Taking care of clothing in some cases can become a daunting task, and not only for those unfamiliar with washing machines and dryers. The labels that accompany clothing carry one or more pictures that provide guidance on how to properly care for each garment. Memorizing them all is as challenging as ever and especially knowing how to interpret accurately is not always so obvious. But following the instructions allows us to keep our garments healthy for as long as possible. And this is a very important gesture of care for the environment.

To make it easier especially for those who are not very experienced in laundry, washing machines and dryers are marked with symbols that recall those printed on labels. Corresponding to these designs are as many programs washing programs. The symbols shown on household appliances provide an indicative idea of how to treat laundry, but they cannot be considered standards in an absolute sense, because each manufacturer associates with each program one or more functions characteristic of the model in question.

Here, then, is where, in order to play it safe, it is necessary to know how to identify and correctly decode the designs that each garment bears on its label. This is a rather articulated code, composed of dozens of symbols.

When several symbols appear on the label, they follow the care process of the garment in sequential order. The first one carries instructions for washing, to follow we will find directions for the subsequent steps of bleaching e drying. It goes without saying that the last symbol will cover the ironing. In some cases, the sequence may end with a symbol concerning dry cleaning .

Washing and bleaching

The designs devoted to washing all feature the figure of a basin, which serves as a background for the appropriate variations: if accompanied by an X, it means that the garment cannot be washed. A hand, on the other hand, will indicate the need for hand washing.

When a number, the one shown will be the washing temperature maximum. The icons with basin and temperature may in turn show horizontal lines at the bottom. One line stands for gentle wash, two for special gentle wash. If there are no lines, the recommended wash is normal wash.

One triangle with the tip pointing upward will provide instructions for bleaching. As for washing, if an X the indication is clear: do not bleach. The triangle alone indicates that the garment can be treated with chlorine and bleach.

Two oblique lines in the figure indicate that the product indicated for treatment is bleach, while the abbreviation CL allows bleaching with chlorine only.


The stage after washing is indicated by the square symbol, always accompanied by other strokes. The X above indicates that the garment cannot be treated in the dryer. A circle circumscribed in the square with a dot in the center authorizes the use of the dryer, but at a low temperature. Two dots, on the other hand, give the OK for high-temperature drying.

The square with vertical lines suggests the drying modes: single line for the garment to be dry suspended, double line for the garment to be dried suspended but still dripping. If to the square with one or more vertical lines is added a diagonal line in the upper left corner, the directions are the same as before, but using the caution of drying the garment in the shade.

The design of the square with one or more horizontal lines follows the same logic: one line means the garment should be dried horizontally. The second line should be interpreted as the garment placed to dry horizontally, but still dripping. Again, the slanted line in the upper left corner will tell us that the garment should be dried in the shade.


The symbols for ironing have as their base an iron stylized. The X as usual indicates a prohibition: if present, it means that the garment will not be allowed to be ironed. The practice is quite usual for woolen clothes. The iron may contain within it from one to three dots, which indicate the optimal ironing temperature. One dot for low temperatures, two for medium temperature, three for high temperature.

We mentioned earlier the symbols that pertain to dry cleaning. The basic geometric shape in this case is that of the circle, accompanied by additional signs to indicate as usual the good intervention practices for the respective types of garments we are going to encounter.

The circle may be accompanied by the X that we have learned to recognize in the previous paragraphs, or it may bear within it the letters W, P or F. These directions are useful exclusively for dry cleaner operators; they indicate how to treat the garment and especially which chemical solvents can be used, or avoided.

It is easy to see how this kind of instruction does not interest a'domestic users, leaving burdens and honors of their correct decoding and application to dry cleaning professionals. But we can try to buy clothes made from natural fibers that require easy, low-temperature washing.

Keeping clothes as long as possible allows us to drastically reduce the use of water needed for textile production and the emission of carbon dioxide.

It is the small everyday gestures that make the big revolutions!

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