The Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Care Labeling Rule requires that all clothing sold in the United States have a label attached directing the proper care of the garment. If you follow care label, and the garment is damaged, the party who attached the label to the garment is responsible for the damage. What does that mean for you the consumer? It means you should read the label before you buy a piece of clothing. This way, you’ll know what to expect when it’s time to care for your clothing.
Each label must either have washing instructions or dry cleaning instructions. Washing instructions contains 4 parts, Wash, Bleach, Dry and Iron. Dry cleaning instructions contain just one symbol, dry clean. See the picture above for symbols that match the words. If a garment cant be washed or dry cleaned it may have another designation like ‘Spot Clean Only’. Also, there must be a label on each garment indicating the content of the garment (i.e. 100% Wool). These do not have to be on the same tag although they frequently are found this way.
How to read the symbols
Each of the basic symbols has modifiers that give specific instructions. For instance, an iron symbol with three dots in the middle means you can iron at high temperature. Let’s decipher the rather cryptic care label on the right.
The first thing I notice about this label is that beyond the 100% Cotton label, the words are very contradictory. To make sense of it, lets read the symbols. The first symbol is wash and the temperature inside is always in Celsius, this is equivalent to one dot or cool. The first symbol means ‘Cold Water Wash’.
The next symbol is iron. It has one dot in the middle, so it also means cool. Specifically the second symbol reads ‘Cool Iron’.
The third symbol is a dry cleaning instruction that reads ‘dry clean in any solvent except trichloroethylene’. The tag is typically incorrectly read as ‘Professionally Dry Clean Only’. Because there are wash symbols present, it means you can, but don’t have to, dry clean this garment.
The next two symbols have X’s on them, which means you cant do something. The triangle is the beach symbol, so it reads ‘Do Not Bleach’. The second is the dry symbol. It reads ‘Do Not Tumble Dry’.
To summarize, the care label says you can either cold water wash and cool iron but don’t tumble dry or use bleach OR you dry clean this item.
I have included a free Janet Davis Cleaners Guide to Care Label Symbols for you to use. I hope this explanation helps you navigate around the mystery and confusion surrounding clothing care symbols. Even if this doesn’t help, you can rest assured knowing that the professionals at Janet Davis Cleaners read every label before your garments are cleaned!