Laundry labels decoded: What do those symbols mean?

FORT MYERS, Fla. — It’s the holidays and you’ve unwrapped that new blouse, shirt or work pants.

But did reading those laundry instructions on the inside tags make you feel like you were reading another language?

Well, you’re not alone.

Mounds of laundry are something April Tucker faces every day.

The single mother of two washes everything from school clothes to sports clothes and, yes, even Sunday clothes.

“It’s easy to get a lot of things dirty,” she said.

However, even Tucker admitted to having trouble deciphering clothing care symbols.


Frances Kozen, a textile expert at Cornell University, believes it’s crucial to be able to decipher these labels as clothes have become more complicated.

“It is very confusing for consumers,” she said. “There are so many care symbols in existence simply because clothing is complex or home laundry is complex.”

There are different washing machines, water temperatures, agitation levels, as well as high tech dryers and high tech clothing.

“Contemporary fabrics are very technical; there’s a lot of performance features,” Kozen said.

There are now dozens of symbols that could appear on a label. Check out the cheat sheet below:

Distributed by:TEXTILE INDUSTRY AFFAIRS/ 212-372-3252 Fax: 212-505-3300 Email: [email protected]

If athletic fabric or soft fleece are washed incorrectly, they could be destroyed. In other cases, not reading the tags carefully could even be dangerous.

“It’s very important that the flame retardant children’s sleepwear not be used with fabric softener or bleach that will coat the fabric and will cause the fabric probably not to pass the stringent standards,” Kozen said.

In order to see more clothing care symbols, click here.

Reporter:Lindsey Sablan
Do you see a typo or an error? Let us know.