Ethical Fashion, Life & Style

50+ Women’s Ethical Clothing Brands for 2022

Looking for the best women’s ethical clothing brands? I’ve got over 50 sustainable brands here for you today, alongside some exclusive discount codes for Moral Fibres readers. I also update this list frequently (last updated May 2022) so do check back whenever you need to buy new sustainable, eco-friendly, or ethical clothing.

To help support the running costs of Moral Fibres, this post contains affiliate links, denoted by *. This means that Moral Fibres may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to readers, on items that have been purchased through those links. This income helps keep this site running.

The ethical fashion market is growing.  In fact, it’s never been bigger thanks to increasing demands from customers wanting more ethical and fair clothing in response to increasing knowledge on the impact of fast fashion on the environment and on fast fashion garment workers. Especially with increasing knowledge that poorly regulated sweatshops aren’t just found abroad, but in the UK too.

I always say that the most sustainable clothing is the clothing you already have. Therefore, wearing our clothes for as long as possible, and repairing them when need be is key to building an ethical wardrobe. The next most sustainable option is to shop secondhand. If you need any help with that, then here’s my guide on where to buy secondhand clothes online.

Change Happens

However, sometimes our clothes do wear out, our size changes, or our lifestyle changes. You might not always find what you need secondhand. It can be daunting knowing where to start looking for new ethically conscious clothing. To help you out, I’ve listed the UK ethical clothing brands I’ve come across that cater to women.  

I’ve also included sizing information for each brand.  This is because the ethical fashion world is notorious for not being particularly size-inclusive.  While many brands aren’t, some brands are making steps in providing plus-size ethical fashion. I, therefore, want this guide to be helpful for those looking for specific sizes.

where to buy women's ethical clothing uk

First off, to help make navigation easy for you, here are the quick links for women’s ethical clothing brands, or you can keep scrolling down to see all the brands.

To help you out further, I’ve included a rough price range for each brand. The key to this guide is:

 £ = Under £50 | ££ = £50 – 100 | £££ = £100+

The Best Women’s Ethical Clothing Brands for 2022

guide to women's ethical clothing brands

Here’s more detail about each of the ethical clothing brands listed above.

The price range key for this guide is:

 £ = Under £50 | ££ = £50 – 100 | £££ = £100+

On to the brands!

Women’s Ethical Clothing Brands A – D

Allbirds

Budget – £ – ££

Caters for sizes UK 4 – 26

Allbirds*, the ethical shoe retailer, has a small but perfectly formed range of super size-inclusive casual clothing for women made responsibly from sustainable materials. From leggings to vests and long and short-sleeved t-shirts, to sweatshirts, hoodies and tracksuit bottoms. You’ll even find cosy wool jumpers and cardigans.

Allbirds say that offering a carefully curated product range fit for all seasons, means that it can maintain a small, tight-knit supply chain.


Antiform

Budget – ££

Caters for sizes 8 – 18

Fashion-forward Antiform sources all of their materials and workmanship within the UK, and local to their Bristol-based studio if possible.  Antiform are also big on the use of reclaimed materials, with many items made from 100% reclaimed fabrics.


Asquith

Budget: £ – ££

Caters for sizes: 8 – 16

Asquith* produces stylish and ethically made yoga wear and loungewear in the finest quality organic cotton and bamboo fabrics.  Their ethos is sportswear without the “sporty” look, so their pieces also make for great, comfortable working from home or weekend wear. 

Read more about Asquith in my post here.


Bam: Bamboo Clothing

Budget: ££

Caters for sizes: 8 – 16

Bam: Bamboo* sells sustainably sourced activewear made from bamboo.  The brand has also recently started selling low-impact jeans.  It takes around 7600l of water to make a conventional pair of jeans. Bam: Bamboo instead says their jeans require less water to make.

Rather than just stopping there, Bam: Bamboo is also seeking to be impact positive.  As such, the brand is making great steps to minimise its impacts on climate, waste, water, chemicals, humans, and land use. You can find out more about BAM’s work here.


Beaumont Organic

women's ethical clothing brands - beaumont organic

Budget: ££ – £££

Caters for: sizes 8 – 20

Working only with factories that are within the EU, pay fair wages, and provide good working conditions, Beaumont Organic’s range of GOTS-certified clothing* is perfect for casual wear.


Bibico

Budget: ££

Caters for: sizes 8 – 16

I would describe Bibico as laidback fairtrade fashion that’s simple yet stylish, and very wearable.  What’s more, all of Bibico’s items are made from natural materials.  As such, you won’t find any synthetics in their range.

Sign up for their newsletter and you’ll even get 10% off your first order.  Bibico also run regular sales which are worth keeping your eye out for.


Birdsong London

Budget: ££££

Caters for sizes XS – 3XL

Birdsong London* produces ethically made unisex slogan t-shirts and other stylish items of clothing.  All of its clothing is made in East London by talented women, who would otherwise face barriers to employment, and who are paid a London living wage. What’s more, Birdsong London only source from the most ecologically friendly and high-quality suppliers it can find.

Materials include responsible materials like bamboo lyocell, Tencel, organic cotton, and reclaimed fabrics from charities like Traid, for clothing with a low impact on the planet.


Boody

Budget: ££

Caters for sizes 6 – 16

Boody* produces high-quality basics, with a stringent focus on sustainable materials and ethical and planet-friendly practices.  This makes Boody a great go-to for staples such as leggings, activewear, and loungewear.  Sign up for the Boody newsletter for 10% off your first order.


Boyish Jeans

Budget: £££

Caters for sizes: XS – XL

Boyish Jeans* work exclusively with recycled fabrics and materials to create their stylish denim products. This means that their ethical clothing has a much smaller impact, particularly in terms of water usage. As well as using recycled fabrics, Boyish Jeans also employ ethical and sustainable practices when developing and manufacturing its products.

Check out my guide to ethical jeans, for more ethical denim recommendations.


Celtic & Co

Budget: ££-£££

Caters for sizes 6 – 18

Based in Great Britain, Celtic & Co specialises in shoes and clothing made from ethically sourced natural fibres.  Focusing on quality and design, rather than seasonal trends, Celtic & Co pieces are designed to last a long time.


Christy Dawn

Budget: £££

Caters for sizes S – XL

When it comes to high-end women’s ethical clothing, look no further than Christy Dawn. The Christy Dawn team shun new fabrics. Instead, the team spend their time rummaging through piles of leftover and discontinued fabric – what’s known as deadstock. When they find fabric they love, the team of artisans cut, sew, and finish each piece in their Los Angeles factory. Making limited-edition runs from existing fabric means each version of a style is very limited. This means there’s little chance of being seen in the same dress as anyone else.

Find Christy Dawn in the UK via Content Beauty*.


Colorful Standard

Budget: £ – ££

Caters for sizes XS – XL

Colorful Standard* specialises in organic wardrobe staples in a myriad of colourways. From organic cotton t-shirts at a reasonable £27 to organic cotton hoodies, sweatshirts, jogging bottoms, and more. The brand also specialises in recycled merino wool products – from cosy socks, hats, scarves, and jumpers, again, in a riot of different colours.

Take 15% off orders over £100 with the discount code AFFUK15CS at the checkout.


Women’s Ethical Clothing Brands E – J

Earth Kind Originals

Budget: ££

Caters for sizes 8 – 22

Earth Kind Originals is a women’s ethical clothing brand that specialises in fairly made laid-back leisure ware.


Fever Few Clothing

Budget: ££

Caters for sizes 8 – 16

The Fever Few Clothing* make beautiful jacket style tops to order. Each piece is designed, cut, and sewn in their Bristol studio. It aims to create pieces that will become wardrobe favourites, that will be long lasting and well worn, encouraging a connection with your garment as it is worn through the seasons.


Findra

Budget: ££ – £££

Caters for sizes 8 – 20

Outdoor clothing specialist Findra* is a Scottish-based ethical clothing company. Subscribing to the slow fashion ethos, Findra says its clothing is designed to outlast any fashion trends. Its clothing is stylish, timeless and can be mixed and matched, so you can build a sustainable wardrobe piece by piece.

All of Findra’s raw materials have been chosen and sourced for their sustainability as well as their comfort, and the majority of its collection is made ethically in the UK. Findra also offers a reasonably priced repair service for your Findra clothing, should it get damaged.

Find staples such as tops and t-shirts, as well as leggings, trousers and baselayers at Findra. Essentially everything you need for your next outdoor adventure is here.


Finisterre

Budget: ££ – £££

Caters for sizes 8 – 16

Finisterre* is an ethically made and sustainable outdoor clothing brand, which even offers a repair service.  Finisterre has also recently introduced a trade-in service, where you can trade in your old Finisterre clothing for money off new online purchases. Here Finisterre will revive and re-home them, or recycle the materials. Finisterre is also a great choice for swimwear – making it all from discarded ocean nets, and fabric scraps.  Find my full guide to ethical swimwear here.


Frugi

ethical dress from frugi

Budget: £ – ££

Caters for sizes 8 – 18

Yup, Frugi*, the ethical kidswear brand, is now making ethical clothing for women! Its clothes are ethically made from 95% GOTS certified and Soil Association certified organic cotton jersey fabric. Whilst Frugi’s focus is mainly on maternity wear, it does offer a small non-maternity range that is bright and fun.


Girlfriend Collective

Budget: ££

Caters for sizes XS – 6XL

Girlfriend Collective is an ethical clothing brand that makes ethically made activewear from recycled materials, which are dyed using eco-friendly dyes.  What’s more, in true circularity, Girlfriend Collective take back your old Girlfriend pieces to turn them into brand new Girlfriend pieces.


Greenfibres

Budget: ££

Caters for sizes 8 – 18

Greenfibres produce ethically sourced and responsibly made organic cotton basics. Think t-shirts, vests, and other wardrobe staples. If you are local to Totnes, you can also visit their shop to see their pieces up close.


Gudrun Sjoden

eco friendly fashion and women's ethical clothing brands

Budget: ££ – £££

Caters for sizes 6 – 24

Gudrun Sjoden makes colourful eclectic clothing made ethically, and often organically.  I also appreciate their use of diverse models.  It’s such a refreshing change.  What’s also refreshing is their more comparatively inclusive sizing, catering for sizes up to a UK 24.


Hiut Denim

Budget: £££

Caters for sizes 6 – 18

Hiut ethically makes beautiful bespoke jeans, handmade in Cardigan.  These are expensive jeans, but whilst the initial outlay might be high, expect a pair to last forever.  Hiut stands by their jeans even when they fail you. As such Hiut offer free repairs for the life of your jeans, with just one rule. You have to send them back washed.

Hiut caters for waist sizes from 28″ to 40″, and offer a range of leg sizes.  


Howies

Budget: ££

Caters for sizes 8 – 16

Howies is a West Wales-based brand that makes high-quality outdoor women’s ethical clothing designed to last. Their clothes are ethically produced using organic, recycled, or natural fabrics wherever possible. For instance; all of their t-shirts, jeans, sweatshirts, and jogging bottoms are made from Oeko-Tex certified organic cotton.  The company is also uniquely owned and run by its employees.


Joha

Budget: £

Caters for sizes XS – XXL

If you are looking specifically for cosy ethical baselayers, then try Joha, a Scandinavian brand that’s been going for over 50 years. All of their products are made from wool and/or organic cotton – no synthetic fibres here. What’s more, all of their products have Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certification. This means that every component – right down to the thread – has been tested for harmful substances.  For extra peace of mind, Joha also holds Scandinavian independent certification for the responsible sourcing of wool.

Shop Joha clothes in the UK via Alpinetrek*.


Women’s Ethical Clothing Brands K – M

Kemi Telford

black ethical clothing brands for women uk

Budget: ££ – £££

Caters for: see the website for details on sizing

Black-owned brand, Kemi Telford, designs and sells beautifully bold Nigerian-influenced clothing, with a western twist.  Sustainability lies at the heart of the brand.  What’s more, conscious of waste, remnants from the clothing are made into colourful hair bows or gift bags.

Check out my full guide to Black-owned ethical fashion brands here.


Kitty Ferreira

Budget: £££

Caters for sizes 6 – 26

Another Black-owned brand, Kitty Ferreira makes stylish sustainable clothes perfect for work or special occasions. 

All of their clothing is made in London using upcycled and hand-dyed fabrics. Here, Kitty Ferreira uses natural dyes, created using pomegranate and onions skins for a low environmental footprint.  And in a very welcome move, the clothes go up to a size 26 – which is good news for customers looking for plus size ethical clothing.


Komodo

komodo women's ethical clothing brands

Budget: ££

Caters for sizes 8 – 16

Komodo* sell ethically sourced, organic, and natural fibre fashion that’s every bit as stylish as ethical. As one of the first ethical clothing brands, running since 1988, the brand has taken sustainable fashion seriously long before other retailers did.

Komodo uses premium quality organic, natural, and eco-friendly fibres, and the brand is both GOTS certified and a member of the Soil Association. What’s more, most of Komodo’s products are vegan and all are cruelty-free. Komodo also no longer have single-use plastic in its supply chain.

And as a member of 1% for the Planet, Komodo donates to the Sumatran Orangutan Society. This charity is restoring natural rainforests and ecosystems, through the purchase and repurposing of palm oil plantations.


Kowtow

Budget: £££

Caters for sizes 8 – 14

Kowtow* was an early starter in the sustainable and ethical fashion movement – founded in 2007. The brand is committed to creating positive change by using only renewable and sustainable fibres, as well as ethical manufacturing. What’s more, Kowtow has also recently earned an A+ in the Tearfund / Baptist World Aid Ethical Fashion Survey.  This New Zealand women’s ethical clothing brand sells in the UK via Content Beauty.


Lavender Hill

Budget: £ – ££

Caters for sizes: 8 – 16

Lavender Hill* specialises in affordable yet luxurious wardrobe staples that are always in style and which work with everything you already have. From unfussy t-shirts, vests and tank tops designed for layering, to roll necks for cooler days. Whilst tops are Lavender Hill’s speciality, you can also find a small range of casual trousers and leggings.

Lavender Hill makes the majority of its clothing in the UK, using only traceable natural fabrics such as linen and Tencel, and using only environmentally friendly dyes.


Lost Shapes

Budget: £

Caters for sizes S – XL

Lost Shapes* sells organic cotton Earth Positive t-shirts hand-printed with water-based inks. The quality is second to none and from experience, I can personally attest that each item washes really well.


Lowie

Budget: ££ – £££

Caters for sizes S – L

Lowie makes stylish heritage-inspired clothing for women, fairly made from organic cotton, recycled cotton, or ethically sourced wool.  Lowie even offer a free repair service for life on all items from their current and past seasons.


Madia & Matilda

Budget: ££

Caters for sizes 6 – 18

Madia & Matilda make stylish ethical clothing, that’s made in the Cotswolds.  It specialises in upcycled and sustainable fabrics, and it says minimising wastage is at its core.  Madia & Matilda also say it creates clothing that is high quality and timeless.  As the brand is not trend-focused, its pieces are ones you can truly invest in.  Whilst its clothing range generally extends to a size 18, Madia & Matilda do say for more sizes to email them. 

As a bonus, if you sign up for its newsletter you can receive 25% off your first order.  


Mayamiko

Budget: ££

Caters for sizes 8 – 14

Mayamiko clothing is ethically made in Malawi and combines contemporary design with traditional African techniques.  Part of their profits also goes towards the Mayakiko Trust.  This helps some of the most disadvantaged people in Malawi by providing skills training, education, nutrition, sanitation, and promoting fairer trade practices.  

Prices range from £19 upwards for tops, and £35 upwards for dresses.  As well as being at the more affordable end of the scale, you can also receive 10% off your first order by signing up for their newsletter.


Mirla Beane

Budget: £ – £££

Caters for: sizes 8 – 18

For British-designed and made sophisticated and contemporary ethical clothing, try Mirla Beane*.

Mirla Beane is all about wallet-friendly, contemporary pieces that are both ethical and stylish. From sophisticated dresses perfect for weddings or parties, to pretty tops, and stylish skirts, you can dress ethically in style.

Mirla Beane’s range features strong pops of colour, bold prints, balloon sleeves, and curving seams. These are made ethically in the UK using natural, organic or recycled materials. Even the buttons are plastic-free.

If you think ethical clothing can’t be glamorous, then you’re in for a surprise.


Monkee Genes

Budget: ££

Caters for: tops size XS-L; jeans waist sizes 24″-36″

Monkee Genes* are purveyors of organic bamboo jeans, made in England, that are beautifully soft.  My only gripe is that Monkee Genes only come in two leg lengths – regular and long.  The regular leg length is 31″, so if you’re on the shorter side you may struggle with the fit.


Morcant

Budget: £ – ££

Caters for sizes S – XL

Morcant* is a gender-neutral essentials label founded in Sheffield. Morcant aim to make functional everyday clothing using high-quality & long-lasting premium fabrics. With sustainability at the core of the brand, each piece of their organic collection is ethically crafted in Bangladesh using certified eco-friendly materials.  


MUD Jeans

Budget: £££

Caters for waist sizes 26″ – 36″

MUD Jeans* make jeans from recycled denim, avoiding waste and cutting down on water and CO2 use.  At the moment their jeans contain 40% recycled denim.  However, keep an eye out as MUD aim to launch the first jeans made from 100% post-consumer recycled denim.  The other good news is that once your jeans are worn out send them back to MUD for recycling.


Women’s Ethical Clothing Brands N – P

Nancy Dee

ethical fashion and clothing brands for women

Budget: ££

Caters for sizes 6 – 18

Nancy Dee offers British-made fashionable ethical clothing for every occasion.  Their pieces are made ethically with sustainable eco-friendly fabrics.  What’s more, join their mailing list to get a generous 15% off your first order.


Noctu

Budget: ££

Caters for sizes S – L

Noctu make ethically made sleepwear and loungewear that’s both fairtrade and made using 100% GOTS certified cotton.  Specifically interested in loungewear and sleepwear?  Do see my guide to ethical pyjamas for more brands.  


Ninety Percent

Budget: ££ – £££

Caters for sizes: XXS – XXL

Ninety Percent* is a London-based sustainable clothing label, that produces luxury ethical basics, such as organic cotton hoodies, and stylish tops crafted from sustainable materials such as Tencel.

Ninety Percent has also created a pioneering profit-sharing business model. This approach sees Ninety Percent sharing 90% of their distributed profits between those who make their clothes and five charitable causes close to their hearts – including War Child UK, Wild Aid, and Big Life.

In terms of manufacturing, all of Ninety Percent’s clothing is made in Bangladesh. Whilst at first glance that might not sound so ethical, their factory is an industry-leading garment manufacturing facility that puts people, planet and product first. From fair wages, health insurance and childcare, to a free hot lunch every day, it’s dedicated to setting the very best standard.


Nomads

Budget: ££

Caters for sizes 8 – 18

Nomads* make bohemian-inspired stylish ethical clothing for women.  All their pieces are designed in the UK and fairly made in India using GOTS-certified cotton.


Nudie Jeans

Budget: £££

Caters for sizes 24″ to 38″

Nudie Jeans* make 100% organic jeans made with sustainability in mind.  And if your Nudie jeans need mending you can pop into their London shop for their free repair service.  Don’t worry if you are not London-based: Nudie can send you a repair kit free of charge if you are not local.  And once your jeans are finally worn out, you can send them back to Nudie and it will recycle them into new jeans. Circularity in action!


Origin Africa

Budget: ££

Caters for sizes XS – XL

Origin Africa* is the UK’s first 100% not-for-profit fashion brand, making contemporary ethical and sustainable unisex garments.  These are produced using 100% organic cotton and vegan-approved water-based dyes.  What’s more, profits are used to fund social enterprises in Africa.  These include projects around improving child health through proper sanitation, and female empowerment through skills training and education.


Outsider Clothing

Budget: ££ – £££

Caters for sizes 8 – 16

Outsider Clothing makes beautiful, timeless clothes ethically made by this ethical clothing brand using sustainable materials, such as hemp, hemp silk, organic cotton, naturally coloured cotton, peace silk, and more.


Palava

Palava - one of the women's ethical and sustainable clothing brands

Budget: ££ – £££

Caters for sizes 6 – 28

Palava’s uniquely printed dresses and skirts are made from organic cotton in Europe and the UK. These seriously beautiful ethical clothes are high up on my wishlist!  Keep your eye out for sample sales.  And, as a bonus, take 10% off your first order by signing up for their newsletter.


Patagonia

Budget: ££ – £££

Caters for sizes XS – XL

Patagonia* makes responsibly-made outdoor clothing designed to last and to be repairable.  Their website also advises on how to repair all Patagonia items, which is seriously useful.  And for any clothing that can’t be repaired then you can drop it off at a Patagonia store for recycling or repurposing. 

I’ve included Patagonia in my guide to ethical coats, in case you want to browse other coat retailers.  


People Tree

Budget: ££-£££

Caters for sizes 6 – 18

People Tree* sells fairtrade basics, leisurewear, workwear, and occasion wear, often in 100% organic cotton.  People Tree often work in collaboration with designers, such as Orla Kiely and Zandra Rhodes, to produce original prints.  As such this ethical clothing brand is one of my first stops when looking for ethical clothing.  Do keep an eye out for regular sales if you’re shopping on a tight budget.


Women’s Ethical Clothing Brands R – Z

Riyka

Budget: ££ – £££

Caters for sizes 8 – 18

Riyka* is an ethical clothing brand that sells a small collection of fun and colourful wardrobe basics.  All of these are designed in the UK and made in a fair-wage, sustainable atelier in Bulgaria.  Riyka says it uses reclaimed, organic, and/or British-made fabrics where possible.  What’s more, all of the organic cotton it uses is GOTS certified.


Seasalt Cornwall

women's sustainable and ethical clothing brands Seasalt Cornwall

Budget: £ – ££

Caters for sizes 6 – 28

Seasalt* specialises in beautiful timeless clothing and stunning prints.  Through its Locally Made project, Seasalt is actively increasing the number of products it manufactures locally in the South West, Guernsey, and across the UK.  In particular, look out for GOTS-certified organic cotton products and waterproof fabrics made from organic cotton and recycled plastic bottles.


Thought

Budget: £ – ££

Caters for sizes 6 – 20

Thought* makes easy-to-wear fairtrade clothing made from bamboo, hemp, and/or organic cotton, often in beautiful prints.  Keep your eye out for regular sales.


Totty Rocks

Budget: £££

Caters for sizes 6 – 16

Edinburgh-based Totty Rocks produce stylish retro-inspired clothing, all of which are designed and hand-made in Scotland. Shop from their online selection of ready-to-wear pieces, or visit their Edinburgh studio to commission a bespoke item of ethical clothing.

Looking For Specific Types of Clothing?

If you have a specific ethical item that you have in mind, then I’ve put together lots of separate guides, which are either new for or have been updated for 2022:

I also have a handy guide on what to look for when shopping for ethical clothing.  It covers topics such as what fabrics to look for and explains what all the different eco-labels mean if the ethical fashion jargon bamboozles you.

What Can I Do To Make Ethical Clothing More Accessible?

Whilst there are many ethical clothing brands, unfortunately, ethical clothing still isn’t accessible to everyone. To make the ethical fashion movement more inclusive to all, it’s therefore just as important to take action beyond your wallet.

To help make ethical fashion more affordable, you can help engender change by asking High St brands who make their clothes. Fashion Revolution has some great resources to help with this.  This will help to press for transparency and sustainability on the High Street, and help to make ethical clothing much more accessible for all.

You can also support the Clean Clothes Campaign’s Pay Your Workers drive. Because of the pandemic, millions of workers in the global garment supply chain haven’t been paid the full wages they are legally entitled to. Many have also lost their jobs without adequate financial compensation during the pandemic.  Supporting this campaign can help support garment workers in the Global South.

There is more you can do. Here are also some other ideas on how to support the ethical fashion movement from the bottom up.

Representation in Ethical Clothing

Sustainable fashion also lacks diverse representation.  Particularly in terms of race, and of the LGBTQ+ community.  However, there is also a lack of a range of sizes which leaves a large swath of potential would-be customers behind.

Asking your favourite ethical clothing brands to make their clothes in a wider range of sizes is a great first step. This is because brands won’t consider making their clothes in wider size ranges until there is consumer demand. Asking brands to use more diverse models, beyond a size 8 able-bodied 20 something white woman) is another way to help broaden the appeal of ethical fashion.

Have I missed any brands?  Do let me know!  And have you found this guide to women’s ethical clothing brands useful?  Then why not pin it for later?

Image of clothes on a rack with a blue text box that says 40 plus stylish women's ethical clothing brands
Ethical Fashion, Life & Style

45+ UK Laundry Symbols Explained To Make Washing Easier

Take the guesswork out of washing your clothes, with this handy illustrated guide to UK laundry symbols. With over 45 washing symbols decoded, and a free printable guide, never ruin an item of clothing again.

When people talk about sustainable fashion, most people automatically assume that means shopping from ethical brands. In reality, making your wardrobe more sustainable is more about wearing the clothes you already own over and over again than shopping for new clothing.

Laundry should be central to any discussion on sustainable fashion, because how we wash our clothes partly dictates how long they last.

I’m the first to admit that doing laundry is not a particularly fun chore. I minimise the amount of laundry I need to do by knowing roughly how often I should wash my clothes. Even so, it is always tempting to put dirty washing on a standard wash cycle without reading the care labels and laundry symbols. Yet doing so can be damaging to our clothes.

The Impact Of Fast Fashion

Putting our feet on the brakes of fast fashion, by caring for our clothes the right way, is incredibly important when it comes to sustainability.

Globally the fashion industry is, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), responsible for up to 8 % of all greenhouse gas emissions. It may not sound like a lot but fashion also has other impacts. Again, according to UNEP, textile dyeing is the second-largest polluter of water in the world. Meanwhile, UNEP says it takes nearly 10,000 litres of water to make a typical pair of jeans.

The simple act of washing our clothes according to the manufacturer’s care label can help to make our clothes look better for longer. Preventing damage to our clothes – either through shrinkage, fading, or losing shape – means we can continue to wear our favourite clothes for longer.

UK Laundry Symbols Guide

A laundry care label on white fabric, with blue text box that reads guide to laundry care symbols to help keep your clothes looking better for longer.

Washing our clothes correctly is easier said than done though. With over 50 laundry care symbols on UK clothes labels, it can get confusing.

Let me take the guesswork out of laundry day with this straightforward guide to laundry symbols. I’ve also got a free printable version of this guide that you can print out and keep near your washing machine.

Machine Washing

These UK laundry symbols mean an item is (or is not) suitable for machine washing:

machine wash laundry care symbols in the UK
  • Tub of water – The item is machine washable and can be spun and rinsed as normal.
  • Tub of water with a cross through it – Do not machine wash this item.
  • Tub of water with one line under it – This item is machine washable but only on a permanent press wash cycle.
  • Tub of water with two lines under it – This item is machine washable but should be washed on a delicate wash.

UK Laundry Temperature Symbols

These laundry symbols may look complicated – particularly if the label uses the dot system rather than temperature. However, they simply refer to the temperature your washing machine’s cycle should not exceed.

UK laundry washing temperature symbols - depicted as dots or temperatures inside a tub of water.
  • Tub of water with 30°C or a single dot – Do not wash the item at a temperature greater than 30°C or 80°F.
  • Tub of water with 40°C or two dots – Do not wash the item at a temperature greater than 40°C or 100°F.
  • Tub of water with 50°C or three dots – Do not wash the item at a temperature greater than 50°C or 120°F.
  • Tub of water with 60°C or four dots – Do not wash the item at a temperature greater than 60°C or 140°F.
  • Tub of water with 70°C or five dots – Do not wash the item at a temperature greater than 70°C or 160°F.
  • Tub of water with 95°C or six dots – Do not wash the item at a temperature greater than 95°C or 200°F.

Bleach Symbols

Due to the shape of the bleaching symbol, most people confuse these UK laundry symbols with ironing care guides. Just remember that when you see a triangle think bleach, not iron!

uk bleaching symbols on clothing care labels
  • Outline of a triangle – The item can be bleached with any type of bleach.
  • Crossed out outline of a triangle – The item should not be bleached.
  • Crossed out outline of a triangle with the letters CL inside – The item should only be bleached with non-chlorinated bleach.
  • Triangle with two diagonal lines inside – Again, non-chlorinated bleach should be used if bleach is needed. This symbol is sometimes used in place of the previous symbol.

Handwashing Laundry Symbols

Hand washing comes complete with its own small set of laundry care instructions to follow.

uk handwashing symbols on clothing care labels
  • Hand in water – The item should be washed gently by hand at 40°C or 104°F or less.
  • Twisted fabric with a cross through – The garment should not be wrung out.

Dry Cleaning

dry cleaning symbols in the uk

The main dry cleaning laundry symbols you need to pay attention to in the UK are the dry clean only and do not dry clean symbols. The other labels are specific instructions to the dry cleaner regarding which method of dry cleaning to use. You can dry clean at home. However, if it’s a particularly precious item of clothing it is always best to use a professional.

  • Circle – The item should be dry cleaned only.
  • Circle with a cross through – The item should not be dry cleaned.
  • Circle With The Letter A In It – This item should be dry cleaned using any dry cleaning solvent.
  • Circle With The Letter F In It – The item should be dry cleaned using petroleum-based solvents only.
  • Circle With The Letter P In It – This item should be dry cleaned using any solvent except Trichloroethylene.
  • Circle With The Letter W In It – The item should be professionally wet cleaned only.
  • Black Circle With Black Cross Through It – The item should not be wet cleaned.

Tumble Drying

I think the tumble dry laundry symbols can be some of the most complicated to understand in the UK. Most of the care symbols relate to the heat or cycle of your tumble dryer. Once you understand the system you’ll never shrink another item of clothing again!

Uk laundry care tumble dry labels explained.
  • Square with a circle inside it – The item can be tumble dried.
  • Square with a crossed-out circle inside it – The item cannot be tumble dried.
  • Square with a circle inside it, containing one dot – The item should be tumble dried at a low heat.
  • Square with a circle inside it, containing two dot– The item should be tumble dried at a medium heat.
  • Square with a circle inside it, containing three dots – The item should be tumble dried at a high heat.
  • Square with a blacked-out circle inside it – The item should be tumble dried with no heat.
  • Square with a circle inside it, and one line underneath – The item should be tumble dried on a permanent press setting only.
  • Square with a circle inside it, and two lines underneath – the item should be tumble dried on a delicate setting.

Air Drying Symbols

Most clothes don’t have air drying symbols on the care label as it is the default method of drying clothes. If an item of clothing has a label on it that you’ve never seen before, then chances are it’s an air-drying symbol. Here’s all you need to know:

air dry signs deciphered
  • Outline of a square – The item can be air-dried.
  • Outline of a square with a curved line at the top – The item can be hung to dry on a washing line.
  • Outline of a square with three vertical lines inside – The item should be drip-dried on a clothes horse or drying rack.
  • Outline of a square with one horizontal line inside – The item should be dried flat to ensure it keeps its shape.
  • Outline of a square with two diagonal lines at the top left corner – The item should be dried in the shade, as sunlight may lighten the fabric.

Ironing Symbols

I’m averse to ironing. It’s something I try to avoid at all costs! That being said, some items of clothing like to wrinkle up if you as much as look at them. To avoid damaging clothes when you iron them, acquaint yourself with these UK laundry symbols that relate to ironing:

ironing symbols
  • Outline of an iron – The item can be ironed at any temperature, and steam can be used.
  • Crossed out outline of an iron – The item should not be ironed.
  • Outline of an iron, with a cross through steam lines – The item can be ironed at any temperature, but no steam should be used.
  • Outline of an iron containing one dot – The item can be ironed at no more than 110°C or 230°F.
  • Outline of an iron containing two dots – The item can be ironed at no more than 150°C or 300°F.
  • Outline of an iron containing three dots – The item can be ironed at no more than 200°C or 390°F.

Need a printable guide to laundry care symbols? Download this free printer-friendly guide I’ve put together. Print it off and stick it by your washing machine so you never make a washing faux-pas again.