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What do those laundry symbols actually mean?

All those clothing care symbols can get a little overwhelming, but not to worry – our comprehensive guide will help you become fluent in laundry care symbols in no time. Learn the meaning behind 37 washing, drying, ironing and dry cleaning symbols and get ready to tackle laundry day – the right way.

Has laundry day got your head spinning? Do you wash on cold or warm? Does this shirt require ironing? Can that sweater go in the dryer? You’ve got a lot of questions. And on top of it, the washing symbols on your clothes’ care tags can look less like instructions and more like hieroglyphics or your kids’ geometry homework.

Whirlpool brand is here to help you crack the code with this quick, effective guide. Bookmark it or print it out and stick it in your laundry room. Then share it with your family and friends. Because laundry day should be just a little bit easier.

Washing symbols

The wash tub icon tells you exactly how to wash the garment, with underscored lines indicating the recommended cycle and black dots representing water temperature. An X, of course, warns to not machine wash at all.

Active family members can be hard on their gym socks, white undershirts and little league uniforms. If your whites are looking a little dingy, consult the triangle on the clothes’ label (if there is one) for bleaching instructions.

Drying symbols

Laundry symbols will tell you not just how to wash, but also how to dry. First, determine whether the item should be air or tumble dried. The lines inside the square will tell you how an item should be air dried. (Surprisingly, there’s more than one way to do it.)

If it can be tumble dried (dried in a dryer), the symbol will also tell you how. Just like with wash symbols, underscored lines indicate cycle and black dots represent temperature. Once again, the symbol will be X’d out if you shouldn’t tumble dry at all.

If you're wondering if you should add dryer sheets to your load, read our article about what dryer sheets do.

Ironing Symbols

With dryer innovations like Permanent Press and Whirlpool brand’s Wrinkle Shield option, ironing in modern life is practically unnecessary. But if a particular piece of clothing requires it, or you still like crisp creases in your pants, these ironing symbols, shaped like an old-fashioned iron, will recommend exactly how to do it.

Dry cleaning symbols

Despite how far we’ve come with home dryer technology, some garments are still best left to the professionals. A simple circle will tell you whether the item should be dry cleaned or not.

Laundry symbols infographic.

Care for your clothes, care for your family

Now that you understand your clothes' care symbols, you can keep your family looking their Sunday — and everyday — best. And you’ll stand a better chance of not shrinking, damaging, misshaping, fading or pilling your clothes. Check out Whirlpool brand’s innovative washer and dryer features that take even more of the guesswork out of laundry day. Start with Intuitive Touch Controls that give you customized care for any load.