The clothes we wear are more than just pieces of fabric put together. They are a reflection of our style, our personality, but also our commitment to their maintenance. To ensure their longevity and quality, manufacturers place care labels on our clothes, often in the form of washing symbols. These little cryptic icons may seem disconcerting at first, but once understood, they become indispensable allies in the preservation of our favorite clothes. In this article, we'll break down these washing symbols so you can care for your textiles with confidence and efficiency.

The importance of care labels

Before diving into the meaning of each symbol, it's crucial to understand why these labels are so important. Indeed, they provide specific instructions on the best way to wash, dry, iron and even bleach your clothes. By following these guidelines, you can avoid potential damage such as shrinking, fading or pilling, which can alter the appearance and durability of your clothing.

Washing symbols

1. Washing

The wash symbol looks like a small bucket of water. It indicates whether the garment can be machine washed or whether it must be washed by hand. If the symbol has a hand in the bucket, this means that the item of clothing should be hand washed carefully. The number inside the bucket indicates the maximum washing temperature.

  • If the wash symbol is represented by a bucket with no temperature indication inside, this generally means that the garment can be washed at any temperature up to the maximum temperature limit tolerated by the fabric. In the absence of numbers indicating a specific temperature, this can be interpreted as an indication that washing at a normal temperature is acceptable.

  • The wash symbol with a bar under the bucket indicates that the garment should not be washed. In other words, this is an indication for dry cleaning only. This means the garment is delicate or made from sensitive materials that could be damaged if exposed to water. Therefore, instead of washing it by machine or by hand, it is recommended to entrust the cleaning to a professional dry cleaner. This symbol is often used for clothing that requires special treatment and should not be exposed to water.

  • If the line under the bucket is double, it means the garment needs a gentle or delicate wash. This indication suggests using a less aggressive wash cycle or washing the garment at a lower temperature than usually recommended. Garments marked with this symbol may be susceptible to damage from heavy washing or high temperatures, so it is best to treat them with care to preserve their quality and appearance. Using a mild detergent and avoiding washing with abrasive items can also help extend the life of these delicate garments.

  • The bucket symbol with an "X" inside means that the garment should not be machine washed. This indicates that machine washing is prohibited for this garment. It is important to follow this instruction to avoid damaging the garment. In general, when this symbol is present, other cleaning methods are recommended, such as hand washing or dry cleaning. This is often the case for delicate garments or those made from sensitive fabrics which could be damaged if subjected to machine washing.

2. Whitening

This symbol is represented by a triangle. If it is filled, it means that bleaching with chlorine-based bleaches is permitted. If it is crossed out, it is not recommended to use chlorine-based bleaches.

3. Drying

The drying symbol is shown as a square. If it has a circle inside, it means the garment can be tumble dried. The number or dots inside the circle indicate the maximum drying temperature. If it is crossed out, this means that the garment should be dried in the open air, away from any direct heat source.

  • The symbol for air drying is often represented by a clothing symbol hanging on a clothesline or hanger.

  • The square symbol with a horizontal line in the middle generally indicates flat drying. This means that the garment should be laid flat on a flat surface to dry. This method is often used for delicate garments or those that hold their shape better when dried flat rather than hung.

  • The square symbol with three horizontal lines in the middle means that you simply hang the garment to air dry, without the need to wring or squeeze to remove excess water .

  • The symbol of the square with two oblique lines in the upper left corner indicates that the garment should be dried in the open air, but protected from direct sunlight. Drying in the shade is recommended for delicate or colorful clothing that may be sensitive to sunlight. Prolonged exposure to sunlight can cause fading or deterioration of the fabric, so by drying in the shade you preserve the color and quality of the garment. To dry in the shade, you can hang the garment outdoors in a shady location or indoors, away from direct sources of sunlight.

4. Ironing

This symbol is represented by an iron. The dots inside the iron indicate appropriate ironing temperatures. One point means low temperature, two points medium temperature, and three points high temperature. If it is crossed out, it means that ironing is not permitted.

  • The iron with one or more water drops crossed out means that the use of steam is not recommended when ironing the garment. This indication is often used on clothing care labels to indicate that ironing should be carried out without using steam. Some fabrics or materials may be sensitive to steam, which could cause damage such as shrinkage, warping or water marks on the garment. Therefore, when this symbol is present, it is recommended to use a dry iron, without adding steam.

5. Dry cleaning

The dry cleaning symbol looks like a circle. If it is crossed out, it means the garment cannot be dry cleaned. If a letter symbol is present inside the circle, it indicates the type of solvent to use for dry cleaning.

  • A: This letter means that the garment can be dry cleaned with any solvent.

  • P: The letter P indicates that only perchloroethylene and hydrocarbon solvents are permitted for dry cleaning.

  • F: This letter indicates that only fluorocarbon solvents are permitted for dry cleaning. However, this classification has become obsolete in many regions due to environmental concerns related to fluorocarbons.

Seamless underwear: How to maintain them?

Seamless underwear is a delicate piece that requires special attention when caring for it. Here's what you need to know about caring for these underwear:

Care Instructions:

  1. Hand wash or gentle cycle : It is often recommended to wash seamless underwear by hand rather than in the machine. This helps preserve their shape and elasticity.

  2. Use a mild detergent : Opt for a mild detergent designed for delicate fabrics to clean your underwear without damaging it.

  3. Avoid Wringing : Do not twist or vigorously wring your seamless underwear after washing, as this may compromise its shape.

  4. Dry Flat : To dry your seamless underwear, lay it flat on a clean towel. Avoid hanging them, as this may stretch the fabric.

  5. No ironing : It is generally not recommended to iron seamless underwear, as the heat can damage the elastic fibers.


The washing symbols on textile care labels are valuable tools for taking care of our clothes. By understanding their meaning, you can extend the life of your favorite clothes and preserve their quality. Taking a few moments to decipher these symbols before washing your clothes can make all the difference. So the next time you find yourself faced with a care label, you'll know exactly what to do to keep your clothes in tip-top condition.

April 03, 2024


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