Hitting the symbols

18 August 2021

UKFT’s Adam Mansell takes us through the history and development of textile care symbols from their inception to the present day – and beyond

Rumour has it that the original care symbols were a cat and a fish. A fish likes water so it meant you could wash the garment, a cat doesn’t like water and therefore the product couldn’t be washed.

Things have moved on considerably since then and there is now a wide range of more than 30 symbols all of which are predominantly aimed at helping the consumer look after their clothes. In 2012, the last revision of the care labelling standard (ISO 3758) saw the introduction of a range of symbols that gave consumers more information on natural drying – hang dry, line dry and so on. The current revision which should be published shortly has resulted in very few changes will see an amendment of the professional care symbols to allow for better identification of ‘new’ cleaning processes such as cleaning in hydrocarbons and using ‘new’ ingredients such as Greenearth.

Care labels are sometimes dismissed as being too complex or perversely not detailed enough. But a recent survey of over 1,000 consumers across Europe revealed that 80% of consumers consider that the textile care is useful and even more encouragingly the vast majority (71%) follow the label’s care instructions.

Brands and retailers are increasingly using the care symbols to help consumers reduce the amount of energy they use in caring for their clothes. Estimates vary but something in the region of 40% of the energy used in the lifecycle of a garment is used in aftercare.

A survey conducted by GINETEX, the owner of the care symbols suggestz that retailers are right to focus on the environment with

¦ 81% of EU consumers wanting to reduce energy and water use

¦ 72% knowing they can make an impact during the cleaning process

¦ 87% of consumers trying to wash in an environmentally friendly way

¦ 65% actively choosing to wash at a lower temperature

To reflect the increasing focus of the consumer on the environmental impact of cleaning, GINETEX, the owner of the care symbols, have introduced a new mark called CLEVERCARE an ‘eco-care’ logo to encourage and educate the consumer to extend the life of garments and to reduce the impact of cleaning on the climate.

The five key messages CLEVERCARE doesn’t introduce a new symbol instead it promotes five key messages to consumers:

¦ Don’t wash too often

¦ Lower the temperature

¦ Reduce the amount you tumble dry

¦ Only iron when necessary

¦ Only go to a dry cleaner when necessary

Major retailers such as ASOS, H&M and Lidl use the CLEVERCARE logo to help promote new textile care habits.

GINETEX has also launched a series of videos, cartoons and a website available in a dozen different languages to help spread the message for a more ‘environmentally friendly’ approach to after care. And earlier this year they also launched the MY CARE LABEL app which helps consumers understand the labels on their clothes and also gives a wide range of useful hints and tips on how to remove stains from particular fabric types etc.

Retailers are looking to take things one step further – either by replacing the care symbols with a QR code or by looking at embedding RFID technology into clothes which would automatically ‘talk’ to a washing machine to tell them how dirty the garment was, what it was made of and what wash cycle would suit it best.

All this is a long way from the simplicity of the original care labels but so are the clothes we wear, the way we buy them and our attitude to the environment.

Adam Mansell

Privacy Policy
We have updated our privacy policy. In the latest update it explains what cookies are and how we use them on our site. To learn more about cookies and their benefits, please view our privacy policy. Please be aware that parts of this site will not function correctly if you disable cookies. By continuing to use this site, you consent to our use of cookies in accordance with our privacy policy unless you have disabled them.