Care Instructions Used in Apparel

What is Care Instructions?
Care instructions, often referred to as care labels or care tags, are guidelines provided by manufacturers or product designers to inform consumers about how to properly care for and maintain a specific product. These instructions are typically found on clothing, textiles, and various consumer goods like electronics, appliances, and even plants. Care instructions are essential because they help users extend the lifespan of their products, maintain their quality, and prevent damage or deterioration.

Care Instructions in Apparel
Figure: Care Instructions in Apparel

Common elements included in care instructions may involve information on:

  1. Washing: This specifies whether the item should be machine washed, hand washed, or dry cleaned. It may also provide water temperature recommendations and advise on using specific detergents or the use of bleach.
  2. Drying: Instructions on whether the product should be air-dried, tumble-dried, or laid flat to dry. Some labels may include temperature settings for drying machines.
  3. Ironing: If applicable, care instructions may detail the recommended ironing temperature and whether steam should be used.
  4. Bleaching: Indications on whether chlorine bleach or other types of bleach can be used, or if bleach should be entirely avoided.
  5. Special care: Some items may require special care, such as avoiding direct sunlight, storing in a certain manner, or using specific cleaning products.
  6. Material-specific guidance: For clothing and textiles, care instructions will be tailored to the fabric or material used, such as cotton, silk, wool, or synthetic blends.
  7. Symbols: Care labels often use standardized symbols to represent care instructions, which can be more universally understood regardless of language.
  8. Warnings: Occasionally, care instructions will include warnings about potential damage, shrinkage, or color bleeding if specific care practices are not followed.

Apparel and textiles are soiled during their normal use. From an economic point of view, these items must be cleaned and refurbished for reuse without substantially altering their functional and aesthetic properties. It is essential that the various processes to which the apparel is subjected should maintain and restore the desirable and functional properties. This is a joint responsibility of the textile and apparel industries, the textile care organizations and the consumers.

Care symbols provide all the necessary information on washing, bleaching, ironing, dry-cleaning and tumble drying. The consumer usually does not have the experience or technical knowledge to decide which care treatment is suitable. So it is the responsibility of the apparel manufacturers to provide the necessary care information for the products. All the textile wearing apparel used to cover or protect the body, and all piece goods sold for making home-sewn apparel, are covered in care labelling apart from shoes, belts, hats, neckties, non-woven garments and one-time garments.

Without care information, the consumers will face trouble in deciding on the appropriate conditions for care treatment of apparels. Care labels should not be considered as a guaranty or a quality mark of the product. The following people or groups are covered in care labelling:

  • Manufacturers of textiles and apparels.
  • Manufacturers of piece goods sold at a retail price to consumers for making wearing apparel.
  • Importers of wearing apparel and piece goods for making wearing apparel.
  • Any organization that directs or controls the manufacture and/or import and export of textile wearing apparel or piece goods for making wearing apparel.

The care labels work as a major source of information on the clothing type, type of washing and drying and nature of chemicals suitable for the same. Hence, they should be always referred to before the clothes are washed. The care instructions are generally provided by symbols or words or by the combination of both. If it is hard to understand them, the commercial organization or the manufacturer or seller can be contacted for getting the appropriate information.

The American Care Labelling System:
According to the Federal Trade Commission’s Care Label rule, care labels may be composed of either words or symbols. Irrespective of whether the content is words, symbols, or both, care instructions appear in the following order:

  1. Machine wash / hand wash / dry-clean
  2. Washing temperature (hot / warm / cold)
  3. Washing machine programme (delicate / permanent press / normal cycle)
  4. Bleaching instruction (do not bleach / non-chlorine bleach / chlorine bleach)
  5. Drying method (tumble dry / line dry / flat dry / drip dry)
  6. Ironing (do not iron / cool iron / warm iron / hot iron)
  7. Warnings

In addition to the care label instructions, manufacturers and importers must provide labels that:

  • Are permanently attached so that they can be easily seen at the point of sale. If the product is packaged, displayed or folded so that the customers cannot find the label, care information must also appear on the side of the package or on a hang tag
  • Remain fastened and legible during the useful life of the product
  • Mention the regular care needed for the ordinary use of the product
  • Warn the customer about additional factors which may harm the garment

Since December 1996, a new system using only symbols and no words has been used in the United States of America. The revised care symbols developed by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) with their meanings are listed below.

Symbols Used in the American Care Labelling System (ASTM Symbols):

ASTM care instructions used for apparel
Figure: ASTM care instructions used for apparel

Care Instructions for Garments:
Specification on the care label and their Instruction for proper care are given below:

For Machine washing:

  1. Machine wash: Washing by machine in lukewarm water. May be bleached but no dry cleaning.
  2. Home wash only: Same as above, but no commercial laundering.
  3. Cold wash/rinse: Wash and rinse with cold water from the tap.
  4. Warm wash/rinse: Wash and rinse with warm water from the tap.
  5. Hot wash: Use hot water machine setting.
  6. No bleach: Avoid the use of bleach.
  7. No starch: Avoid the use of starch.
  8. Delicate/gentle cycle: Wash with appropriate conditions or wash by hand.
  9. Durable/permanent press cycle: Wash with appropriate conditions for washing; otherwise use medium wash, cold rinse and short spin cycle.
  10. Wash separately: Wash alone or with similar colours.
  11. No spin: Do not apply the spin cycle after washing.

For Hand washing:

  1. Hand wash: Wash by hand using cold or lukewarm water. May be dry cleaned or bleached.
  2. Hand wash only: Wash by hand in lukewarm water. May be bleached but no dry cleaning.
  3. Hand wash separately: Wash by hand alone or with similar colours.
  4. Damp wipe: Surface clean only with a damp cloth or sponge.
  5. No bleach: Avoid the use of bleach.

For Home drying:

  1. Tumble dry: Tumble dry with no, low, medium or high heat.
  2. Tumble dry/remove promptly: Same as above. Remove the clothes promptly when the tumbling stops.
  3. Dry flat: Dry on a flat surface.
  4. Line dry: Hang damp for drying.
  5. Drip dry: Hang wet for drying with hand-shaping only.
  6. No wring/no twist: Avoid wringing. Hang dry, drip dry or dry flat only. Handle carefully to avoid wrinkles or distortion.
  7. Block to dry: Maintain original shape and size during drying.

For Ironing/pressing:

  1. Do not iron: Avoid ironing.
  2. Cool iron: Set iron at the lowest temperature.
  3. Warm iron: Set iron at the medium temperature.
  4. Hot iron: Set iron at the hot temperature.
  5. Iron damp: Dampen clothes before ironing.
  6. Steam iron: Iron or press with steam.

For Miscellaneous:

  1. Dry clean only: The garment should be dry cleaned only, including the self service.
  2. Professional dry clean only: Avoid dry cleaning by self service.
  3. No dry clean: Do not dry clean or use dry cleaning chemicals. Follow the care instructions.

It’s important to pay attention to care instructions to prevent unintentional damage to your items and ensure they remain in good condition for an extended period. Ignoring these instructions may lead to premature wear and tear, fading, or shrinkage, which can impact the longevity and appearance of the product.


  1. Care and Maintenance of Textile Products Including Apparel and Protective Clothing by Rajkishore Nayak and Saminathan Ratnapandian
  2. Garment Manufacturing Technology Edited by Rajkishore Nayak and Rajiv Padhye

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