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Washing symbols: what the washing symbols mean

If you lose track of things in the jungle of washing symbols – help arrives. We explain what the washing signs are and how to decode them.

Washing machine housing in the laundry room

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In this article
The different washing symbols
Washing sign: washing
Washing symbols: bleaching
Washing symbols: dryer
Washing symbols: ironing
Washing symbols: dry cleaning

We all know them – the washing symbols in textiles and clothing. The importance of small pictograms becomes clear at the latest after the third sweater, because you normally cleaned it at 30 degrees – instead of a woolen wash. We not only show what care symbols are there, we also explain exactly what they mean. After all, washing is not a question of tips, but of knowledge. If you pay attention to the textile care symbols, you will have more textile in the long run.

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The different washing symbols

The first step to illuminating the washing symbols is to classify them. Washing instructions can be divided into five categories. These are: washing, bleaching, drying, ironing and dry cleaning. The symbols must be arranged exactly in this order on the care label. It is inside the clothes and especially on the side in the lower area. The different symbols are a recommendation from the manufacturer. They indicate what maximum treatment the textile can withstand in the long term.

Incidentally, the washing symbols known today were introduced by GINETEX (International Association for the Labeling of Textile Care) as early as 1963. They are internationally standardized and protected by trademark law . Since GINETEX has been supported by ISO (International Organization for Standardization) since the 1970s, maintenance labeling has been standardized worldwide. The only exception: the care instructions in the United States and South Korea differ from the GINETEX care symbols. Unlike other countries, German manufacturers are not legally required to provide their textiles with care labels.

General washing symbols


What washing symbol means what?

  • The bathtub is synonymous with washing.
  • The triangle means money laundering.
  • The square means drying.
  • Iron means ironing.
  • The circle represents chemical cleaning.

Washing sign: washing

Washing symbols: washing


The most important washing symbol in the cosmos of washing signs is the tub. It represents the entire washing area – whether in the washing machine or by hand. The symbol in combination with the hand means exactly that – hand wash. The temperature here can be a maximum of 40 degrees.

The tank can also display degrees. These indicate the maximum temperature at which the fabric should be machine washed in the normal wash cycle. The following information is available here.

  • 30 degrees
  • 40 degrees
  • 60 degrees
  • 95 degrees

If there is a line under the tank with the number of degrees, it means that the textile should not be spun and washed gently. Here, for example, an easy maintenance schedule is recommended. The drum is also half full.
Two lines indicate that the fabric is particularly sensitive. In this case, a special wash of wool (delicate, wool) should be used and the spin cycle should be avoided completely. The drum is only filled to the third.

Once the tank has been closed, the garment or blanket should not be washed. In general, chemical cleaning panels provide additional information on the correct treatment.

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Washing symbols: bleaching

Washing symbols: bleaching


The triangle is located on the label just next to the wash symbol. It is the symbol of "money laundering". Important to know: You can whiten in two ways. Oxygen or chlorine are the means of choice here. If the triangle is completely empty, any type of laundering is authorized. If there are two inclined lines in the triangle, only oxygen is allowed as a bleaching agent. A crossed triangle indicates that the textile should not be bleached at all. In this case, you should not use normal universal detergent, as these often contain an oxygen bleach. Instead, we recommend using colored detergents.

Washing symbols: dryer

Washing symbols: drying


The dryer symbol is often in third place on the label: the square. This describes two types – tumble drying or natural drying. Drum drying is always indicated by a circle inside the square. If there is a point in the circle, you should choose a gentle program that does not exceed a maximum temperature of 60 degrees. The standard program is sufficient for two points. The maximum temperature here is 80 degrees. If the square and the circle have a cross, the textile should not be put in the drum to dry.

On the other hand, a square with a line indicates that the textile should be dried naturally. There are a multitude of washing symbols here:

  • A vertical line means that the clothesline should be dried.
  • Two vertical lines mean that the textile should drip on the clothesline.
  • A horizontal line represents horizontal drying.
  • Two horizontal bars represent drying lying in a dripping wet state.

If the pictograms listed also have an oblique line in the upper left corner, this means that textiles cannot tolerate light. They should be dried in the shade.

Laundry sign table

The washing symbols collected from GINETEX Germany can be found here.

Washing symbols: ironing

Washing symbols: ironing


The ironing symbol is relatively self-explanatory. Finally, this is represented by an iron. The points determine the maximum temperature at which ironing is allowed.

  • One point: maximum 110 degrees, without steam
  • Two points: maximum 150 degrees
  • Three points: 200 degrees maximum

An iron with a cross means that the textile should not be ironed.

Washing symbols: dry cleaning

Washing symbols: dry cleaning


Chemical or professional cleaning is generally expressed by an empty circle. Letters and bars provide additional information on exactly how the substance should be treated. Even if this information is not relevant to us at home, it is to cleanse our confidence.

Meaning of letters

  • P – Cleaning with perchlorethylene or hydrocarbons only
  • F – oil cleaning only
  • W – Professional wet cleaning

Meaning of barre

  • A bar: gentle cleaning
  • Two bars: very gentle cleaning

An empty crossed-out circle indicates that the fabric should not be dry cleaned. A crossed circle in which there is a W indicates that professional wet cleaning is not allowed.

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