Save Time & Money, Read Garment Care Labels!

Did you know that in the US, the FCC requires that all wearable garments must have a care label attached, that offers at least one method of cleaning the garment?

There is no law that the method stated need be correct, but that at a minimum, law requires clothing manufacturers to try and give consumers a method to maintain the item. While this may sound odd, it is better than many other countries that require no such thing!

When you go shopping for clothes, take a moment to look at the care label. You can save yourself time, money, aggravation, and disappointment.

Most garments have a written care label, a content, and a symbol. All 3 give valuable information.

A few examples of written care labels:

Do not launder, do not dryclean, spot clean only: These items cannot be cleaned, so be prepared. This is often the case for polypropylene jackets or fancy gowns with lots of ornamentation. There are some cleaners that specialize in these sort of garments, however, it will all be by hand. Don't expect miracles on the stains, but do expect to pay a lot of money for cleaning, if you have that kind of cleaner in town!

Cold water wash, cool iron: This one is fine if you are doing your laundry at home. But if you are buying a shirt that you expect to have laundered for under $2 or $3 dollars, this wont be it. In fact, if you take it to the drycleaner - it most likely (not always) will be considered dryclean. This is one of the many reasons women are charged more for blouses. Does your blouse have this care label? Then the cleaner will likely dryclean it!

Do Not Dryclean: Clear enough, but if you do take it in for cleaning - point it out!

Clean by zirchonian (or wedding gown method): I have no idea what that is (I suppose I shouldn't admit that, but I have never met anyone with a strong explanation!). I think some old time wedding gown manufacturer tried to trade mark his "cleaning method" and got the name on care labels. Genius marketing! I read it the same as wedding gown method, which, I take to mean "BE VERY CAREFUL!" I love cleaning fine gowns, and many people are surprised that I wet clean at least 50% of the gowns, silk included. Beads, and other adornments often make gowns uncleanable in traditional drycleaning and the trains get incredibly dirty when dragged on the floor. Water is a great solvent for food and wine!

How and Why to Read The Material Content

  • For labels that say cool water wash, the next step is to look at the fiber content. If the garment is over 50% polyester - well that's plastic and it will melt in commercial laundry

  • Spandex (usually 2% to 5%) Also plastic, it needs a "cool" iron. This translates into drycleaning prices. Again, if you do your own shirts at home - its no problem. Home irons are always cool. But cotton blend shirts cannot be cleaned for a commercial laundry price!

  • Rayon, tensile, viscose these are all derived from plant materials and considered dryclean only, cool iron materials

  • Metallic, This is a new material being used in very fashionable circles that is giving the drycleaning world headaches. Typically the care label is dryclean only. At this point, I would not buy a garment with metallic. The problem is that metal and material shrink and stretch due to temperature in very different ways. This can create a very wrinkled look. Sometimes that is the intention and sometimes it is not. As a drycleaner, metallic is the one material that bothers me, because there is a good chance that the care symbols will be wrong! This is because the manufacturers are still trying to figure it out. They had the same issue with Spandex when it was first introduced, and I know that a lot of angry customers blamed their cleaner for a manufacturing issue!