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Washing Instruction Labels: What Do the Symbols Mean?

When shopping for clothing, do you look for items that can be washed at home, or do you have a line item in your budget for dry cleaning?

Either way, you need to read care labels and understand what they mean.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, care labels may have written instructions or use a series of symbols, which were created by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). Regardless of the format, manufacturers and importers must adhere to the Care Labeling Rule and include required elements on the care label, including: machine- or hand-washing, bleaching, drying, ironing, and warnings (for example, “Do not iron”).

Dry cleaning instructions are also included on the label. If a garment may be both washed AND dry cleaned, it is only required to list one method. However, manufacturers know that consumers appreciate knowing all appropriate cleaning methods, so likely both will be included.

So what about those micro-sized symbols? Refer to this washing guide—it is not as daunting as you may think. It will help you decipher what is suggested for each category (washing and drying) along with a corresponding cycle or temperature; whether bleaching, ironing or dry cleaning is indicated; and common warning symbols.

If you have any questions regarding laundering or dry cleaning instructions, contact Oceanside. We are happy to help.