How To Read Clothes Care Labels

Clothes care label symbols

Doing laundry can be confusing and reading clothes care labels might seem like trying to understand the Greek alphabet. Here’s a breakdown of what the labels mean so you can give your clothes the TLC they need.

The Law

The Federal Trade Commision (FTC) Care Labeling Rule

  • Requires that manufacturers provide labels with complete instructions about regular care for the garment, or provide warnings if the garment cannot be cleaned without harm.
  • Tags must provide at least one safe cleaning method and be attached visibly and securely.

Wording isn’t required and symbols can be used instead. Symbols used in the United States can vary from those used in other countries. Be aware that the clothing’s fabric can be labeled correctly, but sometimes trims, buttons and sequins can be added after the fact and aren’t always addressed on the label.

How to Read

Most labels are divided into six categories: washing, bleaching, drying, ironing, dry cleaning and warnings. Westbank Dry Cleaning can evaluate your dry cleanable garments and provide the best cleaning method available. Below is a chart for common clothing care labels and their meanings. Download it here.

clothes care symbol chart


There’s an App for That

For laundry at home, try the Laundry Day app for the iPhone. Simply scan a care label with your phone and once it recognizes the symbols tap the screen to bring up a detailed list of the symbols and what they mean. Download it for $1.39 on Itunes.

What If The Label Is Followed And Damage Occurs?

Remember, the care label instructions should apply to the entire garment. If you or your drycleaner followed the care instructions on the label and damage occurred, return the garment to the store where you purchased it from and explain what happened. If the store won’t resolve the problem, ask for the manufacturer’s name and contact them. It’s also important to know that while sometimes damage can occur on the first cleaning, it can also occur on the third, fifth, or tenth. The garment should withstand the cleaning method regardless of its age.

Is Deodorant Ruining Your Clothes?


sweat and deodorant ruin clothes

The Deodorant Dilemma

Summer heat and sweat. The two go hand in hand, or more like arm and arm. Going without deodorant can cause you to smell like a locker room, but deodorant can also wreak havoc on your clothes.

The Culprit

Deodorants and antiperspirants contain many chemicals including aluminum chloride, alcohol and fragrances. When these acidic ingredients bond with your sweat, they can stain, weaken and ruin your clothes.  Cotton, linen, rayon and synthetic blends are especially susceptible to stains and damage from aluminum chloride. And, your dry cleaner has no way of knowing that your underarm fabric is becoming weakened until the effects, such as discoloration or torn fabric, are visible – often after cleaning.

What Can You Do?

If your deodorant has a lot of alcohol (fragrance) or aluminum you will experience the discoloration more frequently. Try switching to a product that has a lower aluminum content and a neutral PH. Let your skin dry completely before applying deodorant and then allow your deodorant to completely dry before putting on your clothes. Wearing undershirts can protect your expensive dress shirts from stains and premature aging. Try to clean your clothes soon after wearing them and avoid leaving soiled clothing in hot cars before your trip to the dry cleaners. The heat can actually set stains and make matters worse.

What Happened with the Shirt Above?

Looking at the fine vertical tears it might appear that the shirt was damaged during the laundry and pressing process. It was sent to the National Center for Garment Analysis where lab experts carefully examine garments, test them and prepare an objective report on the cause and responsibility of the problem.  The report from the lab concluded that the holes in the shirt were caused by the chemical reaction of perspiration and antiperspirant. The chemical reaction degraded the fibers virtually making them dissolve. Unfortunately, once the damage has been done, it’s almost impossible to restore.


Wedding Gown Preservation

The Wedding Is Over What Do You Do With The Dress?

Your wedding gown is the centerpiece of your special day. It’s probably the most expensive outfit you’ve ever purchased so if you want to keep or sell it, you should have it cleaned and preserved to maintain its value. Sooner is definitely better than later. Don’t let that splash of champagne or stray bite of cake have time to yellow or become permanent.

So until you’re able to take your gown to be cleaned and preserved, be sure to keep it in a dark, dry place. Store it folded or rolled in a clean white sheet. Hanging is not recommended because it can cause stress to the fabric. Avoid plastic bags altogether! Plastic emits gases that yellow the fabric and plastic traps moisture, which can lead to mildewing.

Westbank Dry Cleaning’s wedding gown specialists carefully inspect your gown for stains, especially around the hemline. Beads and other trims are tested for cleanability and we determine the best method for cleaning your gown. After it’s cleaned, it’s inspected again and then hand pressed and returned to you in an acid-free, museum quality archival box that prevents yellowing and protects against insect damage and humidity. We can also preserve veils, gloves, purses and shoes. Trust Westbank Dry Cleaning for preserving your family memories.





Memorial Day is the official start of summer and there’s nothing fresher than a white suit or dress to kick off the summer season. The dirty truth is that most clothes yellow over time and bright white is not a natural fabric color, it’s a dye. Clothing manufacturers often add optical brighteners to achieve the white finish. The brighteners, which may be known by other names such as brightening agents, fluorescent bleaches, optical whiteners, fluorescent brighteners, or fluorescent whiteners – are chemical agents that work by absorbing ultraviolet light and turning it into visible blue light. It then masks any yellowing of your clothes that occur over time tricking your eyes into thinking that your clothes are whiter than they actually are. That’s why white clothing glows under a black light!

These brighteners have limited durability and consumers need to know that they will decompose over time…leaving behind a slightly duller garment than they originally purchased.  Dry Cleaning and laundering white clothing can accelerate the breakdown just as normal exposure to light, heat and atmospheric gases will. Certain light colored fabrics, particularly silk, simply yellow with age. At home, never bleach whites that are polyester or cotton/poly blends. The chemical reaction between the bleach and poly almost always yields a yellow result.

White clothes are cooler because they reflect light and no color is more fresh and crisp than white, so by all means, don’t avoid white clothing this summer! Just remember white doesn’t stay pristine forever and now you know why.

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Guest Blogger Miranda Darr with Quatro Austin

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Miranda Darr is the owner of Wardrobe MD and co-founder of Quatro Austin. 

With more than 20 years as a wardrobe stylist, Miranda provides luxury personal shopping  and styling advice through seasonal trunk shows of the Carlisle & Per Se Collections of New York.

You can contact her directly at for all your styling needs.

Is it time to reassess your wardrobe? Does your wardrobe need a few tweaks or a complete overhaul? Your personal style can change when your lifestyle changes, be it work, family, marital status and — yes – your age. Once a year, comb through your closet and take inventory of the outdated, then purge and finally prioritize your new purchases.

Here are three tips to build your wardrobe and refine your style:

Build your wardrobe so that all pieces flow seamlessly together. This helps keep the guesswork out of dressing every day.

Carlisle Per Se Wardrobe

  • Start with neutrals. You can build a fabulous outfit and add pops of color.
  • Basics are a must. Basics are items that you wear often, and can be easily mixed and matched with the other pieces in your closet. Basics include a pair of great jeans, a white button-up shirt, black pumps, a little black dress, a neutral blazer, a cardigan, a pencil skirt, and a pair of dress slacks.
  • One or two trendy items to mix it up every now and then can be fun, but knowing how to build a wardrobe means knowing that you shouldn’t spend too much money on trendy items.
Emphasize quality and buy what you love when you shop for clothes. Here are a few things to look for:

Carlisle per se wardrobe

  • Better quality garments have more stitches per inch and thus have tighter seams – and less of a chance to have the seam come apart.
  • You can really feel the difference between a good quality garment and one with lesser quality fiber content. Also Generally, natural fibers (silk, cotton, wool) stand up better than synthetics.
  • A lined skirt, jacket, dress, or pair of pants is usually a better investment than an unlined one. Lined garments glide on easier and layer better, so they’re worth more.
Always remember to incorporate some personality into your sense of style.

carlisle per se wardrobe


There is no need to be boring or try and clone someone else’s style exactly. Make sure you love your outfits you wear and that they genuinely reflect you.

Holiday Dress Code For The Guys

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Guest Blogger: Katie Fore with Tom James


Meet Katie Fore, guest blogger, stylist extraordinaire.

Katie is a professional clothier, sales trainer, and recruiter for the world’s largest men’s custom clothing company, Tom James. You can contact her directly for all your styling needs.

In this day and age, there seems to be more creative dress codes than we have clothing options. It can get quite confusing trying to figure out what to wear!  Here is a simplified version of some of the holiday dress codes for the guys that we see on invitations throughout the year.

Austin Chic

This one can be left up to a broad range of interpretations depending on the season, venue (indoors/outdoors) and occasion.  Use your better judgment…or a girlfriend/wife/significant other who can help direct you. With that being said, here are a few looks spanning the different seasons for weather-specific attire that looks pulled together without trying too hard.  Bolder patterned or uniquely-styled shirts, left untucked or tucked in, depending on your preference, paired with chino’s, jeans or flat-front shorts in the spring/summer.  During the cooler days, throw on a patterned or lighter colored sports coat.  Nothing says “gentleman” like a guy who offers a lady his jacket when the air turns colder.


Black Tie

Da Vinci said, “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Keep it simple. Tuxedo or dinner jacket. White tux shirt.  Bow tie for a more traditional formal look or solid black neck tie for more modern elegance.  Black socks.  Patent shoes.  Every guy over the age of 25 should own a classically styled tuxedo.

Semi Formal

No need for a full-blown tux, but a suit and tie is a must!  The darker the suit, the more formal the look.  Don’t be the guy caught underdressed at these occasions.  You can always take off your tie or jacket, but if you show up without one and everyone else has one on, well….


Generally reserved for holidays or themed events and special occasions, this one can be a bit tricky. In Austin, a nicely tailored solid sports coat or blazer goes a long way and not unlike the Semi-Formal suit, the darker the jacket the more formal the look.  In the winter, throw a tailored velvet or corduroy jacket over slacks or jeans and a button up shirt for a fun and festive flair. In the warmer months, a solid lightweight wool jacket will do nicely.


The Truth About “Dry Clean Only”

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Dry Clean Only Care Label

How often do you check the care label before you buy a new garment? If it says Dry Clean Only, is that the only way to clean it? The Federal Trade Commission requires that every garment purchased have a sewn-in care label that supplies at least one safe method for cleaning. There may be other acceptable methods that can be used, but the manufacturer lists the preferred and most conservative method first. Sometimes instructions for care are for the fabric rather than for trim, such as sewn-on or even glued beading or sequins. The label should also warn against any cleaning process that might harm the garment.

One of the biggest frustrations dry cleaners face is an inaccurate or missing care label on clothing. On top of that, there isn’t an internationally recognized care label system at the present time, so clothing manufactured outside North America might use different symbols. An important fact to note is just because an item is expensive doesn’t translate into an equivalent level of quality or serviceability.

So what’s a consumer to do?

  • First, when buying unique clothing, such as designer labels, most outerwear, ski outfits, blended fabrics and garments with contrasting colors…(think black and white), definitely check out the care label BEFORE getting out the credit card.
  • Many formal gowns and dresses have care labels that say, “Spot Clean Only”, this means that the item cannot safely be submerged in any type of solvent or water and there is no safe way to completely clean the garment.
  • Lined clothing like jackets, suits, skirts and pants should absolutely be dry cleaned. Taffeta, wool, silk, leather and suede items should be left to the pros. Same goes for velvet, acetate and many rayon items. Garments with metal embellishments, fancy sequins or trim, usually require special care as well.
  • Finally and most important, if you’re considering buying a questionable garment, ask the store if they can provide information about cleaning. What is their policy on returning items that have cleaning issues? Have they heard any feedback from other customers? If they can’t provide a satisfactory answer, put your credit card back in your wallet and move along!

Yes, some garments can be washed that say Dry Clean Only, but if you don’t want to risk ruining it, send it to a professional.

How Often should clothes be dry cleaned?

We hear this question often and wanted to give you some guidelines from The Drycleaning and Laundry Institute. Despite information to the contrary, professional dry cleaning will actually prolong the life of a garment.  In fact, it’s the oils, body salts, cologne, perfumes, hair products, insoluble soil, rain, food and beverage stains that  will shorten the life of your garment.

First and foremost, a person’s body heat, activity, and the clothing’s stains largely determine cleaning frequency. If a garment is soiled or affected by perspiration or odor, it should be dry-cleaned as soon as possible. Light color garments and frequently worn clothes are especially susceptible to dirt and require more frequent cleaning. Have all matching pieces such as suits cleaned at the same time. This prevents any inconsistencies resulting from color changes. Always clean your garments before storing away for a season. Moths and insects are attracted to oil and perspiration.
Below are some more specific guidelines based on the Texas climate:

  • Clean EVERY other wearing: Tuxedo, Dress, Skirt, Wool dress pants, Wool suit, Lightweight Suit, Sportcoat or Blazer, Sweaters
  • Clean EVERY wearing: Evening wear, Cotton laundered shirt, Blouse particularly silk, Polo Shirt, khakis and lightweight dress pants
  • Clean at the End of the Season: Coats and other outerwear
There has been a lot of misinformation about gender pricing at the dry cleaners and we’d like to set the record straight. At Westbank Dry Cleaning, the cost to clean a woman’s pant and a man’s is the same.The cost to clean a woman’s coat is always going to be the same price as a man’s. But when we start talking about shirts it gets a little muddy.

Executive Director of the National Cleaner’s Association, Nora Nealis, responded to President Obama’s reference to dry cleaning and gender pricing with the following statement: “As an industry, dry cleaners do not charge more for a woman’s shirt than a man’s shirt, they charge more for a hand ironed shirt than they do a machine pressed shirt. The price is in the math as calculated by the labor required not the gender of the client! Simple math. Hand ironing takes more time and requires more skill, and therefore costs the cleaner more to produce.”

First, an explanation for the difference between pressing and hand finishing. Most garments require
a combination of machine pressing and hand ironing to achieve the desired finish. A commercial laundry
has special “assembly line style” machines that can press a typical button-up cotton shirt without any
hand ironing. With these machines, units can press hundreds of shirts an hour. This “mass production”
keeps cleaning costs lower. It takes multiple machines and operators to finish one shirt. One part presses
the body of the shirt, another the collar and cuffs.

The shirts are pressed while they are wet between hot, nearly 400°F, metal plates. This gives shirts a
crisp and somewhat stiffer look and feel. Most synthetic fabrics melt and distort in the high temperatures
used by the automated shirt laundry presses, which are designed to get the wrinkles out of thick cotton
shirts, requiring a great deal of heat, steam and pressure. If a women’s shirt meets the criteria and size
(up to 20 inches across) to fit the commercial presses, then it absolutely can be pressed and priced the
same as a man’s laundered shirt.

Laundry Shirt3000 px
Shirts that don’t meet these criteria are handled differently.  They are either dry cleaned or washed, and then dried. In order to achieve a quality finish, they need steam and a combination of machine and hand pressing. Women’s blouses come in an extremely wide variety of fabric types and may have fancy buttons, contain spandex, trims or other ornamentation. These variations can change dramatically from season to season with the latest changes in fashion. This prevents the machine manufacturers from developing presses that will fit the majority of women’s blouses. Men’s shirts are almost always made of 100% cotton or a cotton/polyester blend, and have more or less looked the same for over 100 years.

So I’d like to finish with the Obama letter from the National Cleaners Association for a final point. Nora Neilis asks: “I’m sure you’re wondering, why don’t manufacturers make a machine to press women’s shirts? It’s simply economics for a small business. Like most male professionals, you wear a shirt most every day. That means you have lots of shirts that need to be cleaned and pressed by the end of the week. It makes sense for a dry cleaner to purchase a machine that costs upwards of $50,000 to press those shirts, correct? By contrast, how often does the First Lady or your average American woman wear a simple, cotton boxy shirt?”

The photo below tells the story:Obama podium group_p110912sh-0083

Saying “YES” To Customer Service

Secret Shoppers Give Westbank Dry Cleaning Highest Overall Score in the U.S.

Customer satisfaction is at the heart and soul of Westbank Dry Cleaning. That’s why we are so proud to announce that we were honored with the first-ever YES! Award for “Year of Exceptional Service 2014” at the Clean Show in Atlanta on April 18th. The award was presented by MarketWise, a national mystery-shopping consulting company.

Westbank Dry Cleaning wins "YES" award for exceptional customer service 2014(Left to right) Westbank’s William Charnes and Stacey Luster receiving the “Yes!” 2014 Award from Carolyn Nankervis, President of MarketWise Consulting Group, Inc.

To be eligible for the YES! Award, all eight of our locations were secretly shopped six times throughout the year. The awards were based on 540 mystery shopper visits at participating cleaners across the nation.

The program consists of an evaluation of the counter person at drop off and pick up, and an overall evaluation of the quality of the cleaning and the customer service experience.
Westbank received the highest overall score in the country across all categories!

We are especially appreciative and proud of our staff for their dedication to a high standard for customer care. The YES! Award is a direct result of their commitment and expertise. When we meet and exceed industry standards, the real credit belongs to them.

3 Tricks to Look Your Best in Photos

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Meet the Stylist Miranda Darr

Miranda is this month’s guest blogger and she shares how to prep for photos by wearing the right outfit so you’ll always hit them with your best shot!  Here are 3 tricks to look your best in photos:


Miranda Darr 880 px

Miranda Darr is an expert wardrobe and image consultant, stylist and personal shopper.  She is the owner of Quatro Austin, a Carlisle & Per Se Collection showroom. (Spring, Summer, Fall & Holiday) by personal invitation & appointment.  For more information on her services visit




Structured Shoulders

Tops with structured shoulders will give your entire upper body definition. A fitted blazer or blouse with “peaked shoulders” can work well. These items will add clean lines and help you look sharp in a photo.

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Dress in a “Column of Color

(All one color) – Coordinate your colors by wearing a monochromatic theme. Wearing a color column is a simple, chic and slimming look. (make sure the color is that is flattering to your skin tone).

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Wear a Slim, Dark Pant

A black trouser or skinny jean looks good on most everyone. Avoid wearing something oversized and bulky.

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Once associated with edgy musicians and bikers, leather comes in so many chic trends this season. Anything from dresses to leggings, vests and outerwear.   You’ll see traditional colors as well as vibrant hues. Here are 10 tips to keep leather clothing looking luxurious, so you can enjoy them for many seasons:


10 tips for keeping leather clothing looking luxurious


  1. Wear a scarf around your neck to keep the collar from being soiled by the oil in your skin.
  2. If a leather garment gets wet, blot with a white cloth and dry it out in a cool, dry place on a broad padded hanger. Do not put it in the dryer.
  3. Avoid carrying heavy objects like keys or a cell phone in the pockets as this will stretch out the skin.
  4. Avoid spraying perfumes or hair spray while wearing.
  5. Don’t apply pins or adhesive name badges on leather.
  6. Saddle soap is best used on saddles. It shouldn’t be used on leather clothing since it may cause streaking and staining.
  7. If an item is wrinkled, you can press it using the coolest setting on your iron, BUT NEVER USE STEAM. Use a heavy brown craft paper as your pressing pad and always do a test spot on an inconspicuous section.
  8. Use breathable fabric bags to store leather items. DO NOT store leathers in plastic bags. They can promote a moist environment for mold or mildew to grow.
  9. Clean matching garments at the same time since some variation in color may occur.
  10. Hang leather garments on padded hangers. Avoid folding items in a drawer to avoid deep wrinkles.


If staining occurs, the garment needs to be cleaned ASAP by a professional leather cleaner. Don’t try to remove it yourself. The danger is you start removing the color, and then it’s harder than ever to get out and restore. And remember that even thought a leather coat may not look dirty; it’s best not to wait more than two seasons to have it professionally cleaned.


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