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How to Decode Washing Symbols on Clothing Labels

Clothing Care Symbols and How to Understand Them

In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission’s Care Labeling Rule requires importers and manufacturers to attach care labels inside clothing. These labels include wash care instructions, country of origin, fiber content, and manufacturer identity.

As part of this rule, covered manufacturers and importers must:

  • provide complete instructions about regular care for the garment, or provide warnings if the garment cannot be cleaned without harm
  • ensure that, if followed, care labeling instructions will cause no substantial harm to the product; and
  • warn consumers about certain procedures that they may assume to be consistent with the instructions on the label, but that would harm the product. For example, if a pair of pants is labeled for washing, consumers may assume they can iron them. If the pants would be harmed by ironing, the label should read, “Do not iron.”

A care label must also warn when there is no method for cleaning––these typicaly read: “Do Not Dry Clean” and “Do Not Wash.” The Care Label Rule applies to all clothing except: suede and leather garments, hats, gloves, socks, footwear, reversible garments, and household items.

What many people don’t know is that care labels aren’t always correct, as most manufacturers never test garments before the required care label is attached. The FTC’s Care Label Rule does not require testing before care instructions are assigned to a garment––only that a manufacturer have a ‘reasonable basis’ for their care instructions. Further, they are not required to provide instruction for the best care procedure––simply one that works. Sometimes it’s right, and sometimes it’s wrong. Understanding and following care label instructions is almost an art and requires a combination of knowledge of care symbols, instructions, and practical experience.

When clothing is dropped off to be laundered or dry cleaned at one of Prestige Cleaners’ eight convenient Scottsdale locations, our clothing professionals carefully review every clothing label to assure each piece is handled appropriately and we always attempt to alert our customers to a potential problem beforehand.

The clothing professionals at Prestige Cleaners take great care to read clothing labels, but it’s also a good idea for you to know what these symbols mean if you want to get the most life out of your clothing.

While the cryptic-looking symbols on your clothing labels might seem arbitrary, don’t be intimidated. This handy laundry symbol guide from ASTM gives you all the information you need to decipher the laundry code. Download the handy PDF here: ASTM Guide to Care Symbols


Tip From Scottsdale Dry Cleaning Company Decode Washing Symbols

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