Useful guide to the mysterious world of clothing labels
Let's be honest, more often than not the first and last time we look at the label on our clothes is when we are cutting it off. While some of us may pay cursory attention to the temperature marking, the rest means as much to the average wearer as ancient hieroglyphics on a wall.
Following the instructions found on the clothing label, however, can greatly increase the lifespan of garments, allowing them to maintain their shape and colour for as long as possible, giving us long-lasting pleasure and the best possible value for money. So here is a quick and easy guide to garment labels, and what they mean.
Hand or Machine wash
All actions to do with washing the garment are shown by the bucket symbol. Dots within the bucket - 1 to 3 - denote cold, warm or hot machine washing temperatures, or the maximum temperature will be written in degrees celsius.
A line under the bucket advises less spinning for wrinkle resistant clothes, and two lines mean that the garment should only be washed on a gentle cycle. A hand in the buckets means hand wash only, while a crossed out bucket means the garment should not be washed in water at all.
The triangle refers to bleaching. An empty triangle, or the letters cl in the triangle, means any kind of clothing bleach can be used. Two lines within the triangle state that only non-chlorine, colour safe bleaches should come into contact with this material. If the triangle is crossed out, that means that bleach of any kind can be damaging to the garment.
Denoted by the cube symbol, drying is one area where we can do the most damage to clothes if we get it wrong. A circle in the cube means the material is suitable for dryers, with dots denoting the temperature - black for no heat, 1 for drying under 60 degrees, 2 for hotter -, and underlining again shows whether the garment is robust, wrinkle resistant or only suitable for a gentle cycle. Various lines within the box symbolise line dry (a hanging arc), drip dry (3 lines), or dry flat (1 line).
To avoid that sinking feeling when you first feel your brand new synthetic t-shirt stick to the bottom of your iron, keep an eye out for the iron symbol. Dots inside will show whether it should be ironed at low, medium or high heat, and the symbol will also tell you if you should be using steam, or not ironing at all.
Look for a circle on the label, this signifies that a garment should only be dry cleaned by professionals, who will hopefully have been trained to understand the various letters and symbols used within the circle.