How to Read Laundry Care Labels

Help your clothes last longer by learning how to decode the mysterious hieroglyphics of care labels.

Clothing label showing several care symbols

Tarzhanova / Getty Images 

Whenever it's time to clean a new garment, I head for the care label and hope that it offers instructions in words ... and in words of a language I understand. Otherwise, I am lost. What does a crown with three dots in it mean? What's that scary black circle in a box? What does that patterned shape that looks like it belongs on an IQ test represent?

It's great that we are offered all kinds of information on how to best care for a garment. It is so important – the better care we take of an article of clothing the longer the item will last, and the better it is for our wallets and the environment. Textile and clothing waste are an enormous burden on the planet. But to the uninitiated, the esoteric pictograms might as well be an alien language.

Thankfully, we have the great oracle of the internet to divulge the secrets of the clothing makers. At first, I researched individual symbols per label, but I wasn't particularly skilled in remembering what was what. I eventually wised up and printed out a cheat sheet, a magical decoder explaining the many mysteries of the laundry care label. And now I will share it with you. (Click to enlarge.)

Chart showing meanings of various laundry care symbols
shooarts / Shutterstock 

And further decoding if you (like me) are metric-system challenged:

30C = 86F
40C = 104F
50C = 122F
60C = 140F
70C = 158F
95C = 203F

So there you go, mysteries solved.