Deciphering the Care Label: What Does Your Garment Tell You?

The garment’s composition is usually front and centre of the care label, and can provide some hints. As a general rule, natural fibres (cotton, silk, and wool) will require more attentive care than synthetics. As for the care recommendation pictograms, if they are not typed out, remember that each shape has a general meaning.


  • If this symbol is printed on the care label, it means the garment can be machine washed.
  • If the pictogram is crossed out – do not wash it!
  • Hand washing is marked by a hand symbol inside the washing icon.
  • Everything else in, or around the trapezium indicates different aspects of washing. Dots or numbers mean temperature, and lines under the “bucket” specify the washing cycle – none for normal, one for permanent press (easy-iron cycle), and two for delicate.


  • A triangle on its own means the item can be bleached as needed with any type of bleach.
  • A triangle with two diagonal lines in it means gentle bleach.
  • A crossed-out triangle means no bleaching!


  • A square with a circle inside indicates that the garment won’t suffer if thrown into a tumble dryer.
  • If the circle is coloured in – tumble dry it on a cool cycle with no heat.
  • Dots in the circle and lines under it indicate the temperature and cycle, with the same meanings as in the washing instructions.
  • If the tumble drying symbol is crossed out, other drying methods can be used for the garment.
  • Line drying is shown as a curvy line in the top portion of the square.
  • One vertical line in the square means flat drying, usually suggested for knitted garments.
  • Three vertical lines stand for drip drying, meaning that if the garment is left on a hanger to dry after washing, it won’t need ironing.  


  • Dots indicate temperature, as in all other symbols.
  • A crossed-out iron means no ironing at all, but if you see an iron symbol with two lines coming out from the bottom and only those are crossed out – just do not use steam.

Dry Cleaning

  • Sometimes it has letters inside the circle or some lines around it. These indicate chemicals and cleaning programs that should be used to clean that specific garment. Your dry cleaner will understand those additional marks, so do not remove care labels from “dry clean only” items!
  • A “Do not dry clean” symbol is a crossed-out circle.

If you try and remember the main meaning of each shape on the care label, the rest of it is more of a logical assumption than knowledge. Alternatively, bookmark this post for future reference!