Make Your Family’s Laundry Tags More Useful

Make Your Family’s Laundry Tags More Useful

I’m the doer of laundry for my family and as my kids have grown older, it’s gotten tougher to tell some of their clothes apart. That’s why I developed this simple colour-coded system for our clothing tags.

There are three parts to my system. The first is simple colour-coding by family member to make it easy to tell at a glance which clothes belong to which people. Let each family member pick out a distinct colour. You can use laundry markers for this, but I’ve found that Sharpies work just as well and are a bit cheaper. Our colour codes work like this:

  • Dad = Black
  • Mum = Red
  • Son = Blue
  • Daughter = Green

If all you want to do is colour code items, just put a mark or big dot on the tag to make it easier to tell clothes apart. I wanted to go a step further, though, because I figured I could make those tags work better for me. Instead of reading the instructions or codes on each tag, I created a letter system. And, of course, I do the lettering in the chosen colour for each family member.

A three-letter code indicates a normal wash. The first letter shows the washer setting:

  • R = regular
  • D = delicate
  • H = hand wash (the machine setting, not actually hand washing)
  • W = whites (again, a setting on my machine)
  • J = jeans

The second letter shows the water temp:

  • c = cold
  • w = warm
  • h = hot

And the third letter shows the drying method:

  • R = regular
  • L = low temp
  • H = hang to dry
  • F = lie flat to dry

So, for example, if a tag has RcR, I know that means a regular wash setting, cold water, and a regular dryer setting. If a tag has DcF, that means a delicate wash setting, cold water, and lie it flat to dry rather than use the dryer. I don’t have to search tags to figure out what to do with each one. I can tell at a glance. I devised these codes based on our washer settings and what we commonly use, so when you create your codes, create them based on how you do your laundry.

I also used a two-letter code to indicate special instructions, and I really only have two of those I deal with:

  • dc = dry-clean
  • hw = hand wash

Note that I also used a combination of upper- and lower-case letters. That really just makes it even easier to read at a glance. I know it seems like overkill, especially when you have tags with instructions already available, but if you do clothes for a whole family, many of whom wear nearly the same sizes, you won’t believe how much faster you’ll be able to tackle Mount Laundry.


  • Or try this much simpler 3 step process
    1. Only buy clothes that don’t need any special washing or drop lint.
    2. Have everyone keep their own dirty wash basket.
    3. Was each basket separately.

  • Jesus, people actually sort out their clothing according to care instructions? Apart from a few items which I get drycleaned (suits etc), I just throw everything in the same wash. Never had any issues.

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