Shoppers are only just realising what a triangle symbol on garments mean

Clothes label
-Credit: (Image: (Image: Alex Evans))

Folks are just now discovering the true meaning behind these cryptic symbols on their clothing - and it's not as straightforward as you might think.

Every piece of clothing comes with up to five key symbols printed on its label, but most people are clueless about what they signify. This lack of knowledge could be causing harm to your favourite outfits, potentially shortening their lifespan with each wash.

Some symbols, like the bucket of water with a temperature indicator, are relatively easy to interpret, indicating the maximum temperature at which the item should be washed in the machine.

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However, the meaning of the triangle symbol remains elusive for many.

The white triangle on clothing labels can appear in four variations; an empty triangle, a triangle with a cross through it, a triangle with two diagonal lines through it, or a triangle with 'CL' inside and a cross through it, reports the Express.

These symbols all relate to bleach usage. An empty triangle signifies that the item can be bleached.

A triangle with a cross through it means you should avoid bleaching the garment. The symbols of a triangle with two diagonal lines inside or a triangle with 'CL' inside and a cross through both indicate that non-chlorine bleach should be used.

Salah Sun, Head of Product Marketing at Beko Plc UK and Ireland, warns: "Throwing a pile of laundry in your washing machine isn't uncommon; we've all done a quick drum dash without looking to see what we're putting inside but this can damage your clothes."

"Everything you need to know about your clothes is on their labels. Knowing your symbols and clothing inside out can help you avoid laundry mishaps and keep your favourite clothes lasting longer."

Here are the other clothes symbols and what they mean:.


The washing symbol is usually the first symbol on your care label. It is easy to spot as it looks like a bucket filled with water imagine this being your traditional washing drum.

Inside the water, you might notice a number of spots. Depending on what is inside the water on the symbol, you'll need to wash your laundry at different temperatures.

The numbers correlate directly to the temperature you need to use on your washing machine, so separating laundry by temperature can be a good way of sorting your laundry cycle. If your symbol has spots rather than numbers, you can also set the temperature for your clothes.

One dot means 30 degrees Celsius, whereas six dots equal 95 degrees.

Salah says: "Washing your clothes at the right temperature is important for the long-lasting quality of your favourite items. Following the care label instructions can keep your outfit looking new and lasting longer, getting you more wear for your money."

Your washing symbol may include a hand, indicating hand-washing only, while a cross through means the garment isn't machine washable. If you notice a line underneath your washing symbol, this means you can machine wash and permanently press, whereas two lines indicate machine wash on a delicate cycle.


The ironing symbol is easy to spot as it is designed to look exactly like an iron. There are only six variants of the ironing symbol that you can find on your clothing label to help you know the best ways to leave your items crease free.

An iron symbol simply means you can iron your clothing. This can be found on most items.

However, a few materials don't do well with pressure or heat, so an iron symbol with a cross through means you shouldn't iron these items. You might also see an iron with a cross below it.

This means you shouldn't steam your item, but ironing without steam is fine.

As with the washing symbol, your iron symbol can also indicate the heat level you should use. This symbol uses the dot method.

One dot inside your iron symbol suggests a low temperature, two indicate a medium temperature, and three recommend using a high temperature.

Salah says: "When it comes to chores, ironing isn't everyone's favourite. But you could be ironing items you don't even need to. Check your clothing labels first to ensure you're not adding unnecessary items to your chore list or damaging your clothing with a too-hot iron."


The drying symbol on your clothing tag, which looks like a square, is crucial if you want to understand the optimal way to dry your clothes, particularly if you own a washer-dryer. An unadorned square signifies that you can tumble dry your garment at any heat setting without concern.

Salah advises: "There's a handful of drying symbols you'll want to know to keep your clothes looking their best. If it isn't simply an empty square, knowing the right method of drying for your specific clothing is important for the longevity of your clothes. Wool, for example, should typically be air-dried flat to prevent it from shrinking, or on a gentle dry cycle."

A square with a line through it means 'do not dry', while a square with a circle in the middle (resembling a tumble dryer) crossed out indicates 'don't tumble dry'. A square with a filled black circle in the centre denotes 'tumble dry with no heat'.

Similar to the washing symbol, a drying symbol with a single line underneath represents a permanent press, whereas two lines suggest using a delicate cycle.

The drying symbol also provides guidance on how to position your clothes for drying. A square with a horizontal line in the middle instructs to dry flat, as with wool items, while a square with two diagonal lines in the top left corner suggests drying in the shade.

Hang drying is represented by a square with a semi-circle at the top, resembling a washing line between the two upper corners of the square, and drip drying is shown by a square with three vertical lines inside.

Professional cleaning.

The final symbol you might encounter is professional cleaning. This could be considered for an expensive suit, bulkier items, or a piece of clothing that holds sentimental value.

Professional cleaning will be symbolised with a circle on your care label.

Salah explains: "There are 10 professional cleaning labels that you might come across, but most won't apply to your home laundry. The most important two for non-professional cleaners are quite self-explanatory and the rest your local dry cleaners will be able to decipher."

"You'll need to be able to recognise the empty circle which indicates that the item is fine to be professionally cleaned, while items that cannot be professionally cleaned will be a circle with a cross through it."

Understanding what your clothes are trying to communicate is crucial for maintaining their freshness and appearance. You don't want to discover you've used the wrong setting, resulting in your favourite wool jumper becoming misshapen.

Instead, separate your laundry based on colours and care symbols to ensure that each item receives the appropriate care.