Understanding the care labels in your clothing and swimwear can be a minefield! If you need a little guidance on what everything means (ideally before you wash those garms), check out our handy guide to how you should wash your clothes when you see each of these symbols.

Don’t forget to check out our guide to caring for your swimwear too!

The washing symbols

How you wash your clothes is important – it’s important to get them clean, but wash too hot or too rough and your new threads won’t last as long, or they could even shrink!

Washing symbol

What does it mean?

You can machine wash this item of clothing. This symbol will usually come with extra instructions such as the maximum temperature and type of cycle.

Use a synthetics cycle when machine washing this item – the bar means using a slightly gentler cycle than your usual cottons cycle. A gentle cycle means less agitation and spinning for your delicate clothes.

Use a delicates, gentle or wool cycle when machine washing this item. The two bars means using the gentlest cycle on your machine. You may also see this symbol with the two bars side by side instead of on top of each other. It means the same thing: wash gently!

Hand wash this item. (This is always best for your swimwear!). You may also see this symbol with a maximum temperature too. Handwashing usually means in a bowl or sink with a cool temperature and a hand wash detergent, or you may have a special hand wash cycle on your machine that you can use.

If you do use a hand wash cycle in the machine, make sure your clothing item is protected in a laundry bag, and use a specialist detergent for delicates or hand washing.

Do not wash this item of clothing – either in the machine or by hand wash. Instead, it may be suitable for dry cleaning, or only for spot cleaning.

You might see this symbol on fabrics like real leather or suede.


Machine wash at 30°C or below. This is usually best for delicate materials.

If you really must machine wash your swimwear (we always recommend hand washing instead) then use a cycle at 30°C or colder.

You might also see a temperature with one or two bars beneath: this shows that you should also use a gentler cycle at this temperature.


Machine wash at 40°C or below.


Machine wash at 50°C or below.


Machine wash at 60°C or below.


Machine wash at 70°C or below.


Machine wash at 95°C or below. This is only usually used for very sturdy fabrics that can handle a near-boiling wash, or harbour germs that need to be killed off (such as mouldy towels or bedlinen of a sick person).

The dry cleaning symbols

The most important dry cleaning you need to know are simply whether or not your clothing can be dry cleaned or not. The rest of the symbols are instructions to the dry cleaner about what kind of solvent to use.

Dry cleaning symbol

What does it mean?

This item of clothing can be dry cleaned.

Don’t dry clean this item of clothing.

Any solvent may be used by for the dry cleaning process.

Dry clean using tetrochloroethelyne (perc, or PCE) only.

Dry clean using R113, petroleum solvent or hydrocarbon solvent (HCS) only.

This item of clothing must be professionally wet cleaned. (The dry cleaners ay also offer this wet cleaning service.)

The drying symbols

How you dry your clothes is just as important as washing them: delicate fabrics may be distorted by some drying methods.

Drying symbol

What does it mean?

Do not wring. As we’ve mentioned in our swimwear care guide, you shouldn’t wring your swimwear: instead, gently squeeze out the excess water. Wringing may damage, stretch or distort fabrics – especially those with elastic or Lycra which are common in swimwear.

This means you can dry your item of clothing.

This means do not dry. It’s quite a rare symbol to see in a care label!

Dry flat. You could lie this item of clothing flat on a towel to dry.

Hang to dry. We don’t recommend this for your swimwear, as it can stretch and warp the fabric.

Hang to dry. This is common with fabrics that are prone to creasing, as being hung to dry helps the creases to drop out.

Dry in the shade. This is recommended for any coloured clothing and particularly coloured swimwear, since the sun can fade colours and patterns during the drying process.

Tumble dry. This symbols will usually come with additional instructions about the heat level you can use.

Don’t tumble dry. Some fabrics are too delicate for the dryer – including your swimwear, so don’t put them in!

Tumble dry on a low heat.

Tumble dry on a medium heat.

Tumble dry on a high heat.

Tumble dry with no heat.

The ironing symbols

Getting the creases out of your freshly washed and dried laundry is key to a sharp look. But be careful: watch out for melting and when to use steam – or not!

Ironing symbol

What does it mean?

Iron at any temperature with steam.

Do not iron. We wouldn’t recommend ironing any of your swimwear as it could damage the elastic and Lycra.

Iron on a cool setting, up to a maximum of 110°C.

Iron on a medium setting, up to a maximum of 150°C.

Iron on a high setting, up to a maximum of 200°C.

Iron, but with no steam.

The bleaching symbols

Bleaching can brighten and lighten plain white fabrics that have become discoloured or dull. Watch out though – some fabrics are not suitable for bleaching or only allow certain types of bleach. We’d recommend never bleaching your swimwear though!

Ironing symbol

What does it mean?

You can bleach this item as needed – with either non-chlorine or chlorine bleach. This is best suited to plain white clothing. Bleach lifts colour and stains so shouldn’t be used on other colours or patterns. Please don’t ever bleach your swimwear!

Do not bleach. You’ll see this inside your swimwear label.


You can bleach this item with non-chlorine bleach, if needed.

You can bleach this item with chlorine bleach, if needed.