash things according to the instructions, and I pull things out of the dryer after 10 minutes and air dry it if it’s something that will shrink. So I grabbed this jacket and looked at the tag to find the washing instructions. And there weren’t any…

The tag had a bunch of little icons on it (one of them was an iron, I think?) and the words “100% Viscose” written in 25 different languages, and that was it. Seriously, I counted the languages; it covered the front and back of the tag, and the front and back of a second tag!

I was pretty confused, and in a rush, so I just threw it in with the darks and hoped for the best!

Deciphering Laundry Icons

I figured it probably wasn’t a good idea to dry it, so I went back after 10 minutes to pull it out of the dryer along with my jeans. And immediately had a minor freak out.

The previously lightweight and airy jacket was now thick, dark, and shriveled up. It’s hard to describe, but it’s made of one of those fabrics with “zebra” stripes of black and sheer black (where you can see through it a bit). Except all the sheer stripes were gone and everything was thick, solid, bunched up black! Ugh.

Luckily it all turned out okay; I took a deep breath, hung it up to dry, and after about six hours it had gone back to it’s normal, soft, lightweight, sheer-in-places self. Thank God!

But I figured the lesson I should learn from all of this was what those silly little icons mean so that this never ever happens again. And just in case I’m not the only person who doesn’t know what they mean, I’m sharing what I learned with you!


Usually there are five icons on a tag. Those icons correspond to five categories of instructions:


This icon is a stylized washtub. The tub is usually “decorated” with a system of lines and dots that tell you useful things like water temperature, if you should use the delicate setting, or wash by hand, etc. The dots indicate water temperature and are the same for all wash procedures (normal, permanent press, etc.). The lines indicate the wash cycle you should use (or if it can’t be machine washed at all). Many times the dots and lines are combined into one icon. So, for example, if you see a tub with two lines under it and one dot, it means machine wash cold, gentle cycle.

Deciphering Laundry Icons: Washing instructions


This icon is a triangle and it tells you whether or not it’s safe to bleach, and what kind of bleach to use.

Deciphering Laundry Icons: Bleaching instructions


This icon is a square with a variety of other icons inside of it (a circle for tumble drying, lines for drip drying, dots to indicate heat settings, etc.) Again these markings can all be combined into one icon, so you may see one dot inside a circle and two lines under the square. That would mean tumble dry, low heat, gentle cycle.

Deciphering Laundry Icons: Drying instructions


This icon is a stylized iron and it will tell you heat settings and whether or not you can use steam.

Deciphering Laundry Icons: Ironing instructions

Professional Care

This icon is a circle. The standard blank circle means it can be dry cleaned, the X through it means don’t dry clean. There are other icons and letters inside the circle sometimes (an A, F, or P usually). I didn’t list them here because your dry cleaner will know what those mean. 🙂

Deciphering Laundry Icons: Dry Cleaning instructions

Hopefully this was helpful!

And just in case you don’t have this blog open on a computer in your laundry room while doing laundry, I’ve created a printable as well. 🙂

Deciphering Laundry Icons: Laundry icons printable for your laundry room

Click the image to download the printable, or just click here.


Have you ever ruined something in the laundry? This wasn’t actually ruined, but I have definitely turned a whole load of my dads white shirts pink by putting some red socks in the load when I was about 13. Oops!

Do you have any other laundry-related tips or tricks? I’d love to hear them!




I link up at these awesome parties!

Jessi Wohlwend

I believe that anyone can do crafts and DIY projects, regardless of skill or experience. I love sharing simple craft ideas, step by step DIY project tutorials, cleaning hacks, and other tips and tricks all with one goal in mind: giving you the tools you need to “do it yourself”, complete fun projects, and make awesome things!

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Reader Interactions

  1. Jen@EmbellishingLife says

    12 years ago

    Thanks for sharing! I’ve always wondered what half of them meant, but never took the time to look it all up. I printed it and will be hanging it in my laundry room!

  2. Kristen says

    12 years ago

    Thanks! This was beyond helpful.

  3. Lydia@ Five4FiveMeals says

    12 years ago

    This is good to know. I just stare at the tag like a moron.

  4. Leah says

    12 years ago

    I’ve always wondered what the little triangle means, thank you for posting this!

    • Jessi says

      12 years ago

      You’re very welcome, glad it was helpful!

  5. Anu@MyDreamCanvas says

    12 years ago

    Visiting you via Make It Pretty Monday. I would love for you to visit My Dream Canvas. Great post. Have a great day. Anu

  6. Katie says

    12 years ago

    Wow! You actually went and did something I never remember to do until it’s too late–look up what all those symbols mean! I shall print your printable. Yay.

    Mostly I’m like you–when in doubt, wash cold and air dry. That’s how I wash pretty much all of my stuff except socks and underwear, actually. Even when it says handwash, I usually just run it on the delicate cycle. Because, handwashing…that’s a lot of work. You have to hunt down a big tub, and slop stuff around in the kitchen sink (messy) or the bathtub (also messy, and a little gross) and ugh. Big ordeal.

    Glad your sweater came out okay in the end! ^_^

    • Jessi says

      12 years ago

      Haha, yeah I figured I’d be pretty sad if I made the same mistake twice, so I took the time to look it all up. Plus, I got a nice blog post out of it 🙂

      And I don’t hand wash stuff either. Too much work!

  7. Virginia says

    12 years ago

    Thanks for deciphering the laundry icons! Sometimes the writing is so small I can’t read it and have to go hunting for reading glasses!!!

  8. Erin's 2 Cents says

    12 years ago

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I always see the icons and have no idea what they mean. This is a great resource. ~Erin

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