So you got a new shirt. You wear it around town and have a ball in it. But when it comes time to wash it, you haven't a clue how to clean it. Everyone just tells you to follow the directions on the tag, but then you find puzzling hieroglyphics.
Well, maybe it's not that confusing. But the individual symbols are common enough, so let's go over what each of these little characters means.
Water bucket: Washing instructions
This symbol indicates which wash temperature you should use–if you can wash it at all. Because the whole system was developed by French people, that number is in Celsius. You may also see dots en lieu of numbers. Here's your quick guide:
Bucket with 30: Wash on cold.
Bucket with 40: Wash on warm.
Bucket with 60: Wash on hot.
Bucket with one dot: Wash on cold.
Bucket with two dots: Wash on warm.
Bucket with three dots: Wash on hot.
Should you be in Canada, you might encounter clothes with six dots. That means you can basically boil them.
Triangle: Bleaching instructions
Plain triangle: Any bleach can be used, including chlorine-based bleach.
Triangle with diagonal lines: Only use oxygen-based, non-chlorine bleaches.
Triangle with an X: Do not bleach.
Square: Drying instructions
Everything you need to know about drying is indicated by this square. Like with washing, the number of dots indicates how much heat the article in question can tolerate.
Square with a circle in it: Dryer-safe.
Square with one dot: Dry using low heat.
Square with two dots: Dry on medium heat.
Square with three dots: Dry the clothing with high heat.
Empty square: Line dry only.
Square with a semicircle at the top: Hang to dry.
Iron: Ironing instructions
Although it looks like a bent paperclip, this is the symbol for ironing. Like with everything else, more dots indicate higher heat tolerance.
Plain iron: Iron at any temperature.
Iron with one dot: Iron on low heat.
Iron with two dots: Iron on medium heat.
Iron with three dots: Iron on high heat.
Iron with an X: Do not iron.
Circle: Dry clean only
If you can't wash, dry, or iron your clothes, you'll probably find a circle on the tag. Circles indicate that a professional needs to do the washing. The various letters inside the circle tell your cleaner which chemicals can be used. For your own purposes, following the washer/dryer care guide is good advice for prolonging the life and durability of your clothes.