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Learn how to properly wash, dry and iron your garments with care.
We know the feeling that comes when you put your brand-new shirt in the dryer, only to have it shrink and transform into something more fitting for your younger daughter. And if you struggle to read and understand your garment care labels, laundry day is more of a stressful experience than a fun one. Luckily, we're sharing our laundry symbols guide to help you decode everything you need to know about washing, drying and ironing your clothes.
From making sure you pick the right temperature and heat setting for the machine to knowing how to pinpoint what garments should never be bleached or dry cleaned, we take you through all the symbols you should know for the perfect wash day. And if you need more help, check out our step-by-step guide for the best tips and tricks to treat your clothes with care and our handy cheat sheet you can hang and frame in your laundry room.
Good news: You don't have to take this garment to the dry cleaner. Just toss it into your washing machine at home.
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To do this, fill your sink with water and detergent, per the bottle's instructions. Turn your item inside out and immerse it in the sudsy water. Let soak for 5 minutes, then empty the sink, refill it with cool water and re-immerse to rinse. Roll gently in a towel to remove excess moisture.
Unfortunately, this garment isn't immune to dirt and sweat. This symbol actually means you need to take said item to the dry cleaner, instead of washing it yourself at home.
Chances are the garment you're about to wash includes a color that tends to bleed or is made of a delicate fabric, so you'll want to select the cold temperature setting. Cold water also saves energy.
Most clothes can be washed in warm water to offer optimal cleaning without shrinking or fading.
Washing clothes in hot water is best for removing heavy soil and killing germs, but since it's a bit harsh, make sure you spot this symbol before selecting this cycle.
Four dots indicate that you can use the hottest temperature to wash your clothes.
If you have a batch of whites in dire need of some brightening, make sure they all feature this symbol on their care tag, which indicates it's safe to use any type of bleach. For colors, choose an non-chlorine version.
The same goes for this symbol, except the additional two lines means the formula you use can't contain chlorine. Use a bleach that says it's color-safe.
Bad news: Even if you got a stain on your shirt, any clothes with tags featuring this symbol means they shouldn't go near any type of bleach.
This circle indicates that your item should be cleaned by a professional cleaner. Using your washing machine can damage or destroy the fabric.
A circle with an "X" over it indicates dry cleaning might be too harsh for the item, so you'll likely need to hand or machine wash it instead.
This icon means you're safe to toss the item into the dryer, just make sure you check the temperature recommendation before you start up your machine.
One dot in the middle of the dryer symbol indicates you should use a low heat temperature.
Two dots in the middle of the dryer indicates a medium heat setting should be used to dry your items of clothing.
And three dots means (how'd you know?) high heat is a safe temperature for the item you're trying to dry.
To save your piece of clothing from getting ruined, don't use heat if the dryer symbol features a filled-in circle. Select the air-only cycle.
When you see this symbol, select your washer's "permanent press" or "casual" cycle for the best results. This cycle minimizes wrinkling to help casual fabrics — even those treated with permanent press finishes — to emerge smoother and less creased. That means less ironing for you.
If your garment features this symbol, it means you shouldn't put it in the dryer. Instead, you should dry it using one of the following methods.
To protect your garment from fading, this symbol indicates you should line dry your item in the shade — not in the sun.
You can either use a clothesline or a drying rack to hang your garment as it dries.
Whatever you do, don't wring out any garment featuring this symbol. You should let it drip until it's dry using a "line drying" method instead.
To avoid stretching, any item with this symbol should be reshaped and dried on a flat surface (we recommend on top of a towel).
Even though it's tempting to wring out any extra water, this symbol indicates this gesture could damage your item.
Select a low temperature setting for any items featuring an iron symbol with one dot in the middle.
If there are two dots in the middle of the iron symbol, you should use a medium temperature.
Three dots in an iron symbol means (you guessed it) you should iron your item at a high temperature.
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If there's an iron with lines below it, that means the steam feature on your iron isn't safe for this garment. It must be ironed dry.
Meanwhile an "X" over an iron symbol means this wrinkle-releaser tool isn't safe to use on your piece of clothing — period.
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