What a Care Label can Tell You about Heat Printing

Laundry Care Label of a garment can help determine how to heat print it.

Laundry Care Label of a garment can help determine how to heat print it.

The care label that apparel manufacturers are required to attach to blank apparel indicating the fabric contents and recommended washing instructions is a small tag that many of us overlook when it comes to preparing to decorate custom apparel. We should all know that the fabric content is an important factor in deciding which type of heat transfer works best on that material. But did you also know that there’s another piece of information on the care label that can help you as a heat printer?

The little symbols on the care label are instructions on how to wash the garment. The symbols describe the type of Wash Cycle, Bleaching Instructions, Dry Cycle, Iron Settings and Dry Cleaning care that’s needed to properly wash the fabric. These symbols used are universal as the same symbols are used on any garment no matter what country it was manufactured.

Since we are essentially using an industrial “iron” to heat apply our screen printed and digital transfers, the Iron Settings is a key piece of information on a garment care label that every heat printer should look at. The Iron Setting is shown as a small iron with a number of dots in the center to indicate the recommended temperature setting that the fabric can be ironed with.

CaptureAn iron symbol with a line through it indicates the fabric should not be ironed. This is a WARNING to all heat printers that the fabric should not be subject to heat, hence, should not be decorated using a heat press. *Note: Many standard blank apparel items that are sold for the purpose of decorating and selling, such as a standard Cotton t-shirt, will have a “Do Not Iron” symbol on the label. This shows that the garment is meant to have a decoration on it, and the decoration isn’t to be ironed.


UK3-3.14.1_IronOnLow3An iron symbol with a single dot indicates a Low Iron Setting which is about 250 degrees F. Looking for a this setting will show you that the fabric requires a very low temperature and a specialty transfer will need to be used that has a very low temperature application. Fabrics such as Acetate and Acrylic are among this group and is generally not recommended that these fabrics be heat printed however there are heat transfer options that can be tested on the fabric.


UK3-3.14.2_IronOnMedium2The symbol of an iron with two dots is a medium temperature setting of about 300 degrees F. These fabrics will include Nylon, Polyester, Rayon, and Spandex. There are heat transfers available such as Elasti Prints® or CAD-PRINTZ® Opaque that can be tested on these fabrics that require a medium ironing temperature.


UK3-3.14.3_IronOnHigh2The iron symbol with three dots indicates a higher temperature for fabrics such as Cotton and Linen. These fabrics can withstand higher heats without scorching the fabric. Heat transfer types such as Goof Proof®, Hot Split, and Glitter can be used to decorate fabrics with three dots inside the iron symbol on the care label.

UK3-3.15_DryClean3As you can see the care label explains more than you knew. There’s more information hidden inside the small fabric care labels such as the Dry Clean Only symbol is a clear indication that the fabric is not recommended to be decorated with heat transfers. Some garment decoration graphics are not formulated to withstand the chemicals and other processes of dry cleaning.

The next time you’re going to decorate blank apparel, take a look at the care label and look at what the Iron Symbols tell you to help determine what type of heat printing is preferred. As always, if you are unsure whether the apparel can be heat printed or not, ask one of our Dealer Services Representatives for assistance. We can also provide samples of our heat transfers for testing.


Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 3 comments
Mary C Moore

I bought some aprons for my granddaughter. Washed them and they obviously need ironed but care label says do not iron prints. What do I do?

Dealer Services

Hi Mary,
You don’t want to iron over the print directly, but you can cover with a cover sheet or kraft paper, and then it should be fine.

Mia Evans

I like that you talked about label printing care instructions that would tell how to wash certain garments and include useful symbols to inform the owners as well. Because of that, people who plan to venture into the clothing industry have to make sure that they include this in the actual piece. As a consumer, it will give me an impression that they want to make sure that the quality of their product will not easily get damaged.


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