A Genius Guide To Understanding The Laundry Symbols On Your Clothes

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Have you ever tried to do the laundry the way your clothing tag recommends, but when you finally try to read it, there’s no way in hell you can understand the weird symbols that run across it?

Jonathan Walford, the curatorial director at the Fashion History Museum, told HuffPost that the symbols started appearing on clothing labels in Europe in the late 1950s, but it didn’t start catching on in North America until the ‘70s. Much like temperatures and metric measurements, there’s a European system and an American system, but Walford said there isn’t a huge difference between the two.

The good news is, the whole system is pretty easy to understand once you know the basics. And abiding by the rules means your clothes will last much, much longer.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, you’ll find the symbols broken down into five key elements: washing, bleaching, drying, ironing and warnings. Inside each of those symbols you’ll find either a number (usually representing degrees Celcius ― see photo above) or dots representing temperature, and bars that represent the strength of washing cycle.

The Clorox company’s textile industry affairs division offers a very detailed listing of the symbols here. But until you have them all memorized, bookmark and use the handy charts below from the American Cleaning Institute to sort your laundry out.

Consider your clothes saved.