A Laundry Symbol Guide Because We’re All Honestly Confused

Laundry Symbols
Photo: Laura Simola

I know I can't be the only one that gets confused when doing laundry. Should I use hot or cold water? What the heck is viscose? How much detergent is too much detergent? Each time I do laundry, it's like taking the SATs all over again. But once for and all, I'm determined to master the annoying chore, starting with figuring out what all of those laundry symbols mean.

If you've ever purchased anything from Zara, I'm sure you've probably noticed that their tags have just as many pages as a Harry Potter book. But there's no need to feel intimidated anymore. We've broken down the most important laundry instruction symbols really mean, so that you can feel like a pro.

VIDEO: 'Grown-ish' Star Yara Shahidi Drops By 'Dirty Laundry' To Show Off Pieces Of Her Wardrobe

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Iron on low heat.

Iron on low heat.
Laura Simola

Let's start with the easy ones. If you had to guess, what would you say this looks like? An iron, right? But what about the dot? You can think of the dot as an indicator telling you how much heat is enough. One dot means keep the temperature low.

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Iron with high heat.

Iron with high heat.
Laura Simola

Three dots means you can turn up the heat. Hate waiting for cheap irons to warm up? This Maytag iron has seriously, good reviews on Amazon, and it's only 40 bucks.

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Do not iron.

Do not iron.
Laura Simola

If you see the iron sign crossed out with an x on a clothing label, keep that item far away from the iron.

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Tumble dry on low.

Tumble dry on low.
Laura Simola

Here's where things get a little bit more confusing. When you see a circle within a square, that represents tumble dry. Again, the dot tells you the temperature. If you only see one dot, keep it low. Two means medium. And three let's you know that a high temperature is best.

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Do not tumble dry.

Do not tumble dry.
Laura Simola

Again, the x is a sign to slow your roll.

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Tumble dry gentle.

Tumble dry gentle.
Laura Simola

Now, it's time to introduce a new symbol: the horizontal parallel lines. Those are a cue to select a gentle cycle.

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Wash.

Wash.
Laura Simola

This one, looks like a bucket filled with water, and it represents the washing process. When you see it alone, you can wash the item on a normal cycle.

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Wash on gentle.

Wash on gentle.
Laura Simola

If those two horizontal lines appear underneath it, remember to use a gentle cycle.

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Wash cool.

Wash cool.
Laura Simola

I know it's always confusing to remember the conversions for Fahrenheit and Celsius. But that's why you've got the dots to guide you. Remember, one dot is an indicator to keep the temperature low and cool.

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Wash hot.

Wash hot.
Laura Simola

Three dots means hot water will work best.

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Hand wash.

Hand wash.
Laura Simola

Now that you know what the washing machine laundry symbol looks like, this one is pretty easy to figure out.

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Bleach.

Bleach.
Laura Simola

I honestly don't know how this one makes any sense. But triangles equal bleach in the laundry world. We recommend sticking to a non-chlorine bleach ($10; amazon.com) that's also safe on colors for beginners.

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Do not bleach.

Do not bleach.
Laura Simola

And crossed out triangles are a warning to avoid using bleach.

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Dry Clean.

Dry Clean.
Laura Simola

Somehow, circles are a symbol for dry cleaning.

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Do not dry clean.

Do not dry clean.
Laura Simola

I'm sure you're getting the hang of this now and can figure this one out.

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