Every time you buy an item made of any type of fabric, sewn into the seam with the item comes a label that gives you answers to questions about how to properly maintain the item to make it last as long as possible. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people when handling a textile item, whether it’s bed linen or silk shirt, don’t even look at the labels, which is why the items have a shorter life and are destroyed during the first washing or ironing. Whether we bought slightly cheaper goods or paid more money for an expensive sweater, we should always properly maintain textile items so we do not needlessly throw away clothes that could have worn for years. However, clothes are often damaged due to sheer ignorance and lack of information about what the various maintenance signs on the labels actually mean. Today we bring you a list of all the markings on the declarations and explain how to read them correctly and therefore approach the maintenance of the item in the correct way.
What can we learn from the label?
The label on the clothing not only gives us information on how to properly care for that item, but also informs us about all the elements that are related to a certain item of clothing. We can find the following information on the label:
- Country of origin
- Material composition
- Maintenance symbols
The country of origin tells us the details of where the garment was made. Thus, on most of the clothes and shoes of well-known high street fashion brands, we will see that the clothes are made in Bangladesh, China or Cambodia. Mentioned countries have huge factories where clothes are being made for the Western market, for the reason that labor is much cheaper than in the country where it is sold, and therefore the production costs are lower. The country of origin can directly affect the price of the item. It is an interesting information that residents of European countries pay more attention to the country of origin of the products, in the context of the quality of the products themselves, than those from, for example, North America. Consumers also often use the country of origin when making conclusions about the quality of the product, so we often hear people commenting that the goods that are “made in China” are of very poor quality and skip the purchase precisely because of this information.
The raw material composition of the item is another piece of information provided by the product label. For some of us, it is not too important what raw material the clothes are made from when it comes to making a purchase decision, while for others this is a big deal. For example, people who are allergic to artificial materials will always prefer to choose clothes made from natural materials. On the other hand, the raw material composition gives us information about how to treat a certain item, although the most important information is found precisely in the maintenance symbols.
Maintenance symbols – just triangles and circles or important information?
In majority of cases, we examine the declaration on the clothes, but we are not quite sure what all those triangles, circles and squares mean, and we throw the clothes into the washing machine and hope for the best. It is for this reason that we have put together a complete list of all possible maintenance symbols that you may come across, so that you know how to maintain a textile item in any situation.
Main maintenance symbols
These are the basic maintenance symbols that you will find on each label in different forms and with additional information. The bucket indicates the symbol for wet washing which includes hand and machine washing. A square indicates a drying option that includes drying in a dryer (a circle inside a square) and air drying (only a square without a circle). The triangle gives us information about how we can bleach clothes and when we should avoid bleach. The ironing symbol is there to save our goods from too high of a temperature that can irreversibly destroy some fibers, and the circle indicates the rules for dry cleaning.
Symbols for wet washing give you information on how to wash a textile item. For example, you will wash a woolen jumper by hand, because pure wool is sensitive and can easily shrink and be destroyed at high temperatures. The general rule of thumb is that a lower temperature will not damage an item of clothing, so if you washed it at 30 degrees instead of the recommended 70, the laundry will not be in danger of being destroyed, but the stains will not wash off as well. Be careful with high temperature machine and hand washing, because even though you may think you could put the laundry on a higher temperature, it may contain materials that do not react well and irreversibly damage the item.
Dry cleaning symbols
These symbols are mainly intended for the staff in dry cleaners. If your clothes contain a symbol that recommends washing only in a dry cleaner, do not ignore the label and do not wash the clothes in a washing machine or by hand because you risk destruction.
The triangle symbol indicates that you can bleach your clothes with any bleach that you have on hand, but if the triangle is crossed out, it means that it would be better to skip bleach altogether, and this includes detergents that have bleach in them. The two lines on the triangle mean you can only use oxygen-based bleach.
After you have washed the goods according to the rules and instructions from the label, it is time to dry them. Drying in the dryer is marked with a symbol of a circle inside a square, and you can determine the temperature of the dryer according to the dots inside the circle. If it is an extremely delicate fabric, you will dry it in the air which is the square symol, while the other symbols from this group will suggest the best way to dry the item. For example, woolen jeans must always be dried on a flat surface because if you put them on a drying line, they can stretch a lot and lose their shape completely. If you air dry dark clothes, you will often come across the shade drying symbol, as the sun can bleach the color.
With the symbols for ironing, we come to the end of the symbols for fabric maintenance. Definitely pay attention to the temperature with which you iron your clothes, because fabrics that contain a large amount of polyester can literally melt. Unlike a cotton sheet, which can be ironed at the highest temperature due to its resistant fibers, a faux leather will be ironed at the lowest temperature so that the fabric is not damaged.
What if the label is missing?
If you cannot find the declaration on the item of clothing, we recommend that you carry out a test on the hem. The hem is hidden and it will not be seen if the fabric you are treating, has not reacted very well. Apply the detergent and let it work for a while. If after washing and drying there are no changes in color and texture, you can use a cleaning agent. The general rule is that the darker the materials are or made of more delicate fabrics (wool, silk), the milder cleaning detergent should be applied. Also, keep in mind that cold or lukewarm water is harmless to all fabrics because the reactions that destroy clothes occur at higher washing temperatures. Also, and do not overdo it with the amount and time of action of the detergent. It’s always better to treat stains with a smaller amount that you leave on for as long as the manufacturer recommends, than to irreversibly ruin a piece of clothing because you soaked it in and left it overnight.
Take care of your clothes and look at the care symbols because you will save yourself unnecessary hassles and headaches after ruining your favorite blouse, but also, most importantly, extend the life of items you use every day and reduce the amount of goods you change due to improper maintenance and handling.