How to Put Labels on Clothing for a Nursing Home


Certified Care Manager, Aging Life Care Professional, and National Master Guardian Emeritus

Putting a parent into a nursing home can seem like a chaotic and overwhelming experience. Most nursing homes assign shared rooms to new residents unless they have a private room available and you pay more. If your loved one is going into a nursing home, they likely have complex medical and personal care needs that can only be met in such an intensive level of care.

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You may be thinking of a nursing home placement as temporary, or it may be long-term. As you take steps to place a loved one in a nursing home, there are many tasks and a complicated nursing home admission process.After all of the details are taken care of, making your loved one as comfortable as possible is your primary focus. 

Comfort can be hard to come by in a nursing home environment, but it is achievable. Most nursing home rooms are small, with little space for personal items. To the extent that you can comfortably do so, photos and other important things bring your loved one comfort.

Clothes are another way your loved one shows that they care about their appearance. Unfortunately, losing clothes in nursing homes is a common occurrence. Labeling your loved one’s clothing is the best way to keep from permanently losing essential items of clothing.

Do You Have to Put Labels on Your Clothing When You Live in a Nursing Home?

It is not a legal requirement to put labels on your clothing when you live in a nursing home, but most nursing homes will strongly suggest or even make it mandatory. There is no reason to fight it even though it’s inconvenient. Otherwise, if you don’t label clothing, the nursing home may claim not to be responsible for lost items. You don’t want to spend your valuable time running down missing clothing, and neither does the staff. 

There are two main ways clothing gets lost in nursing homes. The first is in the laundry. If you think about the number of residents in a nursing home and the amount of laundry done each day, items get lost. Busy staff collect laundry from multiple rooms and do huge loads day in and day out. Your loved one will most likely have a laundry day assigned to them.

The second way clothing gets lost is that other residents who have dementia wander into other people’s rooms and take or get dressed in your loved one’s clothes. This happens more often than you might think, and it is virtually impossible to track down the missing items if they aren’t labeled. Finally, a resident might mistakenly claim that a piece of clothing is theirs, and you have no way of knowing unless the garment is labeled.  

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What Information Should You Include on a Clothing Label?

The information you include on a clothing label is up to you, but you want enough information that the clothing can be returned to your loved one. Consider first and last name and room number. 

If you don’t feel comfortable indicating the last name, use just the first name and room number, and possibly a phone number. The more information, however, the easier it is to keep track of your loved one’s clothing.

How to Attach Clothing Labels for Nursing Home Residents

There are many ways to label clothing in a nursing home, and your decision could be based on convenience, durability, and cost. There is no perfect solution for everyone, and you may try one method and find that another might be better. 

As you think about labeling clothes, also consider choosing a simple wardrobe that doesn’t take up a lot of space and is easier to keep track of. You may even have a summer wardrobe to keep at the nursing home that you can change out when the weather turns colder.

Fabric marker or sharpie

The fastest and, in some ways, most straightforward way to label clothing is with a permanent marker or Sharpie. Most people write on the inside of the top of a piece of clothing. A marker will generally last through several washings without fading. 

The downside of marker? It doesn’t look attractive, and the ink can bleed through when applying. Also, many consignment shops will not accept clothing with a permanent marker on it. Still, this is the fastest option.

Iron-on clothing labels

Iron-on clothing labels take a bit more work but can look better. Permanent markers usually accompany the labels. But, some people find them uncomfortable, and they can be a challenge to remove. If your loved one attempts to remove an iron-on label, it can tear the fabric.

Stick-on labels

Stick-on labels don’t require an iron and can be ordered with information pre-printed, so you don’t have to write on the label. Although stick-on labels purport to be laundry safe, they may come off after multiple washings. 

You can also order these labels in different sizes. Even the company Avery makes fabric stick-on labels, but you have to write the information on the tag before applying it to the material.

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Ink stamps

Ink stamps allow you to customize the label with the information you want and then stamp it directly onto the fabric. The final product looks nice because it has a typed look. The claim is that the ink stamp lasts through multiple washings. You can also use the ink stamp to label suitcases, purses, backpacks, books, and papers. 

Plastic tags

A plastic tag is like a price tag you see in a department store. It is attached to a strong plastic line and is resistant to washing. A plastic tag can be attached to the inside seam, a hem, or the care label. Some plastic tags will require a tagging gun, and others won’t. Some people may not like the feel of a tag attached to a plastic line so make sure you place it where it is less noticed. 

Sew-in labels

Sew-in labels are for people who want a very personalized and creative look, but they are time-consuming. You can order a wide range of custom labels, and then you can sew them into the clothing. There are a range of colors and designs.

How to Remove Clothing Labels

Often applying a clothing label is much easier than removing it. You might want to think about the removal process before deciding on the label method. If you plan to donate your loved one’s clothes and pass them on to another family member, removal is an important consideration. 

How to remove fabric marker or sharpie

Removing a fabric marker or sharpie could be the most challenging type of label to remove. Most people recommend rubbing alcohol. You can dab rubbing alcohol around the stain and then on it. Put a paper towel underneath. After the stain is removed, wash the article of clothing. You can also try nail polish remover, hairspray, vinegar, and some people swear by milk.

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How to remove iron-on clothing labels

Removing iron-on labels can be tricky. Start by setting your iron to medium/high heat and turn off the steam setting. Place the piece of clothing flat on an ironing board and cover the label with a sheet of parchment paper. Apply steady pressure and iron on top of the parchment paper for 10-15 seconds. Once the label is heated, use a pair of tweezers and carefully pull up one corner of the label to remove it.

How to remove stick-on labels

Removing stick-on labels is more about how to get the adhesive out of the material once you remove the label. Depending on the fabric type, these are the methods to remove adhesive residue.

Use warm water and dish soap but place the piece of clothing in the freezer first for about an hour to harden the glue.  Remove the glue that you can, then wet the shirt and rub it with a microfiber cloth and a little dish soap to remove any residue. 

If that doesn’t work, heat undiluted distilled white vinegar until it is very warm. Dip a sponge in the warm vinegar and squeeze it over the sticky area until it is saturated. The adhesive should begin to loosen, and you can scrape it with a dull knife.

The other method is to use a stain removing solvent. Try to scrape off as much glue as you can first. Then apply the stain removing solvent, or soak for a few minutes. Use a dull knife to remove the glue residue. Make sure you check for colorfastness before using this method. 

How to remove ink stamps

Try hair spray to loosen the ink stains. Then soak the garment in warm water with a half teaspoon of dishwashing liquid and one tablespoon of vinegar for about 30 minutes. Rinse with water and let dry. 

If this method does not work, try applying rubbing alcohol to the stain and cover it with a pad soaked in alcohol. Continue until the stain is lifted. Soak in warm water dishwashing liquid for any remaining residue and one tablespoon of ammonia for 30 minutes. Rinse with water.

How to remove plastic tags

Removing plastic tags simply requires a pair of scissors to cut the plastic tag to remove it.

How to remove sew-in labels

For a sewn-on label, you will need to cut the label out using care not to leave holes or cut the fabric. Using a seam ripper can help you expose the thread more quickly. 

Use a small pair of scissors if you have them to cut carefully, and then use tweezers to remove loose threads once the label is off. 

Nursing Home Labels for Clothing

Of all the things you worry about with your loved one in a nursing home, keeping track of clothing is one task you can control with labels. 

Your loved one may be feeling a loss of independence and personal items are a small way for them to feel nurtured and supported.


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