Good news! Your iPhone will soon translate those mysterious laundry icons

Now here's an innovation we can get excited about: say goodbye to washing woes and tumble dryer terror

LG Turbowash360
(Image credit: LG)

The best washing machines are awfully clever, but I'm not: you'll often find me looking at the label on clothes wondering what the hell a particular laundry symbol means. So thank goodness for iOS 17, which is bringing a genuinely useful feature to every compatible iPhone: it's adding laundry symbols to Visual Lookup on your phone.

If you’re not already familiar with it, Visual Lookup enables you to find out more about the subject of a photo in apps such as Photos, Notes, Mail or Messages. For example if I take a photo of my greyhound, Visual Lookup enables me to research her breed; if I take a photo of a mystery plant, Visual Lookup tells me what I’m looking at. And in iOS 17, Visual Lookup will tell me if it’s okay to tumble dry a top.

The new feature was highlighted by MacStories’ Federico Vittici on Mastodon, and it works just like the other Visual Lookup categories: grab a photo of the tag, tap on the Look Up… link and your iPhone will tell you what the symbols mean. 

Exciting? Not really. Useful? Absolutely

This isn’t an Apple invention. There are lots of laundry decoding apps for both iOS and Android , and it’s a shame that the developers of those apps are being “Sherlocked" – the term for when Apple builds a feature into one of its operating systems that was previously done brilliantly by a third party developer’s app. 

But from a consumer point of view it’s a welcome addition to the standard iOS feature set, and it’s likely to be used by many more people as a result. If that results in fewer washing disasters or clothes accidentally tumbled and shrunk so small even your cat would struggle to fit into them, that’s got to be a good thing.

I’m not being sarcastic when I say I’m really excited about this: it’s like Google Lens but for clothes. And while the results are clearly early ones – there’s a lot of repetition in the screenshots Vittici shared – this is exactly the kind of feature I love to see because it’s a way of making life a little bit easier and a little less annoying. I can't wait to try the public beta.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written more than a dozen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote seven more books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (