Tuesday, January 8, 2013

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 Affairs.com 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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55 thoughts on “How To Read The Laundry Symbols On Your Clothing Tags!

  1. Kathleen

    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!!

    1. Robert

      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.

  2. Holly

    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.

  3. Jacqueline

    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! :)

  4. Danielle

    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!!! :)

  5. Jackie

    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!!!!!!

      1. CTY

        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.

  6. Hazel

    Thanks Jillee This is one of the things I had on my to do list but hadn’t gotten around to it and now thanks to you I just print and post, you are brilliant, thanks for all your help:)

  7. Tausha

    THANK YOU!! Have you seen that pic going around that shows all these laundry symbols on a clothing tag and it says “Give it to your mom, she’ll know what to do” ? Well this mom would not have had a clue what to do!!!! Great chart, getting ready to hang it in the laundry room!

  8. Angela

    Thank you!! I have heavily relied on the written instructions but was completely lost with the symbols. Now I’m going to have to check and see how many of my clothes I’ve been washing improperly.

  9. Deb

    Great info! Thank you! There’s also a mistake in the tumble dry, delicate/gentle icon – should be two lines underneath. As it is, it’s the same as the tumble dry, permanent press icon above it. :)

      1. Jillee Post author

        Thank you Kathy C and Deb! I’m actually surprised there aren’t more mistakes considering how late/early I was up doing this! ;-) Thanks for watching out for me!

  10. Judy

    … I look at those symbols, and think “I wonder if they are significant …. should I know what they mean” then just go-ahead and launder everything pretty much the same way. Now, you provide knowledge that brings stress relief. Once again you’ve read my mind :) I’m thinkin’ you are the queen of “print and post”.

  11. Kristen

    Wow I just laughed at myself for the longest time I thought the dots we little eyeballs smiling at me from the water or washing machine symbol :)

  12. Kristi

    I have print these and I am lamentating them for my children (boys) to have. These are a great help. I cannot remember the symbols and always look the up to determine them. I should have made myself one of these sheets long ago, but I “can always research it.” hahaha. Thanks again Jill, for another great tip!

  13. Becky

    Oh My Goodness! Thank you so very much. I have never been able to figure these out and no one I know has ever been able to tell me! This could really save some of my clothes!

  14. Terri

    Any chance of getting this in black and white? My printer won’t change it—and the blue just doesn’t print with enough clarity to read, especially in the areas where it’s small white print against the blue. Thanks!

    1. CTY

      Terri–in Print Options there should be a Color menu. Select Black Only. That should do it.

      Jillee- FANTABULOUS post. TY TY TY
      I think I’ll make a basic one credit card size to keep in my wallet when shopping, because if there is just a circle I don’t always realize its telling me something..it just seems like a random circle. I avoid O.

    2. Jillee Post author

      Terri….I went ahead and made those words more readable (they were really hard to see!)

      I am going to make these charts in some different colors and I’ll be sure to make one that is Black and White as well. :-) Hoping to get to it tonight.

      Until then…CTY has some good advice just below. Thanks CTY!

  15. CTY

    Yesterday’s contest made me have tunnel thought & I forgot to pass on what I do. My late M-in-L taught me that if you slightly dampen the chicken and roll in flour before dipping in the ranch dressing, more dressing will stick, which means more breading will stick.

  16. Dawnelle

    Thank you so much for this. I was just looking at a tag yesterday and couldn’t figure it out. I was going to go looking on the internet some time this week and then your post popped up on my google reader. Thanks again

  17. Amy

    What gets me are the tags that have a number inside the wash symbol. I always just assume that 30 is cold, 60 is warm, etc., but I’ve ALWAYS wished that I had a chart!! Now if I can figure out how to laminate and hang this in the teeny closet-sized laundry “room” in the rent house…wish I had a magnet board in there!!

    1. flerbiejean

      Amy, if you don’t have access to a laminator, one “cheap” way to laminate items is to purchase clear contact paper, and sandwich your printed item between two pieces. Leave a slight edge around so that your contact paper will stick to itself. This will last for a long time! (My cheap and easy version to laminating!)

  18. Renee K

    I mirror the above sentiments. I really don’t know what I did without this site! As pathetic as this may sound, I get up each morning anxious to get Jillee’s next tip! This one has been printed and will be on the door in our laundry room ASAP! Thanks for creating such a WONDERFUL site. I have told so many people about it! XXOO

  19. renate parks

    Jillee, you always seem to know what I need help with! I just came across this problem the other day, but instead of researching, I just guessed! Thanks!

  20. Katy

    You’re a lifesaver, Jillee! I’m going to print this out, frame it, and hang it in the laundry room of our new house as functional wall art… LOVE it! :-)

  21. flerbiejean

    Jillee, I just want you to know that I have a folder on my computer that says “One Good Thing,” and every time you post something that will save me in some fashion, I make a PDF and save it to that folder. It is one of my go-to items on my computer! Today’s post will most definitely be residing there now!

    You are a jewel!

    Thanks so much for your posts! (I tell everyone about “One Good Thing.”)

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  23. Shawna

    Thank you!! I’ve tried ‘memorizing’ the laundry codes to no avail. I finally learned it thanks to your cheat sheet! I’ll definitely be printing these out and taping it to my laundry basket (live in an apartment complex so I can’t pin it in my laundry room :( )

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  25. Olivia Lane

    Thank you SO MUCH! I am trying to improve my laundry habits since *both* shrinking and stretching a favorite sweater, somehow. This is going to help tremendously! I am totally sharing this whenever possible. The world needs to know! :-)

  26. Pingback: Laundry Symbols Cheat Sheet | Best Cheat Sheets

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  28. Mollie

    Howdy just wanted to give you a quick heads up.

    The text in your post seem to be running off the screen in Internet explorer.
    I’m not sure if this is a format issue or something to do with browser compatibility but I thought I’d post to
    let you know. The style and design look great though!
    Hope you get the issue resolved soon. Thanks

  29. Ericka

    If a tag spells out to turn a garment inside out (after the washing and before drying instructions) I turn it inside before washing. Even though this instruction may only apply to drying on reverse, I do this to be safe since it does not specify and this may take on different meanings from one tag to the other.. Any thoughts? Thank you for this helpful website.


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