I was doing a load of laundry the other day trying to get ready to go on a weekend trip. I was in a bit of rush, running around grabbing things laying around the apartment that I thought I might want to bring with me, and one thing I grabbed at the last minute was a lightweight black shawl/jacket/thingy from H&M. It was covered in cat hair (cuz that’s pretty unavoidable) so I figured I’d toss it in the laundry before packing it.
Now, I’m usually really careful when I do laundry. I separate lights and darks, I wash things according to the instructions, and I pull things out of the dryer after 10 minutes and air dry it if it’s something that will shrink. So I grabbed this jacket and looked at the tag to find the washing instructions. And there weren’t any…
The tag had a bunch of little icons on it (one of them was an iron, I think?) and the words “100% Viscose” written in 25 different languages, and that was it. Seriously, I counted the languages; it covered the front and back of the tag, and the front and back of a second tag!
I was pretty confused, and in a rush, so I just threw it in with the darks and hoped for the best!
I figured it probably wasn’t a good idea to dry it, so I went back after 10 minutes to pull it out of the dryer along with my jeans. And immediately had a minor freak out.
The previously lightweight and airy jacket was now thick, dark, and shriveled up. It’s hard to describe, but it’s made of one of those fabrics with “zebra” stripes of black and sheer black (where you can see through it a bit). Except all the sheer stripes were gone and everything was thick, solid, bunched up black! Ugh.
Luckily it all turned out okay; I took a deep breath, hung it up to dry, and after about six hours it had gone back to it’s normal, soft, lightweight, sheer-in-places self. Thank God!
But I figured the lesson I should learn from all of this was what those silly little icons mean so that this never ever happens again. And just in case I’m not the only person who doesn’t know what they mean, I’m sharing what I learned with you!
Usually there are five icons on a tag. Those icons correspond to five categories of instructions:
This icon is a stylized washtub. The tub is usually “decorated” with a system of lines and dots that tell you useful things like water temperature, if you should use the delicate setting, or wash by hand, etc. The dots indicate water temperature and are the same for all wash procedures (normal, permanent press, etc.). The lines indicate the wash cycle you should use (or if it can’t be machine washed at all). Many times the dots and lines are combined into one icon. So, for example, if you see a tub with two lines under it and one dot, it means machine wash cold, gentle cycle.
This icon is a triangle and it tells you whether or not it’s safe to bleach, and what kind of bleach to use.
This icon is a square with a variety of other icons inside of it (a circle for tumble drying, lines for drip drying, dots to indicate heat settings, etc.) Again these markings can all be combined into one icon, so you may see one dot inside a circle and two lines under the square. That would mean tumble dry, low heat, gentle cycle.
This icon is a stylized iron and it will tell you heat settings and whether or not you can use steam.
This icon is a circle. The standard blank circle means it can be dry cleaned, the X through it means don’t dry clean. There are other icons and letters inside the circle sometimes (an A, F, or P usually). I didn’t list them here because your dry cleaner will know what those mean. 🙂
Hopefully this was helpful!
And just in case you don’t have this blog open on a computer in your laundry room while doing laundry, I’ve created a printable as well. 🙂
Click the image to download the printable, or just click here.
Have you ever ruined something in the laundry? This wasn’t actually ruined, but I have definitely turned a whole load of my dads white shirts pink by putting some red socks in the load when I was about 13. Oops!
Do you have any other laundry-related tips or tricks? I’d love to hear them!
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