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What do the Tumble Dryer Symbols Mean?

You’ve probably heard a classic tumble dryer horror story before: the dress that shriveled down to doll-size, or the blouse that mysteriously shredded itself. Fortunately for those of us who love our clothes the most when they’re freshly tumble dried (and best of all, still a little bit warm), these problems are easily avoided. All you need to do is check the labels on your new clothes for the tumble dryer symbol (or ‘no tumble drying’ symbol), before you pop them into the machine – or not.

So, what does a tumble dryer sign look like, and what do the different versions mean? To tumble dry, or not to tumble dry? Let’s take a look.

Know your tumble drying symbol

All variations of the tumble dryer symbol in the UK look like a square with a circle in it. The number of dots inside that circle will tell you how hot you can run the machine.

Important: As well as checking the labels on new items of clothing for the appropriate drying method, it’s a good idea to give any previously stained garments a quick glance to make sure the marks are gone before you tumble dry them. The heat of a tumble dryer can set a stain, so it’s best to put those items back in the wash.

Remember that just because you can use a tumble dryer, doesn’t mean you have to. Anything that can be tumble dried can be dried naturally as well. When in doubt, it’s generally best to skip the machine and simply hang your item or lay it flat outdoors.

Why some clothes have the ‘no tumble drying’ symbol

Your tumble dryer can be a bit rough on delicate clothing. Some types of fabric, like wool and silk, don’t handle the heat well: they warp or shrink. Things with a lot of beading or sequins can be a bit too delicate to stand up to the spinning. Bras also need gentle treatment to keep them from losing their shape – a bent wire can make a bra pretty much unwearable.

How to tumble dry clothes

Now that you’re wise in the ways of the tumble drying symbols, there are a few tips and tricks that can really help you get the most out of each session. We’ve put them all in our guide to tumble drying clothes.

Confident about tumble dryer symbols, but wondering what the other wash care symbols on your clothing labels mean? Check out our wash care symbols guide.


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