Urban Valet Blog

Understanding Laundry Symbols

Posted: February 13, 2024

Woman holding a care content label from an article of clothing

What are laundry symbols? They can typically be found on the garment care label of our clothing. These symbols let us know the preferred method for maintaining the quality of a garment. The symbols represent methods for washing, drying, dry-cleaning, ironing, or bleaching. Our next blog post and video essay seek to understand the symbols along with their history and significance. 


In 1963, the International Association for Textile Care Labeling, also known as GINETEX, was founded in Paris. The organization is credited with creating the original laundry symbols. Since their inception, the laundry symbols have been widely embraced, gaining worldwide acceptance, and creating a more standardized approach to garment care. 

In the ‘70s, the American Society for Testing and Materials and the Canadian General Standards Board developed their own symbols but closely aligned them with the original GINETEX symbols to avoid market confusion. 

Today, the core symbols remain mostly consistent in international markets. This allows consumers to easily comprehend how to care for garments properly, whether at home or abroad. 

Understanding Laundry Symbols 

  • Washing symbols

If the symbol on your care label depicts a tub with water, your garment is machine washable. When the tub of water is accompanied by a number, that indicates the maximum temperature in Celsius for washing. Other washing symbols include: a tub with a hand, a tub with an underline, and a tub with an X. A tub with a hand indicates that the garment should be hand washed. A tub with an underline indicates the need for a gentle cycle for reduced agitation, Finally, a tub with an X warns against traditional machine washing. In this final case, you should use a dry-cleaning service. 

  • Drying symbols

Drying symbols offer detailed instructions on how to dry and maintain the shape of your garment. For instance, a square with a circle inside stands for tumble drying. The dots typically found inside the square indicate heat levels. One dot suggests low heat, ideal for delicate fabrics, two dots for medium heat, and three dots for high heat which is the most suitable for heavy fabrics. Other drying symbols depict a square with a line, which indicates line drying. A square with a semi-circle on top suggests that a garment is meant to lay flat to dry, typically to maintain shape in knitwear. Finally, a square with an X warns against any form of drying. 

  • Ironing symbols

An iron symbol means that an item can be ironed. The dots on the inside indicate the recommended temperature. An iron with lines beneath suggests the use of steam, while an iron with an X through it indicates that the garment should not be ironed at all. 

  • Bleaching symbols

If you see a triangle on your garment care label, that means that it can be bleached. Meanwhile, if there is a triangle with an X through the middle, that means that the garment cannot be bleached. If the triangle is filled in or uses diagonal lines, it recommends non-chlorine or color-safe bleach to protect the garment from discoloration. 

  • Dry Cleaning symbols

Our favorite! A circle indicates that a garment should be dry-cleaned. A circle with an X indicates the opposite. If the circle includes a letter inside of it, that suggests the type of solvent that should be used while dry cleaning. 

There are also environmental and economic reasons to understand laundry symbols. Following proper garment care instructions can add years to a garment’s life and prevent damage, discoloration, and wear. This will save money on clothing in the long run. Also, adhering to the recommended cleaning methods can reduce your environmental footprint. Following recommended temperature and laundry cycles reduces energy and water bills! 

If you are unsure of how to wash a garment, check the care label. If you are unsure, feel free to drop it off with us! Chances are we have dealt with it before and are happy to help you look and feel your best. 

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