How to Read the Laundry Symbols on Clothing Tags

So, it’s your first day in the dorms and you spill some coffee on your favorite shirt. Your stomach drops (and swear words fly out of your mouth) because you realize you have at least 2 more weeks before you’re scheduled to go home (where mom’s gonna help you with your laundry). Which means… <duhn, duhn, duhn> …you now have to do a load of laundry on your own! You make the trek down to the laundry room with your basket of clothes, soap and quarters in hand, and pull out your shirt, and you actually look at that tag on the collar for the first time in your life. You don’t want to screw this up, it’s your favorite one! But what the heck are all those circles and squares? You have no idea what all those symbols mean and now you’re irked because what if it’s not supposed to go in the dryer or something? What do you do? Well, we’ve got you! Here’s a basic outline of what all those symbols mean, so that you know what to do next time you’re in a lurch to do your laundry:

There are six basic icons that you must know.

The bucket with the water = wash.

The square = dry.

The iron = iron.

The triangle = bleach.

The circle = dry clean.

The circle inside the square = tumble dry.

These icons are the primary basis for all the symbols.

Now that you know these, it’s easy to figure out the others. For example, if you see the wash symbol with a hand in it, it means you should hand wash the clothing item. If you see the water bucket crossed out with an X, then it means you shouldn’t wash it. Pretty straightforward, right?

So what about all those dots?

The dots represent the level of temperature. One dot is the lowest temperature, while four dots are the highest. So, if you see one dot inside a square, it means put the dryer on low. The dots apply to wash, dry, tumble dry, and iron symbols. If the clothing was made outside the US, you may see numbers instead of dots. This is the actual temperature in Celsius degrees. No need to do the actual conversion to Fahrenheit; just know that 30 is low/cold, and 60 is high/hot. And you can figure out the numbers in-between, right!? You are in college now!

What about the lines?

Okay, this is where it gets confusing. Most of the symbols could also have lines in or around them. Here’s what they mean:

Horizontal line under the wash symbol = gentle wash (2 lines mean extra gentle)

Horizontal line under the dry symbol = gentle dry (2 lines mean extra gentle)

Lines at angle inside the triangle = non-chlorine bleach (also applies to your detergent)

Horizontal line in middle of dry symbol = flat dry

Curved line at top of dry symbol = line dry

Vertical lines (usually 3) in middle of dry symbol = drip dry

Lines at angle inside dry symbol = dry in shade

Lines at angle under iron symbol = steam (crossed out lines mean don’t steam)

What about all those letters and lines with the dry clean symbol?

You really don’t need to worry about those, because they are for the dry cleaner. So the main thing to know is that you shouldn’t wash it yourself! Take it to a professional dry cleaner and they’ll use those symbols to tell them how best to clean it.

Hopefully this helps you next time you need to do your laundry on your own! Chances are your mom doesn’t even know these symbols, so you can show her you’ve learned something already at school. If you have any other questions about how to use your facility’s equipment, or need service or repair, visit us online at We have customer service representatives that can help you by phone or email.