Pop quiz: Care label icons

According to a recent study -and even though the icons used to indicate the proper care of cleaning have been used for 40 years- 9 out of 10 consumers do not know the meaning of the most common symbols. I thought it would be fun to see how you scored. No cheating, here we go:


Please indicate a, b, or c for each of the five pictographs. Let’s hope we can do better than consumers. Good luck!

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  1. Cindy D says:

    I have no clue what they mean. I took my best GUESS but not that it matters. The point is we should get KNOW it

    1. A
    2. B
    3. C
    4. C

  2. Theresa in Tucson says:

    Kathleen, last month I had printed off a list of those symbols. Unless I was a laundress I would never remember them so using my cheat sheet (it is three pages long!) here are my answers: 1) b. Machine wash permanent press; 2) c. Tumble dry, no heat; 3) c. Tumble dry, medium heat; 4) c. Drip dry; 5) b. Bleach when needed. Without the cheat sheet I scored a big fat zero. If you want to hide the fact I used a cheat sheet and hold this comment for a bit, go right ahead.

  3. Tula says:

    I’m not even going to guess. I’ve never actually seen these defined anywhere, so I never had any way to know what they meant.

  4. dosfashionistas says:

    With all my years in the business, I do not know what any of the symbols mean. If I worked for a company that used symbols I would have to rely on a cheat sheet to be sure I was specifying the correct mark. I much prefer words.

  5. Victoria says:

    Do you think this might be yet another thing that the U.N. has tried to impose on us? Seriously, I always meant to learn them, never could remember the ones I learned, finally gave up and just felt vaguely European when I put my garments in the wash!

  6. Quincunx says:

    This consumer’s first, intuitive pass, as though each symbol was the only info provided: 1, B; 2, C; 3, C; 4, A; 5, B.

    Gleaning info from the test format: 1 & 3 share the two dots, so the two answers must have a similarity, and I think “permanent press” and “medium heat” are equivalent since “permanent press” is a setting on my iron in the middle of the dial; 2 I have never seen, but it cannot be A since I think the square represents a dryer, and I certainly own tumble-dryer-ready clothing, so “no heat” is likely; 4 I have never seen, B is eliminated still assuming that the square is a dryer, but is “line dry” really a professional term, I am beginning to doubt, change answer to “drip dry”; 5 is familiar yet I don’t own “dry clean only” garments, so the shape probably refers to bleach.

    Final answers. 1, B; 2, C; 3, C; 4, C; 5, B.

  7. Doris W. says:

    Each question needs a “D”- Don’t Know category, the answer I would have to choose for every one of those symbols. And to think . . . I am somewhat fluent in a foreign language but got a big fat ‘0’ on this test……

  8. Chris V says:


    I made a point to figure out the symbols many years ago, but really because I’m a puzzle solver. No one ever taught me, or made a point that these were useful. In the space the symbols take you can usually print the words you need – Although they do solve multi-lingual issues.

    The only one I had trouble with is the first – I was looking for the word ‘warm’ in the description, and I haven’t seen (or at least I haven’t noted) the bottom line before. But I know it has nothing to do with bleach, so that’s that. I did have to look up ‘line dry’, as I had no idea there was a difference between that and ‘drip dry’. So I still learned something today, which is always good!

  9. Lisa Brazus says:

    Oh I am so glad you are discussing this topic. I have just purchased several items of clothing that only lists symbols for washing. I can find written instructions on dryingthough. I will double check again if there is written information about washing. The symbols are very confusing to me. Here goes with the survey.
    1. C 2. C 3. B 4. C 5. C

  10. Paul says:

    I too have never seen these particular symbols. I looked at all of my clothing and not one of the symbols shown here is on any of them.

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