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What Do Laundry Symbols Mean?

Triangles, squares, circles — oh my! We’ll help you decipher those laundry symbols on your garment tags so your clothes come out looking great, every wash.

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Wouldn’t it be great if each piece of clothing we bought came with highly detailed care instructions, so we’d never worry about damaging it in the wash? Unfortunately, it’s tough to fit all that on a tiny garment tag. That’s where laundry symbols come in — they’re shorthand for things like recommended water temperature, to bleach or not to bleach and so much more. On some care labels, symbols have replaced written care instructions entirely. Keep scrolling to check out our guide to laundry symbols. And here’s a tip: bookmark this page for easy access in the future!  

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Guide to the most common care symbols

With lots of different options for water temperature, agitation, laundry additives and drying, there are a lot of possibilities for what care symbols you’ll find on a piece of clothing or home textile like a tablecloth. We’ve summarized the most common symbols on a chart for easy reference. 

What do triangle symbols mean?

The triangle provides instructions for using bleach, but there are a few different versions to note.

  1. 1

    Any Bleach

    A simple triangle means you can use any kind of bleach on that item. Just remember to follow the directions on the label.

  2. 2

    Only Non-Chlorine Bleach

    A triangle with diagonal stripes means you can use non-chlorine bleach or color-safe bleach when needed. Clorox 2® for Colors 3-in-1 Liquid or Clorox® ColorLoad® Non-Chlorine Bleach are great options when you see this symbol.

  3. 3

    No Bleach

    A crossed-out triangle means you should not use any bleach of any kind on the item. There may be times you want to bleach an item with a “do not bleach” care symbol. You can always test it for colorfastness to bleach to make sure the label is correct. Sometimes clothing and textile manufacturers cut corners and put the same label on all the items in a line regardless of washability, so it’s good to check! 

Dry Clean or Dry Clean Only?

If the label on your blouse reads “Dry Clean Only,” there you go. This indicates that the garment manufacturer has established that dry cleaning is the only safe way to wash the item. But if it says “Dry Clean” it may also be hand or machine washable in cold water good to know if you like saving money on dry cleaning!

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Frequently asked questions

Who decides what laundry symbols to use?

Care labeling is overseen by the Federal Trade Commision (FTC) under the Care Labeling Rule established by Congress. Textile and garment manufacturers are required to test garments to establish a reasonable basis for the care instructions that the law requires they put on clothing and home textiles. They have the option of using accepted symbols to save space