Basic clothing care

MOST of us are familiar with that fact that the majority of clothing we buy comes with a label, which has the manufacturer’s instructions on how to care for the garment. Often, we ignore the label completely, or we treat this information as trivia.


However, cleaning your clothing, as specified has many benefits: your garment will last longer, as wear and tear is reduced, which saves you money and keeps your style looking sharp in the process. Once you know how to interpret clothing care symbols, washing your garments accordingly will become second nature. While there may be some uniqueness in certain clothing care symbols used around the globe, the universal ones fall under several categories.


The symbol for washing your clothes is the bucket with the wavy line at the top. Most clothing manufacturers assume you will consider using a washing machine and so will place dots within the bucket to indicate what temperature to use, as well as lines beneath to indicate what type of cycle. One dot in the bucket is a cold wash, two dots indicate a warm wash, and three tell you to wash in hot water. If there is one line beneath the bucket, use the permanent press setting, and if there are two be sure to use the delicate cycle. If you handwash your clothes, follow the guides indicating water temperature. Some labels will also indicate this using numbers. Should your garment only be suitable for handwashing, a hand symbol will be added to the bucket. Do not place your clothing in a washing machine should it require handwashing only — the machine will be too harsh for the item. Should your clothing require dry cleaning, this will be indicated with a circle, which stands separately to the washing symbol. Finally, if you should not wash or dry clean the garment, this will be indicated with a cross through the bucket or circle.

Fashion 1


This is indicated using a square. If there is a circle withing the square, you can tumble dry the item. As with washing, lines beneath the square tell you to use the permanent press or gentle drying cycle, and a cross through the square indicates not to tumble dry the clothing. A horizontal line in the square shows that you must dry the item while it is laying flat.


This is perhaps the easiest symbol to recognise, which is drawn to look just like an iron. One, two or three dots within the iron indicate low, medium and high temperatures to set your iron to. Some garments should not be ironed with steam, and this will be indicated with lines beneath the iron and a cross through them. If the iron is blank all iron settings are suitable to use.


The symbol for bleaching is a triangle. A plain triangle tells you that you can bleach your clothing when needed. However, if stripes are placed within the triangle, pay attention to the bleach you buy, as you can only use non-chlorine bleach on the garment. If the triangle has a cross through it, do not bleach or the item will be damaged.

These are the basic symbols you need to keep in mind on laundry day. Do you look — and your wallet — a huge favour, and follow the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions as much as possible. In so doing, you will enjoy your favourite clothing pieces for a very long time.

●Stephanie Taderera is Edgars Stores Ltd communications liaison officer

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  1. Poor teacher. Just put up all the symbols as they appear on the garments and label them.

  2. the writer of this story should have also shown all the symbols diagrammatically and not just give explanations…

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