Class I histone deacetylases (HDACs) are cellular enzymes expressed in many tissues and play crucial roles in differentiation, proliferation, and cancer. HDAC1 and HDAC2 in particular are highly homologous proteins that show redundant or specific roles in different cell types or in response to different stimuli and signaling pathways. The molecular details of this dual regulation are largely unknown. HDAC1 and HDAC2 are not only protein modifiers, but are in turn regulated by post-translational modifications (PTMs): phosphorylation, acetylation, ubiquitination, SUMOylation, nitrosylation, and carbonylation. Some of these PTMs occur and crosstalk specifically on HDAC1 or HDAC2, creating a rational "code" for a differential, context-related regulation. The global comprehension of this PTM code is central for dissecting the role of single HDAC1 and HDAC2 in physiology and pathology.