by Phil Taggart, Web Director, schweitzerlinen.com
Everyone has seen them, the little diagrams on linen and clothes labels that tell you how to care for the fabric. People look at them and promptly forget them because understanding what they mean is beyond most of us.
I was reminded of this recently, when I was requested to do the artwork for a new product label and was given the instructions to include 4 specific icons. Usually, our manufacturer produces these labels themselves, but in this instance it was for a beautiful new Cashmere product and they requested a guide. I realized that, being honest, I really did not know what two of them meant, so did a quick web search, only to find a lot of confusion and some surprisingly conflicting information.
It was then that I decided we needed to put both accurate and simple-to-understand information in the FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions) section on our website. We also include Care & Washing Instructions with every order that is shipped out. They readily available on the website on our Linen Q&A page.
There are a LOT of results when you search for “Laundry Care Symbols” or similar. Amazingly, I found a couple of major corporations in the retail space with top ten search positions, to be both inconsistent with each other, missing important symbols and outright wrong (or at least at odds with the textile industry’s own guidelines and everyone else): Hand-in-Tub means “Hand Wash” NOT “Do Not Wash” as one suggests! Then there are the bloggers who put their own spin (pun intended) on the meanings.
So here are a few tips to think about before tossing your beautiful Schweitzer linens in the wash with the great t-shirt you bought from that designer at the street fair – you know, the RED one!
The symbols are designed around five groups:
First, check the label and make sure you know which items can be home washed and which have to be Dry Cleaned or cleaned by a professional. Be aware that these symbols and comments are guides and to always test cleaning agents on a safe area before using. Also, if still not sure, use a milder treatment than specified.
Notes on the Chart.
Dots indicate heat, the more dots the hotter.
Bars under the icon indicates gentle, the more bars, the more gentle treatment needed.
Group 1) Professional Cleaning: Sometimes just labeled “Dry Clean” but there a whole set of icons for Professional WET washing, I’ve only included the main one here. There are a few other Dry Cleaning icons in addition, most specifying technical requirements of solvents and stress levels of textiles. Rule of thumb – if the label has a circle, take it to the professionals. Always make sure your professional checks the label when you hand over the cleaning!
Group 2) Washing: Symbols can contain various maximum temperatures indicated and they are always specified in Centigrade, so for the US take that into account and convert to Fahrenheit. Here is a list of the most commonly used indicators:
30˚C = 85˚ F – Cool;
40˚C = 105˚F – Warm;
50˚C = 120˚F – Hot;
60˚C = 140˚F – Hot;
70˚C = 160˚F – Hot;
95˚C = 200˚F – Boiling (almost);
It is assumed that most symbols are for Machine washing, so be sure to check the controls on your washing machine and familiarize yourself with the manual – it really does make a difference!
Group 3) Bleach: We do not advocate using bleach as it can weaken and discolor fabrics. If you must use bleach use a chlorine-free version.
Group 4) Drying: As in Washing, this mostly refers to Machine drying, but that can be too aggressive for some fabrics. Ideally remove linens from the dryer whilst still slightly damp.
Group 5) Ironing: Man-made articles should always be ironed with a cool setting. High quality cotton and linen, like Schweitzer’s, should be ironed damp, never dry, use a spray bottle if needed. Always iron on the reverse side, usually with a “hot” or “cotton” setting.
I hope you find this information useful and if you want to print a complete chart to pin up in your wash room click the thumbnail below to open or download a PDF, it is formatted to fit on a standard 8 1/2” x 11” sheet of paper.