As of 1997, all care labels come with either symbols or pictures. These symbols will easily help you determine how to clean your clothes if a detailed care instruction is not available. After 1998, either written just instructions or just symbols must be provided. See the Guide below to help you understand the most common and also click on the Care Label Symbols below.

Care Label FAQs

The Care Labeling Rule was issued by the Federal Trade Commission in 1971 to help consumers with clothing care. The rule states that manufacturers must tag their clothing with at least one safe cleaning method. Starting in July, 1997, manufacturers may use certain care symbols in place of words on labels.

Care labels for textile wearing apparel must provide either dry cleaning or washing instructions. Only one safe method of care is required to be provided by the manufacturer. The label must also warn you against any procedure that might harm the item during reasonable care. For example, the label must say whether any step of the care method could harm the garment or other garments cleaned with it (i.e. washing, bleaching, drying, ironing or dry cleaning). Textile manufacturers are responsible for testing the garments and their dyes per the care instructions. When the care instructions are followed and it does not work, it becomes identified as a defective garment and the manufacturer is responsible for this.

The symbols shown above are approved for use throughout North America. There is not an internationally recognized care label system at the present time. Clothing manufactured in countries outside North America may use different symbols.

Not always. Only one safe method of care has to be listed on the label by the manufacturer. The label does not have to warn about other cleaning methods which might prove unsafe. For example, clothing labeled “hand­wash” may not dry clean well.

If you, or a Cleaners, followed the care instructions on the label and problems result, return it to the store where you bought it. Dyes that run after following the the manufacturer’s washing instructions and other problems which result are the responsibility of the manufacturer. Clothing garments can be manufactured defectively when the dyes and fabrics are not tested per their own care instructions. The safe cleaning method listed on the care label is, in effect, a care warranty. Ask the store for an exchange or refund. If the store will not help you, ask for the manufacturer’s name and address and write directly to the company, describing your problem.

You can also contact the Federal Trade Commission by writing to: Consumer Response Center, Federal Trade Commission, Washington, DC 20580. Although the FTC cannot resolve individual disputes, the information you provide may indicate a pattern of law violations requiring action by the Commission.