Washing machines: Using your washing machine Washing symbols
Baffled by the washing symbols on your clothes labels? Our quick-reference guide below reveals what they mean, so you can avoid shrinkage, bobbling, colour runs and the many other problems arising from not following the care instructions. Scroll down the page for in-depth descriptions of each symbol shown in the picture gallery.
To make sure you get a washing machine that won't let you down, check out our Best Buy washing machines.
Of course, if you’re thinking about replacing your washing machine, you’ll want to avoid the models that will leave your clothes dirty, soggy and full of detergent.
Washing synthetics and woollens
A number within the tub icon shows the maximum temperature that item of clothing can be washed at, while the bars underneath refer to rinsing and spinning.
- If there are no bars, the garment can be spun and rinsed as normal.
- One bar indicates that the spin speed should be reduced.
- Two bars means the clothes need a mild wash action, but can be spun and rinsed normally.
Such items shouldn’t be wrung by hand. If there's a cross through the tub, that item should not be washed and will probably need to be dry cleaned (see dry cleaning symbols, below).
For more information on washing programs, have a look at our washing machine program guide.
If the tub contains a hand, wash the item by hand at 40°C or lower.
Many washing machines have a handwash program. This is for delicate garments such as cashmere or silk, and washes more gently than the normal setting to prevent clothes snagging or shrinking.
Find out more about using your washing machine at cooler temperatures in our guide to cleaning laundry at 30°C, including tips on which laundry detergent to use and how to prevent white washing powder deposits on your clothes.
The dots on ironing symbols correspond to the dots on an iron’s temperature settings: the more dots there are, the more heat can be applied.
- If the iron symbol doesn't have any dots, the garment can be ironed at any temperature.
- If the symbol has two lines protruding from the bottom of the symbol with a cross over it, this means you must dry iron and not steam iron.
- Three dots are for linen and cotton, two dots are for synthetics, one dot is for the most delicate items such as woollens and silk. If the iron symbol has a cross through it, that garment is not suitable to be ironed.
To reduce the amount of time you spend ironing, check out our ironing tips and tricks.
Getting tumble drying right is easy if you use the correct temperature.
- A circle inside a square means you can tumble dry the garment.
- The dots indicate temperature – one for lower heat, two for higher heat.
- A cross over the symbol means you shouldn’t tumble dry the garment.
Some clothes appear similar but have different labels – they’re most likely made from different fibres or blends. Some fibres or blends can change size or become ‘furred’ by tumble drying. An item that’s suitable for tumble drying will have been treated to protect against these effects.
Our guide to tumble dryer programs explains how to make the most of your machine, cut your energy bills and avoid problems such as shrinkage.
Some clothes can – or must – be dry cleaned.
- A circle means the garment is suitable for dry cleaning.
- If there’s a letter inside the circle, it’s to tell the dry cleaner which chemical wash and method to use.
- If the circle has a cross over it, the item shouldn’t be dry cleaned.
Clothes manufacturers tend to give good cleaning advice. So, even if you suspect they’re being over cautious, it’s best to follow what they say.
A triangle means you can safely use a cold, dilute solution of bleach.
If the triangle has two stripes, only a non-chlorine, colour-safe bleach should be used.
If the triangle has a cross over it, the item can’t be bleached.