‘Care Instructions’ Rant

Care Instructions have this annoying tendency of failing to distinguish between very important instructions – ones that if you fail to follow will result in your purchase suffering a severe defect – and the less important ones that just help preserve looks but not function, as such.

This applies more to clothes, but it does apply to bed linen too.

  • Will washing your ‘warm gentle machine wash only’ sheets with hot or a more thorough wash cycle damage them?
  • Will they be horribly shrunk?
  • Will they fade extra fast?
  • Or will they wash just fine and the manufacturers are just covering all possible outcomes for all possible items even though they don’t apply to this particular item?

The sheets will actually most likely be fine, and if they really are 100% cotton you’re probably even safe to put them on a more intensive cottons-only wash. The label doesn’t tell you that. But it does tell you that your sheets ‘may be tumble dried low’. If you tumble dry it on a higher setting, that will most likely result in shrinkage. That said, some shrinkage will probably occur when washing regardless of how your sheets are washed and dried.

So how useful are these labels?

I suppose you can always call the manufacturer – if they’re the kind to offer such support, that is, and if they even know what will affect your sheets and how rather than just what they print on the label.

Clothing is usually more dangerous since it varies more in make. For example, my nice good quality jacket with a good quality metal zip apparently doesn’t do too well with being tumble dried. It does say not to tumble dry, but it also says to machine wash in cold water and with like colours. And yet it has kept its colour alright with an everyday warm/hot wash and other colours, so clearly that rule isn’t so important. But the good quality zip has developed problems since being tumble dried a number of times. And zipper problems are no joke: the meticulous work to get the zipper back down again and how this happens every time you try to zip your jacket is an unnecessary frustration. And your zip is never the same again, when you originally paid a good price for good quality. All because you lacked the prior knowledge to realise which Care Instructions you could afford to ignore and which were better adhered to. And yet the very same rule would not matter if it weren’t for the zip, but I imagine there would be no difference in the Care Instructions labelling.

There is clearly some information lacking in Care Instruction labels – such as how important each instruction is, what might happen if you don’t follow it and how likely that is to happen.

The current system is only optimal when everyone has the wisdom and experience to gauge all these factors from the insufficiently informative label. So, really, it’s not all that optimal.