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How To: Labeling Clothing for Daycare, School, and More

Labeling clothing is a back-to-school topic — and here we are, talking about it in the spring. I guess that’s just another piece of weirdness that came out of 2020.

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If your kids have been attending class from home, while you run Zoom meetings and answer emails, you may be both thrilled and unprepared for schools to reopen. Sure, having the kids home with you required some major adjustments. But there have been advantages too. When no one leaves the house, for example, hoodies and sweaters never get left at school. Think of all the money you saved, not having to replace lost garments every week.

Close-up of clothing label with name written on it to represent labeling clothing.

This is a topic I feel strongly about. My daughter can attest to this: I still give her a hard time about losing clothes on the kindergarten playground. She’s 28 years old, so perhaps I need to let it go?

5 ways to label clothes  

In any case, maybe I can spare you from blowing your household clothing budget on replacing things you’ve already bought once. Not that labeling clothes will keep junior from losing his cap or sweatshirt, but it may increase the chances that someone will return those lost pieces to you. Plus, if the kids are headed out to any kind of camp this summer, camp rules may require you to label everything anyway.

1. Sharpie

The Sharpie has always been my preferred method because it’s cheap and easy to implement. I still use a Sharpie today for my horse gear, which routinely mixes in with my barnmates’ stuff. Here are my best Sharpie labeling tips:

  • Write on the garment’s tag if you can. And put a piece of cardboard underneath it first, so the ink doesn’t bleed through to the garment itself.
  • Keep metallic Sharpies on hand to label darker garments and fabrics.
  • If there’s no tag or the tag isn’t big enough, write on masking tape and apply that to the garment.
  • Always use masking tape on garments that may be handed down or donated later.

2. Stickers

clothing labels 1

If you want a fancier, quicker method, you can buy sticky labels customized with your kid’s name. Cash’s Australia makes some super cute options that are quite versatile. These may have more longevity on lunchboxes, toys, and water bottles than clothes — but they will definitely last longer than the masking-tape-and-Sharpie approach.  

3.  Iron-on labels

Iron-on labels will be more durable than stickers or tape, but they can add stiffness to a garment or even ruin it if the iron is too hot. Keep the label small and use a low heat setting during application to minimize those issues.

You can buy custom iron-on labels, or make your own. The simplest way to make your own is to buy writable, iron-on clothing labels from Amazon. Alternatively, try The DIY Mommy’s tutorial to create more stylized iron-on clothing labels at home.

4. Sew-on labels

Sew-on labels are the most work but can produce the least intrusive and longest-lasting result. If the label is small enough, you can sew it right on the garment’s tag. Amazon sells blank sew-on labels which are very inexpensive ($12 for 100 of them).

You can also buy personalized, sew-on clothing labels. These obviously cost more than the blank ones, but they look much nicer. Many are constructed from woven ribbon so they’ll have the same look and feel as a regular garment tag.  

5. Laundry stamp  

A laundry stamp is a personalized rubber stamp that you use with permanent ink. The advantage of using a laundry stamp is that it doesn’t add anything extra to the garment (except for the ink of course).

You may need some practice, though, to perfect your stamping technique. Try stamping an unwanted cotton t-shirt first, until you have a feel for how much ink needs to be on the stamp and how much pressure you should apply. Also test how long it takes for the ink to dry completely. You don’t want it to come off in the wash and leave streaks.

Considerations for labeling clothing

The right labeling approach for you depends on:

  • How crafty you are. Sew-on labels are long-lasting, but also a lot of work.
  • How particular you are about how the label looks. You may not like the look of handwritten labels. In that case, order personalized ones or use your printer to make your own fancy labels.
  • Whether you plan on passing garments down to other kids or donating them. If someone else will eventually wear the clothes, don’t use a permanent labeling method. Try removable stickers or sew-on labels.
  • How much time you can dedicate to labeling. Personalized stickers and stamping are the quickest, nicest-looking solutions, but you have to order them.

Incidentally, you can use any of these clothes labeling techniques for teens, college-aged kids, seniors, or anyone else who might be using shared laundry.

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