Why You Can't Always Trust Your Clothing Care Label

Posted on: 27 April 2015

Most people rely on the instructions on a sewn-in care label to tell them how to wash and dry their clothing. It makes sense that if you follow the information on the tag, that your clothing will get clean and stay in good shape for a reasonable amount of time.

But clothing labels can't always be trusted. In theory, you should be able to return an item of clothing to the place you purchased it if you followed care instructions and damage resulted anyway. But in reality, it can be difficult to prove you did provide the proper care, and the store may not accept the return.

Here are two reasons why your clothing may suffer from incorrect care instructions.

1. It's white.

White clothing is difficult to keep bright, but it may not be entirely your fault. Most white fabrics are actually slightly off-white, but manufacturers add a brightener to make it a more pure white color. Over time, even when cared for properly, the brightener will wear off and the clothing item will look yellowed. To maximize the time your white clothing stays white, try this:

  • Wash all pieces of a set together. That way they won't change colors at different times, which will be extremely noticeable.
  • Wash whites only with other white items.
  • Don't overcrowd the washing machine, so the white items get uniformly cleaned.
  • Take it to a professional dry cleaners to have it bleached or brightened without damage.

2. It's made of rayon, silk or wool.

Some fibers are just difficult to clean. Here's why these three are hardest:

  • Wool can vary tremendously in quality. Even if you follow the care instructions for a cheap wool garment, or have it professionally dry cleaned, it may wrinkle or look faded quickly.
  • Silk doesn't always hold dye well, depending again on the quality of the material, the dye and how it is worn. You may notice that the colors fade relatively quickly compared to other fabrics.
  • Rayon, which is a manmade fiber, usually needs a stiffener, called sizing, to hold its shape. This can easily get stained or break down to make the item unwearable. Some finishes for fabric reduce the amount of staining.

For best results with these fabrics, buy quality pieces and always have them professionally dry cleaned, even if the care instructions say hand washing is possible.

You may also have trouble cleaning clothing that has decorations like large buttons, chains or embellishments. Those are best sent to the dry cleaners, as well. And don't hesitate to take your questions to your professional cleaner and ask for advice. They have tools and processes in place that can remove stains and restore good-quality clothing to its former glory.