According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), all manufacturers are required to attach a permanent label to textile garments detailing directions for their care. At least one safe care method for a garment must be listed by the manufacturer and importer, as stated by The 1972 Care Label Rule and its 1984 amendment. With the exception of footwear, gloves, hats, suede and leather clothing, and household items, such as linens, all textile clothing is covered by the rule.
The care label must be easily found, not separate from the garment, and remain legible during the garment's useful life. If any part of the recommended care method may harm the garment or other garments being laundered or dry cleaned with it, a warning must be included on the label. If there is no cleaning method that would not damage the garment, a warning must also be included on the label.
Definitions of Cleaning Methods
Dryclean: Normal drycleaning fluid found in any commercial or coin-operated dry cleaning establishment can be used. The process may include moisture added to the fluid, hot tumble drying (160'F), and pressing by steam press or steam air-form finishing.
Professionally Dryclean: Restricts the drycleaning process to methods possible only in commercial drycleaning plants. "Professionally Dryclean" must be accompanied by further information, such as "use reduced moisture," "low heat," or "no steam finishing."
Machine Wash: Indicates use of either a commercial or home washing machine. Other information may be added giving specific washing temperatures, size of the load, or drying procedures.
Does "WASHABLE" mean it can't be drycleaned?
If the care label says "washable," it may or may not be safely dry cleaned - there's no way to tell from the label alone. Because a manufacturer or importer is only required to list one safe care method, there may be many other methods that can also be used safely. On the other hand, other care methods may also not be safe, however the manufacturer or importer is not required to include those methods on the label. The International Fabricate Institute (IFI) supports voluntary "alternative labeling" by manufacturers to inform consumers of all satisfactory care methods.
A dry cleaner may ask you to sign a consent form in the event you request a method of cleaning not stated on the care label of a garment. With or without the form, cleaners who accept garments for cleaning are obligated to clean them in a professional manner, to the best of their ability.
If a garment is damaged despite following the manufacturer's instructions, it is recommended that you return to the store of purchase and explain what happened. You may also obtain the manufacturer's name and address and write to the company if the store doesn't resolve the problem. Provide an estimate of the number of times the garment has been washed or dry cleaned, the full name and address of the store where it was purchased and a full description of the garment as well as all the information given on the labels and tags. A copy of your complaint letter should be sent to the Federal Trade Commission, c/o Correspondence Branch, Washington, D.C. 20580. Your individual problem cannot be solved by the FTC. Hwever the information you and other consumers supply may reveal a pattern or practice requiring the Commission's attention. You should also contact the FTC if a garment is purchased with no care label attached, including the name and address of the store and manufacturer.
Removing the Care Label
Because every garment is required to have a care label attached at the time of purchase, you'll be able to take the care instructions into consideration before buying it. Be forewarned that removing a care label entails some risk, since the complete care instructions, any warnings and other information related to proper care will no longer be visible.
A care label may also have symbols to supplement written instructions. It is typical that all care methods will be listed if a garment has an international symbol tag. Professional dry cleaners can explain the meaning of any care symbol, so don't hesitate to ask if you need clarification.
International Care Labels Meanings
Dry Clean in any solvent
Dry Clean in any solvent except trichloroethylene
Use flurocarbon or petroleum solvent only
A short line under any of the above indicates reduce cycle, moisture, and or heat
Do not dry clean
In all cases, if an X is through the symbol, it mean Do Not Use
Tumble dry high heat
Tumble dry low heat
Hang dry after removing excess water / Dry flat after removing excess water
Dry flat after removing excess water
Maximum temperature 95° C / 203° F
Maximum temperature 95° C / 203° F gentle cycle
Maximum temperature 60° C / 140° F
Maximum temperature 60° C / 140° F gentle cycle
Maximum temperature 50° C / 122° F
Maximum temperature 40° C / 104° F
Maximum temperature 40° C / 104° F gentle cycle
Maximum temperature 40° C / 104° F gentlest cycle
Maximum temperature 30° C / 86° F gentle cycle
Do not wash
Chlorine bleach may be used
Do not chlorine bleach
Hot 210° C / 410° F
Warm 160° C / 320° F
Cool 120° C / 248° F Do not iron