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To bleach or not to bleach: A guide to laundry symbols

From bathroom placards to “slippery when wet” signs along the highway, our day-to-day lives are filled with symbols. We decipher these ideograms hundreds of times a day without even thinking about them; however, many of these omnipresent representations still elude many of us. Most people would quickly recognize a biohazard sign, but only a select few may be able to decipher the symbol for “tumble dry at a low temperature.”

Related: Six washing machines that make laundry day a little less of a chore

The pesky tags on the backs of our t-shirts contain an array of useful and exceedingly specific information, much of which goes unnoticed. Understanding these modern hieroglyphics may not save your life, sure, but it just might save your sweater from shrinking.

Washing

Washing-allowed-blue Machine wash
Machine-wash,-permanent-press Machine wash, permanent press
Machine-wash,-gentle-or-delicate_ Machine wash, gentle or delicate
Hand-wash Hand wash

Hand washing is the preferred cleaning method with many delicate items. The strenuous spin and undulating of the mechanical wash cycle may stretch or damage certain articles of clothing.

Do-not-wash Do not machine wash
Machine-wash-cold-at-or-below-30-degrees-C-(86-degrees-F)_ Machine wash at or below 80°F / 30°C

This setting helps minimize the risk of shrinking or fading. Delicate fabrics are more likely to be damaged by warm water, while bright colors may bleed onto other materials.

Machine-wash-warm-at-or-below-40-degrees-C-(104-degrees-F)_ Machine wash at or below 105°F / 40°C
Machine-wash-hot-at-or-below-60-degrees-C-(140-degrees-F)_ Machine wash at or below 140°F / 60°C
Machine-wash-hot-at-or-below-70°C-(160°F)_ Machine wash at or below 160°F / 70°C
Machine-wash-hot-at-or-below-95°C-(200°-F)_ Machine wash at or below 200°F / 95°C
Do-not-wring Do not wring

Delicate articles may be stretched or damaged by wringing.

Dry-clean-only Dry clean only
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