In our last post we talked about why you should not wash dry clean only garments, but following care instruction labels requires you to be able to read them. What if you only see cleaning symbols on clothing tags, no wording?

Although the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Care Labeling Rule requires manufacturers and importers to attach at least one care instruction label to a garment, wording is not required. Symbols from the American Society for Testing and Materials can be used instead.

However, some people do not know how to read the labels, so they simply toss the garments into the washing machine or hand wash, hoping for the best.  That can be a costly mistake.

According to the American Cleaning Institute, if you know these symbols:

Symbols on Clothing Tags: How to Read Labels & Why Not Remove

and you know these codes:

Symbols on Clothing Tags: How to Read Labels & Why Not Remove

you know the Fabric Care Language. If you are not familiar with these symbols, click here to see and print the full chart, courtesy of the American Cleaning Institute. Post the chart in an area where you can conveniently refer to it until can read the symbols on any clothing tags.

Don’t be concerned if you see a symbol such as Dry Cleaning P code that is not included in the chart. Looking at the symbols above, you can see the circle is a dry clean symbol.  These symbols provide specific dry cleaning instructions. A “P” in the circle tells your cleaner the garment can be dry cleaned in any solvent except Trichloroethylene. If the circle had an “A” inside it, that would mean the garment could be dry cleaned in any solvent. If the symbol on the clothing tag has a “W” in a circle, your garment needs a professional wet cleaning.

You might also see a dry clean symbol such as Dry cleaning symbol O . Again, you know it is a dry clean symbol. This one tells your professional dry cleaner not to use steam. You could see the slash in other positions around the circle, but all are instructions for your dry cleaner, who knows what each symbol on clothing tags represents.

Leave Garment Tags Attached

You can see the importance of wording and symbols on clothing tags, but some consumers prefer to remove tags from their garments for various reasons after purchasing. Although some professional dry cleaners will know by the look and feel of a fabric what care it needs, those tags help eliminate any confusion. Leave them attached.

If you are not sure about the best cleaning method for your garments, visit your local dry cleaners for assistance.