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They’re on our clothes, our towels and our soft furnishings. We see them almost every day – but do we really know what washing symbols mean? ACE’s quick guide explains what each little diagram you’re likely to find on your washing labels means, leaving you confident to care for your family’s fabrics the best way. Make shrunken jumpers, burned shirts and laundry mishaps a thing of the past.
Symbols featuring water in a tub represent the washing and spinning aspect of the laundry cycle.
1. An empty tub means that the item is machine washable.
2. A hand in the tub means that the item is hand-wash only and is likely to be damaged in the washing machine.
3. A cross through the tub means that the item is unsuitable for washing.
1. When a temperature is given in the tub, this is the maximum temperature you should wash the item at, in this case 30°. Delicate fabrics such as silk and wool are likely to be lower, whereas more durable fabrics such as denim can be washed at higher temperatures.
2. One bar beneath the tub means that you should wash your item at the recommended temperature and with a reduced spin speed to prevent creases.
3. Two bars beneath the tub mean that you should wash your item at the recommended temperature on a gentle wash cycle, but rinse and spin as normal.
Triangular symbols refer to whether the item can be bleached.
1. An empty triangle means that any fabric-suitable bleach, such as ACE for Colours or ACE for Whites, can be used as instructed on the bottle.
2. Two lines through the triangle mean that oxygen-only bleach is allowed. ACE for Colours is suitable to use on items with this symbol, but not ACE for Whites as it contains chlorine.
3. A cross through the triangle means that the item cannot be safely bleached without causing permanent damage.
A circle inside a square refers to the tumble drying instructions for your item.
1. An empty tumble drier means that the item can be tumble dried as normal.
2. Dots refer to heat. One dot means that the item should be dried at a low temperature, whereas two dots mean that the item can be dried on a high heat setting. The more dots, the more heat is allowed.
3. A cross through the symbol means that the item cannot be tumble dried and is likely to be permanently damaged if tumble dried.
Lines inside squares refer to the natural drying of items.
1. A vertical line means that items should be hung – on a line or airer – to dry.
2. A horizontal line means that items should be laid flat to dry, as gravity can pull them out of shape whilst wet.
3. If there is a diagonal line in the corner (either hung or dried flat), the item should be dried in the shade as the colour could be compromised in direct sunlight.
The diagram depicting an iron explains how, or if, your item can be ironed.
1. If the iron is left plain, the item can be ironed as normal.
2. Again, dots refer to heat. One dot, usually for wool and silk, means that the item should be ironed on a low heat. Two dots, usually for synthetic materials, mean that the item should be ironed on a medium heat. Three dots, usually for linen and cotton, mean that the item should be ironed at a high heat to ensure the best results.
3. A cross through the iron means that the item should not be ironed and is likely to burn.
Circular symbols refer to the dry cleaning instructions for your items.
1. A plain circle means that the item can be dry cleaned.
2. If a letter is given inside, this refers to the chemicals that the item can or should be dry cleaned with – the dry cleaners will know what they mean!
3. A cross through the circle means that the item cannot be dry cleaned.
Have you come across any other washing symbols? Share them with us in the comments and we’ll help you decipher what they mean!