Care labels and care symbols explained

Care labels and care symbols explained

Imagine trying to read a map that was covered in writing. It would be impossible to see the terrain, and that is why map symbols are used: to allow information to be conveyed quickly and easily. Likewise, our world of mountaineering and climbing is full of symbols, icons and grades, and they are equally incomprehensible unless you have taken the time to learn and understand them.

Care symbols are no different, with each symbol representing crucial information about how to wash a garment. Just as blasting up a route without having studied the line or read the guidebook might be a recipe for disaster, so too is throwing your clothing in the wash and hoping for the best.

Care symbols are divided into 5 different symbols, describing – in this order - the recommended washing method, whether bleach can be used, drying method, ironing method, and dry cleaning. This is what they mean.

Wash symbols

Washing is time consuming, labour intensive, and can slowly wear out your kit. We recommend that you wash your gear as infrequently as possible (if it’s not dirty, then why are you washing it?). The most common symbols we use are:

  Do not wash
  Handwash only
  30, mild process
  40, mild process

‘Do not wash’ is self-explanatory and usually reserved for backpacks. Instead of washing, these products should be wiped clean with a damp cloth.

‘Handwash only’ items can often refer to a washing machine’s handwash setting, as much as it is about physically handwashing the item. Either way, it indicates a product which must be washed very carefully, and we strongly recommend you view the detailed care information for these products on our website.

30 °C and 40 °C icons indicate the maximum temperature that you should wash your product at. A line underneath the icon indicates ‘mild process’ and implies that you should use a synthetics cycle on your machine and/or a lower spin speed, perhaps 800rpm rather than 1400rpm. A double line indicates ‘very mild process’ and that you should use a Delicates cycle or similar, and with a low spin speed. Even if a product has 40 °C on the care label, use 30 °C whenever possible to reduce energy consumption.

Bleaching symbols

Almost every one of our products comes with the icon ‘Do not bleach’ . Bleach is an extremely aggressive way to clean products and can ruin colours, heat transfers, graphics, and even fabrics themselves. Unless you have a specific reason to bleach your products we strongly recommend against it.

Drying symbols

We use numerous different drying symbols across our product range. Some of our products specifically recommend against the use of a tumble dryer, while other products – notably down products or those with a fluorinated DWR (more information on our blog here) – might benefit from tumble drying. Tumble driers use a huge amount of energy, so even if your product permits their use, line dry whenever you can. If you need to reactivate a fluorocarbon DWR but you don’t have access to a tumble drier then with practice a hair dryer can also be used. Be very careful if using a laundrette’s machine, which can run incredibly hot.

 Do not tumble dry  – self-explanatory. If you see this symbol on a product then we very strongly recommend against using a tumble drier. With some products you might be okay, but there’s a good chance that you do permanent damage.

   Tumble dry low, medium and high – the number of dots indicates the machine setting, with 1 being low temperature, 2 as medium and 3 being high temperature. Regardless of the setting on the label, ensure that the machine is not too full. Again, just because a product can be tumble dried doesn’t mean you should – they are incredibly energy intensive appliances.

   Line dry, Line dry in the shade, Drip dry in the shade – these symbols all mean similar things: essentially, don’t tumble dry them and instead dry the product naturally. Gloves should be formed into a rough handshape while they dry.


Remember extreme ironing, a craze from a few years ago? Well it has mostly disappeared, mostly because ironing is extremely boring. Ironing also wastes huge amounts of time and energy, so as with tumble drying, even if your garment can be ironed it doesn’t mean you have to. You’re going up a mountain, not going to a wedding. Ironing can be beneficial in revitalising a fluorocarbon-based DWR, but it is usually easier to use a tumble drier for this purpose.

 Do not iron – self-explanatory. This is a rule you should never break: irons can very quickly cause permanent damage.

   Low iron, Medium iron, High iron – the number of dots indicates the iron setting, with 1 being low temperature, 2 as medium and 3 being high temperature. These refer to maximum temperatures of approximately 110 °C, 150 ° and 200 °C. Put a tea towel between the garment and the iron and keep the iron moving rather than holding it in one place.

Dry cleaning

Dry cleaning is not something we recommend for any of our products, and while some of them in theory can be dry cleaned, we would avoid it: it is rarely beneficial, can be damaging, expensive, and energy intensive. The most common dry cleaning symbol you will see on our products is Do Not Dry Clean , though occasionally you will see Professional Dry Clean Only.

For comprehensive instructions on how to wash and care for your outdoor clothing, rucksacks and sleeping bags, visit our care pages


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