How To Read The Laundry Symbols On Your Clothing Tags!

laundry cheat sheet

A couple of weeks ago I bought a sweater for the hubster at Costco. It quickly became one of his favorites. :-) So when it came time to wash it he wanted to make sure he followed the “instructions” on the label hoping to avoid repeating a recent “shirt shrinking” episode.

He showed me some symbols on the label of the sweater and asked me what they meant. I HAD NO IDEA! To be honest, I haven’t really ever looked at any of the laundry symbols to figure out what they meant. But guess what? I have now!  And now I can explain them to you. :-)

(Trust me…you’re going to be glad to know this stuff!)

Way back in 1971 the FTC started requiring manufacturers to tag their clothing with at least one safe cleaning method. In 1997 they came up with SYMBOLS that could be used in place of words on labels. The universal symbols were developed by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and are used by the detergent, textile, apparel, and appliance industries around the world.

What does this mean to you and me? It means we better know what these symbols mean if we want to get the most “life” out of our clothing…or at least avoid their early demise!

While I was thoroughly confused when I first tried to decipher the symbols on the hubster’s shirt label…I have since realized it’s a very simple system if you just take a minute to actually LEARN it. OR if you have a couple of “Cheat Sheets” like the ones I made up for MY laundry room that I want to share with you today! :-)  The information comes from Textile which also has lots of other good information about caring for clothes.

Laundry symbols

Click here for a printable version


Laundry symbols Guide D

Click here for printable version


I hope you all find these as helpful as I did!  I feel like I “cracked the code” and now I am no longer intimidated by those cryptic-looking symbols on my clothes!  Time to go buy some more to celebrate! ;-)


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      • CTY says

        One thought on motivating DH. I think of a second, less appealing chore & give him a choice. I’ll say something like, “…running behind today & need your help; would you like to clean the toilet or throw in a load of clothes?” Just make sure his first load is a no brainer. The worst that has ever happened to me is that he chose to clean the toilet. I do the same for him. When I see him chasing the sunlight to get the lawn work done I ask “… would you like me to take care of the pile of sticks or sweep the grass from the sidewalk?” He usually says “both”. My response to that is OK, but you make dinner. Sometimes he does dinner & sometimes he chooses one of my original offer. All jobs around here are a give & take. I have done the same for the kids.

  1. Jackie says

    Just last week I was mumbling curses to myself as I tried to decipher these symbols so I didn’t ruin my new sweater. Your post has saved me, THANK YOU!!!!!!

  2. Danielle says

    This is wonderful!! I remember learning these in my high school home-ec class, but I quickly forgot what they meant because I never paid attention to them! Thank you for posting this! I’m going to print it off and post it next to my washing machine!! Then maybe my husband will even feel compelled to do a load or two!!! :)

  3. kim says

    Wow! Who knew there was such a simple system to those hieroglyphics in our clothing tags :-)

  4. Teresa says

    Great printable.. There is a mistake on the do not dry clean. I should be a circle with an x across it.

  5. says

    Awesome! This is one of those things that really only takes minutes and yet I would never have taken the time to actually learn. Thanks for enlightening us-our clothes (and husbands) will appreciate it! :)

  6. Penny Hannah says

    Great chart Jillee! I always THINK I know what the symbols mean, but it’s really good to KNOW.

  7. Holly says

    Great idea Kathleen as well. I can post this in the laundry area and even my laundry challanged spouse could follow along.

    I just don’t know how I got along without this site for so long.

  8. Kathleen says

    Thank you for this awesome chart! We have been living in China and now South Korea for the past year and I always have to look up what the symbols mean before I wash something new, especially since I can’t read any of the words on the tags, like from what fabric the garment is made. This will be very handy for my kids as well, as they wash their own clothes without me around to guide them. Thank you, thank you!!

    • Robert says

      Since Korean is written using an alphabet, it is easy enough to look up words in a dictionary.
      But yes, it is nice to have a little “dictionary” of these symbols.