Apparel Science

What Care Symbols Mean?

The care label describes the allowable treatment of the garment without damaging the textile. Whether this treatment is necessary or sufficient, is not stated. A milder than specified treatment is always acceptable. The symbols are protected and their use is required to comply with the license conditions. Incorrect labelling is prohibited. A bar below each symbol calls for a gentler treatment than usual and a double bar for a very gentle treatment.

A laundry symbol, also called a care symbol, is a pictogram which represents a method of washing, for example drying, dry-cleaning and ironing clothing. Such symbols are written on labels, known as care labels, attached to clothing to indicate how a particular item should best be cleaned. There are different standards for care labels for the different countries/regions of the world. In some standards, pictograms coexist with or are complemented by written instructions.

Treatment indicated by the symbols is "the maximum permitted treatment" and is not required or recommended. GINETEX states that "milder forms of treatment and lower temperatures than those indicated on the label are always permitted." For example, if a symbol indicates washing in hot water and tumble drying, washing in cold water and drying on a clothes line are also acceptable.


The Canadian system was formerly the most colorful one, using three colours: green for "go ahead", yellow for "be careful", and red for "stop". This system has been abandoned with the decision to move to a common North American scheme.[1]


GINETEX, based in France, is the European association for textile care labelling, and formed in 1963 after academic conferences in the late 1950s were formed to define one standard of labelling.

Because the symbols are trademarked in some European markets companies have to pay for the right to use the symbols. The level of payment varies but in some cases is based on the number of garments sold.

However, members of UKFT are exempt from any charges that may be levied for the use of the wash care symbols in any European country as UKFT is a member of GINETEX. Countries that impose charges include Belgium, Finland and Switzerland.

The GINETEX care labelling system is based on the following principles:

  1. The care symbols provide information on the maximum permitted type of treatment.
  2. The care symbols must always be used in full and in the prescribed sequence.
  3. The care labelling must be clear, readily understandable, easy to use and not dependent on any particular language.
  4. The care symbols must not leave room for possible misinterpretation by the consumer.
  5. The uniform care labelling system using symbols must take account of consumer habits without using complex technical data.
  6. The appliances used for textile care purposes must ensure the best possible implementation of the recommended care treatment.



A stylized washtub is shown, and the number in the tub means the maximum wash temperature (degrees Celsius). A bar under the tub signifies a gentler treatment in the machine. A double bar signifies very gentle handling. A hand in the tub signifies that only (gentle) hand washing (not above 40°C) is allowed. A cross through washtub means that the textile may not be washed under normal household conditions.

In the European standard, the level of wash agitation recommended is indicated by bars below the wash tub symbol. Absence of bar indicates a maximum agitation (cotton wash), a single bar indicates medium agitation (synthetics cycle) and a double bar indicates very minimal agitation (silk/wool cycle). The bar symbols also indicate the level of spin recommended with more bars indicating lower preferred spin speed





An empty triangle (formerly lettered Cl) allows the bleaching with chlorine or non-chlorine bleach. Two oblique lines in the triangle prohibit chlorine bleaching. A crossed triangle prohibits any bleaching.



A circle in the square symbolizes a dryer. One dot requires drying at reduced temperature and two dots for normal temperature. The crossed symbol means that the clothing does not tolerate machine drying. In the U.S. and Japan, there are other icons for natural drying.


Natural drying

natural drying.jpg


The iron with up to three dots allows for ironing (regular ironing with. The number of dots are assigned temperatures: One point means 110°C/230 F, two points means 150°C/300F and three points means 200°C/290 F. An iron with a cross prohibits ironing.




Professional cleaning/ Chemical cleaning

A circle identifies the possibilities of professional cleaning. A bar under the symbol means clean gently, and two bars means very gentle cleaning.

The letters P and F in a circle are for the different solvents used by professional dry cleaners.

professional cleaning.jpgwet cleaning.jpg

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