Take a moment before you cut those sometimes-itchy laundry tags off your clothes – they’re your clothing’s lifeline. Laundry tags guide you through laundering all your fabrics, ensuring that your clothing lasts a long time in the best condition possible.
History of Laundry Symbols
Before laundry labels were introduced, it was up to the consumer to choose the best course of action when laundering their clothing at home. Surprisingly, it was only in the mid-1950s that the idea of attaching care instructions to clothing arose — perhaps after years of customers complaining that their clothes were falling apart after multiple rough washes in too-hot water.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a very strict set of rules that manufacturers and importers must follow: not only must they provide instructions and warnings, if they choose to use care symbols, they must use those as outlined in the ASTM Standard D5489-96c, the Standard Guide for Care Symbols for Care Instructions on Textile Products.
The Symbols: The Basic Care Labels
There are five basic symbols for textile care — wash, bleach, dry, iron and dry clean — all of which have symbols with which they can be combined for a complete guide to laundry.
This symbol instructs you how to wash your item. A series of dots further explain the temperature of the water (one dot for temperatures between 65 and 85°F, for example). This symbol, when combined with a hand, means that you should only hand wash the item, and one with a large X means you should not wash it at all.
This symbol means that you may use bleach on the item; a triangle with diagonal stripes means that only non-chlorine bleach may be used. A black triangle with an X running through it means that it may not be bleached.
The Dry symbol often features a circle inside it to show which cycle you should tumble dry your item. Dots inside the circle further explain the temperature: low, medium or high. This symbol, when featured with a large X, means that you should not put the item in the dryer.
This symbol explains at what temperature you should iron your clothing. Like the other main symbols, a large X running over the symbol means that you should not iron it.
This symbol means that your item should be professionally dry cleaned If you see this symbol with the letters A, P or F, it refers to the type of solvent that may be used during cleaning.
There are many more symbols that are used in conjunction with these five main symbols, which can be viewed at the Textile Industry Affairs.
If you do your laundry at home instead of using our Wash & Fold service, make sure you’re following those ever-important laundry tags. Clothing care symbols aren’t just added to clothing for fun — they are there to help you keep your clothing in perfect condition for years to come.