These Guides To Clothing Care Symbols Make Laundry Easier
Looking for my printable guides to laundry care symbols? Look for the yellow download box at the bottom of this post!
Years ago, I bought a sweater for Dave at Costco that quickly became one of his favorites. So when it came time to wash it, he wanted to make sure he followed the laundry symbol “instructions” on the label, hoping to avoid repeating a recent “shirt shrinking” episode.
He showed me the washing instructions icons on the tag of the sweater and asked me what they meant. I hadn’t really given it a lot of thought at that point, so I had no idea! They may as well have been hieroglyphics for all I could understand them.
But after doing a good amount of research on the subject, I now have a much better grasp on the “language of laundry” and am ready to pass the knowledge along to you. Trust me—you’re going to be glad to know this stuff!
Where Do Clothing Care Symbols Come From?
Way back in 1971, the FTC started requiring manufacturers to tag their clothing with at least one safe cleaning method. At this stage, these were generally words indicating whether a garment was suitable for the washing machine, hand wash, or dry cleaning.
In 1997, they came up with a system of symbols that could be used in place of words on labels. The universal symbols were developed by the American Society for Testing and Materials and are used by the detergent, textile, apparel, and appliance industries around the world.
Today, clothing labels carry up to five care symbols, which means it’s a good idea to know what they mean if we want to get the most “life” out of our clothing (or at least avoid their early demise!)
What Do The Symbols On Clothes Tags Mean?
While I was thoroughly confused when I first tried to decipher the symbols on Dave’s sweater label… I have since realized it’s a very simple system once you get familiar with it. (Or if you have the printable guides I’ve made available for you to download at the end of this post!) :-)
Laundry care symbols fall into one of 4 categories, which are:
1. Washing Symbols
Wash symbols can be broken down into three sections: method of washing, water temperature, and recommended cycle.
As an example, a sweater that requires a low-heat machine wash on a gentle cycle will have a label showing one spot inside the washtub, with two lines underneath. Likewise, a white dress cotton shirt is likely to need a high-heat machine wash on a permanent press cycle, so you’d see the three spots in the washtub, with two lines underneath.
2. Drying Symbols
Beware—the drying stage of the washing process is often where shrinkage occurs! As such, it’s important to fully understand the symbols you’re looking at. There will be at least one symbol on the label that tells you which drying methods you can use – and sometimes which you need to avoid.
For instance, some fabrics will need to drip dry or dry flat, where others will be perfectly suitable for the tumble dryer. Drying symbols use the same number of dots as washing symbols, indicating low, medium, and high heat settings.
3. Bleaching Symbols
Bleaching symbols on a piece of clothing are easy to read. An empty triangle means you can use bleach, and a crossed-out triangle means you can’t.
If there are two diagonal lines breaking the triangle into three sections, this means you can use a non-chlorine bleach – a gentler product that’s less harmful to your skin, clothes, and the environment.
4. Ironing Symbols
Finally, the care tag will give you advice about ironing. Ironing symbols use the same heat indicators you’ll see on washing and dryer symbols, so you can decide whether to go for a high, low, or medium heat temperature setting.
If the iron symbol is crossed out, then the garment is not suitable for ironing. If the iron’s steam is crossed out, you can iron the garment with the steam setting turned off.
How To Read Clothing Care Symbols
Now that you have a good idea of what the individual symbols look like, it’s useful to get a feel for what they look like together.
They might look intimidating at first glance, but you’ll be surprised how quickly you pick this laundry language up! When you do, you’ll avoid a range of garment-ruining issues, including shrinking, damage, misshapen clothes, fading colors, and pilling.
It’s also worth considering how much it costs financially when you don’t understand laundry care labels. Sure, you might not be too upset if an old t-shirt needs to be retired to the trash, but what about shrinking brand-new jeans or a winter sweater? What happens if your favorite party dress loses its color because you use the wrong laundry detergent?
There’s an old saying about how “a dollar saved is a dollar earned”, and it couldn’t be more true than with our clothes. I’m not saying it isn’t nice to treat yourself at the store, but you’ll be able to treat yourself much more frequently if you don’t have to keep replacing items that are damaged by the wash!
Download My 2 Guides To Laundry Symbols
Laundry Symbols Cheat Sheet & Guide
I’ve got 2 free printable guides to laundry symbols for you. The first page is a “cheat sheet” that can help you learn the basics, and the second is a complete guide to every symbol.
I hope you all find these as helpful as I did! I feel like I “cracked the code” and now I am no longer intimidated by those cryptic-looking symbols on my clothes! Time to go buy some more to celebrate! ;-)
Hungry For More Laundry Know-How?
Did the meanings of any of the clothing care symbols surprise you?