If you regularly do your own laundry, you’ve probably seen those little pictogram symbols on your clothes’ tags hundreds, if not thousands, of times.
You know what they are, but do you use them regularly? Do you know what they mean? Where did they come from?
Translating your tags might seem more confusing than decoding Egyptian hieroglyphics, but with our help (and our handy cheat sheet above!) you’ll be able to follow the guidelines on your garments and keep them looking like new without causing any irreversible damage.
An international introduction
The laundry care symbols were first introduced in Paris in 1963 by the newly formed international association for textile care labelling, GINETIX (Groupement Internationale d’Etiquetage pour l’Entretien des Textiles).
Previously, textiles consisted almost entirely of natural fibers. In the early ’60s, chemical fibers and new manufacturing techniques began to be introduced, along with new and more sophisticated washing machines, to make clothing care and damage control a far more complex process than it used to be. At the same time, the textile trade was becoming more international — creating the need for any care communication system to be picture-based and bridge language barriers.
Five core symbols
While there are a large collection of variations and small differences to distinguish specific instructions, the care symbols fall into five distinct categories related to textile care: washing, bleaching, drying, ironing and professional care.
The wash tub symbol and its variants apply to both hand and machine washing, with numbers or dots signifying an appropriate water temperature. Bars below the wash tub indicate that milder or gentler washing should be used.
A standard triangle signifies any bleach is allowed, while slanted lines or an X through the letters CL inside the triangle are a sign to only use oxygen bleach and not chlorine bleach. An X through an empty triangle indicates no bleaching will be tolerated and only bleach-free detergent should be used.
The drying process is symbolized by a square. For items tumble dried, a circle in inserted inside the square with dots inside the circle, meaning some level of caution and lower heat should be used. For items that need to be naturally dried, various lines inside the square correspond to different methods such as hang drying, flat drying and drying in shade.
This is where you may also find one bonus symbol that doesn’t fall into the five main categories — the “do not wring” symbol. It almost looks like a bowtie with an X through it, but it’s a sign that wringing the item tight to remove water could cause stretching or other damage.
Unsurprisingly, the iron symbol and its variations relate to ironing care and the levels of heat that a garment will tolerate.
• Professional care
A circle symbol means your item can be dry cleaned and handled by trusted professionals like our team at Fabric Care Cleaners, with the different letter and line variations telling us any limitations or other instructions to take heed of during our cleaning process.
Download our helpful laundry care symbols guide to quickly make sense of what your textile tags are try to tell you.
Or if you want to completely avoid any confusion, just let our experts at Fabric Care Cleaners take care of everything! We know the best methods for getting even the toughest stains out of the most delicate and demanding fabrics. Visit any of our convenient Greater Indianapolis locations or sign up for our FREE Gold Star Delivery Service and our experts can keep you looking your best no matter what special instructions accompany your clothes.