How To: Laundry Symbols Deciphered! Here's What the Care Labels on Your Clothes Really Say

Laundry Symbols Deciphered! Here's What the Care Labels on Your Clothes Really Say

Frankly, I never cared about the care labels on my clothing. They supposedly held some secret key to keeping clothes clean and bright, but who wants to look at little icons and a bunch of fine print for every single garment they wash?

After moving out to go to college, I finally had to do all of my laundry. Of course, I completely disregarded the help attached to my duds and washed everything in warm water and dried everything on permanent press.

Unbeknownst to myself, my mother had always followed the care labels when washing and drying my clothes.

I would be in for quite the unpleasant surprise.

Image via


And no, not the type that George suffered from.

Sweater after sweater after, tee shirt after tee shirt, I would open my dryer and find clothes that closely resembled what I would wear when I still thought Santa was real (if you still thought Santa was real, sorry). After being close to ruining my whole wardrobe, a friend offered me some exceptionally first-rate help.

"Hey, maybe you should read the care labels before you wash...idiot."

Ever since those inspiring words, I've been able to do laundry without turning my clothes into something Verne Troyer would wear.

Still, some labels only have those tiny icons on them—like you're supposed to know what those mean.

Well, now you can. If you want to keep your clothes in tact, you will bookmark or print this infographic out for your laundry room wall, which explains all of those little symbols.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, some machine wash icons don't have dots in them—some list the actual wash temperature instead. Except, a lot of clothes are made outside of the United States, where they like Celsius for some reason.

30°C? Cold? 60°C? I don't know...cold?!?

Well, here's a little more information I've recently learned for my fellow Americans. If you print the infographic out above, write these on there with a Sharpie.

  • Cold: 30°C / 65 - 85°F
  • Warm: 40°C / 105°F
  • Hot: 50°C - 95°C / 120°F - 200°F

And now you're all set. Happy laundering.

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Photos by Primer Magazine, Quizzle, Vladyslav Danilin/Shutterstock

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I think I'm supposed to wash mine in a pyramid. Where am I going to find a pyramid open at this hour?

And I have a P with a circle around it?

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