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Washing Symbols: An Overview

Do you ever check the washing instructions, symbols, and information on your clothes and on your kids’ clothes before you wash them? Some of us do, some of us don’t, but “Check the label” is always one of the first pieces of advice we’re given when we ask friends for laundry tips.

Laundry symbols are considered the ultimate ‘go to’ guide, but just how important they really are? Do we really need to play by the book, or can we cheat a little and still see the same great results?

Wash Type & Temperature

The basic washing symbol is usually the first thing you’ll check on a label, as it tells you whether an item can be washed using a standard wash or not (if you don’t know what it looks like, take a look at this handy guide). This is one of the care label symbols that you genuinely need to pay attention to, as it shows whether an item can be washed regularly at 30-40 degrees, or whether it needs a more gentle setting.

Cottons, for example, can be washed at high temperatures (which is great for removing bacteria and dead skin cells from your bath towels), whereas woolly jumpers need a cooler wash to avoid shrinkage.

There is one exception, however. Some garments may say that they are hand wash only – but who has time for that? Not busy mums! Some good quality washing machines, such as the Siemens iQ800 , offer a hand wash setting that treats clothes just as gently as your own hands, without the extra effort. With the Siemens model, a VarioSoft drum softly tosses the clothes rather than vigorously spinning them.

Do if you’ve got a garment that says it should be hand-washed, but you just don’t have the time or the energy to stand over the basin for the next 30 minutes, you can trust the hand wash setting on your washing machine.

The Drying Care Label

Washing instruction symbols also include advice on how to dry your clothes, and it’s recommended you follow this advice – it’s quite valuable. If a label says: “Line dry only”, it’s because the clothing manufacturer wants you to wait longer for dry clothes – to make sure your clothes stay intact! Synthetic fabrics, for example, can begin to melt in the high temperature of the tumble dryer, and wool can start to shrink.

Similarly, there are times when a label may recommend tumble drying over line drying. It might seem odd, but some very thick or very large items such as duvet covers can take an eternity to dry naturally. They can even begin to smell musty and act as a breeding ground for mould and bacteria if they’re not dried quickly – unpleasant!

Ironing & Bleaching

Would you step out of the house in a blouse that hasn’t been ironed? Perhaps not, but some fabrics shouldn’t be ironed, and the wash care symbols on your clothing will indicate whether this is the case. Suede, lycra and fleece are some examples of fabrics that should be kept far away from an iron: they can start to melt, even when ironing on a very low temperature.

But don’t worry; you don’t need to go to the shops looking like you’ve just been dragged through a hedge. The next time you take a bath or shower, hang the clothes up in the bathroom – the steam should relax the fabric and the wrinkles should just fall out.

As for bleaching, bleach not only weakens the fibres of some fabrics, but it can also turn some white clothing yellow. You’ll usually find that any garment made from animal fibres (such as leather or wool) can’t be bleached, whereas many plant fibres can. However, if you’ve got a tough stain, you often don’t really need to use bleach at all.

A good stain removal detergent is enough to practically remove any kind of stain, including grass, ink, and tomato sauce! Be sure to check out our tips on ironing to help make laundry time easier for you!

Use Your Initiative

Wash care symbols are there for a reason – they’re there to make sure your clothing look better for longer – but it’s important to use your initiative at the same time. If in doubt, a gentle, cool wash of around 30 degrees celsius should get most types of clothing clean without damage, but you’ll see much better results if you follow the advice on your labels.

Washing Symbols and Our Matic Moms

Our panel of Matic Moms knows how important it is to look out for the washing symbols on their clothes when they do the laundry! Here are some of their top tips about washing symbols:

“Always follow the care symbols it will help your clothing look better for longer.”

“Segregate white clothes and coloured clothes while doing laundry.”

“It is better to follow wash care symbol to protect our expensive clothes.”

“Symbols are not just fancy ways of drawing, but are a message in the shortest way possible.”

“Clothes with heavy work should be given to dry cleaning rather than machine cleaning.”

“Always use the advice of wash care symbols before washing them for the first time.”

“I always wash light clothes and dark clothes separate. Also follow separate speed for delicate clothes. And for tough clothes like jeans and bedsheets I use warm water.”

“Wash clothes according to their symbolic instruction for better wash and clothes care.”

“I always check for labels. I have clothes sorting baskets: whites, coloured, dark, and heavy duty. When I accumulate enough for a load, I wash them separately.”

Do you always check the wash care symbols before cleaning your clothes for the first time? Do you have any laundry rules of your own? Share your thoughts in the comment box below!