Machine Wash, Normal
A machine wash, normal symbol indicates that a garment can be easily laundered in most commercial washing machines. You'll often spot this symbol on your everyday basics such as cotton undergarments, jerseys and T-shirts, as well as jeans.
If that's the case, you can machine wash with regular laundry soap or detergent. Also, use the hottest available water, as it facilitates the cleaning process (except if the color of the fabric runs easily).
Occasionally, you'll spot dots, numbers or a combination of both inside the wash symbol. The dots and numbers essentially tell you how to set your water temperature.
For example, if the symbol specifies 120°F, then the washing machine's water shouldn't exceed that temperature. Here are the most common denominators you'll find on clothing labels:
85°F = 1 dot
105°F = 2 dots
120°F = 3 dots
140°F = 4 dots
160°F = 5 dots
200°F = 6 dots
Machine Wash, Permanent Press
A permanently pressed garment means that it has been permanently shaped and treated for wrinkle resistance. Those garments should be laundered in a machine, set on "permanent press." Simply read your machine's instruction manual to find out whether or not a permanent press wash setting is available.
Machine Wash, Gentle or Delicate
Again, gentle or delicate wash is a specific setting you'll find on your machine. Essentially, this symbol means that your garment requires a reduced spinning cycle and/or gentle agitation.
Guess again; this symbol isn't a reminder for you to wash your hands each and every time you go to the washroom. It stipulates that your garment should be hand-washed only. Use water, detergent or soap and manipulate with care.
Do Not Wash
The following symbol is normally accompanied by a dry-cleaning symbol. It indicates that the garment should be cleaned professionally.
Bleach When Needed
This triangular symbol suggests that you can use any commercial bleach. Always double-check the bleaching agents' instructions and make sure there aren't any restrictions, which could eventually spoil your clothes. And NEVER pour bleach directly on clothes.
Non-Chlorine Bleach When Needed
You'll generally spot a non-chlorine symbol on your bright colored clothing. In that case, purchase non-chlorine, color-safe bleach.
Do Not Bleach
If you spot the following symbol on a new sweater, it signifies that you can't carry it along on your next camping trip. (Get it? A crossed out tent...) No seriously, the symbol denotes that this specific garment won't withstand any type of bleaching agent, so do not even try.
Tumble Dry, Normal
This symbol indicates that you may dry your garment in most commercial dryers, at very high temperatures.
Tumble Dry, Normal, Low Heat
The following 6 symbols demand that you understand your dryer's basic settings. Similar to washing symbols, the dots found in the drying symbol dictate the machine's required temperature. A tumble dry symbol with 1 dot indicates that you should set your dryer settings to a low heat dry.
Tumble Dry, Normal, Medium Heat
If the symbol contains 2 dots, you can set your dryer settings to low or medium heat.
Tumble Dry, Normal, High Heat
Finally, if the symbol comprises 3 dots, choose between a low, medium or high heat setting.
Tumble Dry, Normal, No Heat
The full circle symbol indicates that you can tumble dry that garment at no heat, or at an air only setting.
Tumble Dry, Permanent Press
When spotting this symbol, set your machine to permanent press. Again, don't forget to check whether your dryer is designed for this.
Tumble Dry, Gentle
The following symbol requires that you set your machine's setting to gentle dry.
Do Not Tumble Dry
The big "X" crossing out the tumble dry symbol is pretty self-explanatory. Use an alternate drying method instead.
Do Not Dry
A crossed out square means that you shouldn't machine dry your garment, and is usually accompanied by an alternate drying symbol.
This envelope-looking symbol indicates that your garment should be hung to dry, either on a line or a bar.
The drip dry symbol stands for "hang dry only" and requires that you don't hand shape or smoothen out your clothes.
If you spot this symbol, let your garment dry by laying it out on a table, for example. Make sure the surface is clean and of course, waterproof.
Dry In Shade
The dry in shade symbol normally accompanies a line dry symbol. It notifies you to keep your garment away from direct sunlight.
Do Not Wring
To wring out a garment means to extract its moisture by twisting it. Therefore, logically, the "do not wring" symbol tells you not to twist it or it will shout.
Iron, Any Temperature, Steam or Dry
The basic ironing symbol indicates that you can use any ironing method. So take out the steamroller and get rid of those creases.
Again, for ironing symbols, dots are used to point out what ideal temperature setting to choose for a specific garment. For example, one dot tells you to set your iron at a low setting, which is around 230°F.
2 dots indicates that you should set your iron at a temperature of approximately 265°F.
Finally, 3 dots indicates that your iron should be set at 300°F.
Do Not Steam
Isn't it funny that this symbol resembles an older manual blender? Unfortunately, wearing a shirt with this symbol on its label won't make you a better chef. The symbol simply denotes that steam ironing your garment could cause permanent damage.
Do Not Iron
Which part of, "do not," don't you understand? Do Not Iron: it's as simple as that. Ne pas repasser. No planche. Nicht bgeln siz.
If you spot a circular symbol, then you should know that your garment must be dry-cleaned. Have it cleaned professionally (unless there's a big "X" marked on the circle, in which case it should not be dry-cleaned). Heck, if the dry cleaner will charge you an arm and a leg for it, you might as well let them have the headaches of deciphering the symbols for you.
Okay, have you fallen asleep yet? Well with this care symbol summary, you can now sleep in peace. Finally, if you're worried about forgetting the meaning of each sign, simply print out the article and stick it next to your washing machine.