Ever stared at the buttons on your washing machine and wondered what they all mean? The truth is, we've all probably done this at one time or another - and we all know how frustrating it can be!

The control panels of these appliances feature lots of different symbols, suggesting they have various functions and are able to perform all manner of cycles. Most of us, though, only ever use a select few of these options.

We know what works for us and we're happy to go along with it. But by ignoring the different functions, we're not making the most of what our machines have to offer and could be missing a chance to make our lives a whole lot easier.

Demystifying washing machine symbols

What doesn't help matters is that all washing machine models are different. There is a lack of consistency across brands, meaning the symbols used on one machine will not necessarily be found on another.

Your best bet is to consult the manual. This will explain exactly what the various pictograms mean and allow you to make the right choices for your different loads.

We all know manuals are easy to lose, however - and people moving into a new home or living in a rented property may find theirs has long since vanished. Do not despair, however, as using the make and model of your appliance to search on the internet will often take you to the online version.

Unfortunately, things get a little trickier if you are unable to find the manual - either in print or electronic form.

But fear not, washing machine symbols often follow similar themes and we hope our guide below will help you better understand what means what on your machine.

Symbols and their meanings:

Feather or flower

Feathers are often used to depict washes for sensitive or delicate clothes. This is particularly important because these can be damaged when using a normal programme.


Quick or super quick cycles are represented by multiple arrows going in the same direction, often beneath an outline of your washing machine drum. This option is especially useful when you're short of time, as you don't want to leave your clothes to crease because you're not around to take them out.


A butterfly will often signify silks, which are a form of delicate. Washing them on the right setting - this one - is therefore a must.

Full and part-spiral

While a full spiral means spin, one that is disjointed - or a part-spiral - indicates a gentle spin. This setting can help to reduce creases, which is something you may want to bear in mind when cleaning difficult-to-iron items.

E symbol

The E symbol stands for economy. This can be a great way to reduce running costs as it uses less water and electricity for smaller wash loads. Those of you wanting to reduce your outgoings may find this a very useful feature indeed.

Numbered clothes

Shirts with numbers on tend to depict sports clothes. We all know just how dirty our football kit or running gear can get, so this option is ideal for getting rid of all that sweat and mud.

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