Clothing labels often run a strange luck: many people pay little or no attention to them, and in many cases – especially when it causes discomfort or itching when rubbing against the skin – they are directly cut out and discarded without further ado.
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But that labeling – in a way similar to what happens with that of food – includes useful and even essential information for the correct care of the garments. Among other things, because it indicates how they should be washed to ensure that they retain their shape and appearance for as long as possible.
These indications for washing are formulated through a series of pictograms, which represent a good variety of meanings. That is one of the reasons why many times the information on the label is not valued properly: because of not knowing the meaning of those symbols and icons.
However, they are not as difficult to interpret as it may seem at first impression. Just know some key data, simple to learn and that can completely change the way you treat clothes at the time of laundry. The most important ones are detailed below.
Temperature, programs and other characteristics of the wash
The first series of symbols is related to the most elementary: washing. The label of any garment always includes the icon of a bucket, with a wavy line representing water.
Information on the type of washing that can or should be carried out is entered on the drawing of the cuvette. The easiest thing to understand is the maximum temperature to which the garment can be washed: this information (for example, 60º) is written on the icon of the bucket.
Sometimes, to give the same indication, a system of points within the same drawing. One point means that the maximum wash temperature is 30 ºC, and each added point represents an increase of ten degrees (if there are two points the maximum temperature is 40 ºC, if there are three points it is 50 ºC, if there are four points it is 60 ºC , etc.).
Another possible addition is a straight line that appears below the bucket, a kind of underline. This reports that the garment is delicateTherefore, the washing machine must be programmed with a medium agitation and short spin option. When the garment is even more delicate, not a single horizontal line appears under the tray, but two.
If a hand is drawn on the bucket, it means that the garment is so delicate that it cannot be put in the washing machine: it should only be hand wash. When doing it in this way, the temperature cannot exceed 30ºC, and the clothes must also be treated with care, without twisting or squeezing.
And if the bucket appears crossed out by a cross (shaped like an X), what cannot be washed with water. What you need is a dry cleaning, a procedure that has its own system of pictograms: a circle with a letter inside it.
The letter A inside the circle indicates that any type of solvent can be used. The P, which can be used any product as long as it does not contain trichlorethylene. The circle without any letters and crossed out by a cross means that it cannot be dry cleaned.
How to dry each garment
Just as the general icon to refer to washing is the figure of a bucket, the one for drying is a square. Inside that square there is usually a circle, which represents (through its most typical shape) a tumble dryer.
And within that circle there are also indications. In some cases, points to indicate temperatures: one point indicates that it is convenient to dry at low temperature, two points at normal temperature and three points at high temperature.
As with washing, one or two horizontal stripes below the square indicate a greater delicacy of the garment, while the square and the circle crossed out with an X indicate that in this case the tumble dryer should not be used.
The square without a circle inside gives the indications for the manual drying (without dryer). If three vertical lines appear inside, the garment is delicate: it must be hung without draining. If instead it includes a single horizontal stripe, the garment must also be allowed to dry horizontally.
A curved line joining the two upper ends of the square (and giving the drawing the appearance of an envelope) points out that the garment should be hung from a rope or, better still, from a hanger, so that there are no marks.
And when there are two diagonal stripes next to the upper left corner of the square, the recommendation is to let the garment dry in the shade and not the sun.
Ironing: precise indications
The clothing label also provides vital information about how it has to be ironed. The icon is very easy to identify, because it represents the figure of a plate. Also in this case a point system is used.
One point informs that the iron must be at a low temperature (about 110 ºC), generally for delicate fabrics such as natural silk or acrylic. Two points advise a medium temperature (150 ºC), for fabrics such as wool and polyester. Three points, high temperature (200 ºC): cotton, linen or viscose.
If the iron icon is crossed out, as in the previous cases, the garment should not be ironed. And if the X appears just below the drawing of the iron, what it means is that it can be ironed but without using steam.
Finally, there are a series of pictograms related to the bleaches: its general icon is a triangle, which indicates that these products can be used. If the letters CL appear inside the triangle, the garment is suitable only for bleaches that include chlorine or bleach. And if the triangle is crossed out, of course, these substances should not be used.
Those are the most common indications on garment labeling. Information that should be known – or at least always on hand – to ensure a longer useful life for clothing before discarding it. Something that ultimately also amounts to save money and more sustainable consumption.
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