Fabric care labels & Laundry washing symbols (& All the meanings)

How to read the fabric care label on your clothing so that they can be cared for properly. Find the fabric care symbols for all kinds of fabrics.

how to read care lables on clothes.

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 clothes you packed) is dry clean only.

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

fabric care symbols

The 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 symbols, that denotes the cancellation or negation of the process.

Fabric care labels for different kinds of fabrics


fabric care symbols for wool fabric - wash in mild temperature, do not machine dry, steam iron

Learn more about wool fabric care here ; And also wool wash symbols

The wool fabric care label tells you to wash in mild temperature, preferably hand wash, do not machine dy, do not wring and to dry flat.


fabric care symbols - silk fabric - hand wash, do not wring

Learn more about washing and caring for silk clothes here

The silk fabric care label tells you to wash in mild temperature, preferably hand wash, do not machine dy, do not wring and to iron in mild temperature.


fabric care symbols - Nylon - iron at mild temperature, wash in warm temperature

The nylon fabric care label tells you to wash in warm temperature, tumble dry in low heat and iron at mild temperature.


fabric care symbols - lycra

The nylon fabric care label tells you to Machine wash in any temperature, tumble dry in low heat and iron at mild temperature.

Read more on caring for Lycra spandex clothes here.

POLYESTER FABRIC CARE SYMBOLS polyester - fabric care symbols - wash in warm temperature, iron at mild temperature

Learn more about polyester fabric care here

The polyester fabric care label tells you to wash in warm temperature, tumble dry in low heat and iron at mild temperature.


Linen - fabric care symbols

Learn more about Linen fabric care here

The Linen fabric care label tells you to wash in any temperature, dry in low heat and steam iron.

COTTON FABRIC CARE SYMBOLScotton - fabric care symbols

The cotton fabric care label tells you to wash in any temperature, tumble dry in any setting and iron at suitable temperature.


fabric care symbols - rayon


Learn more about Washing rayon fabric here

The rayon fabric care label tells you to wash in mild temperature, avoid wringing or tumble dry in machine and recommends line drying and steam iron.

Laundry care symbols

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

fabric care symbols of washing, ironing and drying

General guidelines for these clothing care symbols

☝ If no water temperature or dryer setting is mentioned, it is safe to use any setting, even hot water and hot tumble drying.

☝ 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.

☝ 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.”

☝ If no warnings are given, no adjustments are needed to the care process listed on the label.

☝ 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


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 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 foil 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 denote 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 the 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

drying symbol

1. This symbol indicates Drying.

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

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

dry flat

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. This is usually combined with other symbols to give full directions fro drying.

hang to dry.

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

do not tumble dry.

7. Do not tumble-dry symbol

10, 11, 12. Heat settings for drying. One dot is low heat, two dots – medium heat and three dots – high heat.

13. Do not use heat in drying.

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 


dry clean care symbols for fabrics

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

2. Denotes the fabric should not be drycleaned.

3, 4 & 5  Denotes the solvent to be used in dry cleaning. F indicates a flammable petroleum solvent (not to be machine dry cleaned)- this is for delicate fabrics. P indicates any solvent excluding trichloroethylene (can be machine drycleaned). A denotes that you can use any dry cleaning solvent. 

6,7,8 &9 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. 

Related posts : Common technique for stain removal with homeremedies ; Basic Fabric and Garment Care

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Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.

4 thoughts on “Fabric care labels & Laundry washing symbols (& All the meanings)”

  1. I am knitting with wool yarn. On the fabric care label is a “P” in a circle. What does that mean? Does it mean I can machine dry my sweater? Thank you.

    • Hi Barbara
      No, it means only dry clean by professional cleaners – and then a specification for dry cleaning – you should dry clean only in solvent that doesnot contain trichloroethylene.

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