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Policy & Government

Clothes captioning: FTC proposes updates to garment care-labeling rules

Itchy care tags on apparel will remain, but one change allows for instructions on a more environmentally friendly cleaning process that could be attractive to the outdoor industry. Plus, read on for current tag rules we think outdoor brands should make sure they’re reviewing.

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Clothing tags. We’re not sure who likes them, but the Federal Trade Commission said Tuesday it’s keeping them, with a couple of updates on what’s allowed in print.

Based on a review of public comments on the Care Labeling Rule gathered since 2011, FTC officials said they concluded that the attached clothing care tags or those directly printed on garments are more beneficial to consumers than their visual or tactile annoyance.

The government agency will continue to “require U.S. manufacturers and importers to attach labels with care instructions for garments and certain piece goods, so consumers have reliable instructions for dry cleaning or washing, bleaching, drying and ironing their clothing.”

FTC officials did propose some updates to the rule, which could be significant to the outdoor apparel industry including:

>> “Allowing manufacturers and importers, if they so choose, to include professional instructions for wet cleaning on labels, if the garment can be professionally wet cleaned.” Wet cleaning is an environmentally friendly alternative to dry cleaning using mostly water or biodegradable soaps coupled with specialized washing techniques, equipment and technology based on the fiber to clean the garment. While not many outdoor apparel items require dry cleaning, those that do, might use this avenue to promote more environmentally friendly practices. Click here to read more about wet cleaning from the Environmental Protection Agency.

>> “Permitting manufacturers to use updated American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) or International Organization for Standardization (ISO) symbols on labels in lieu of written terms providing care instructions.” This could reduce the size and amount of tags a manufacturer has to place on the garment.

How should outdoor brands move forward from here? The FTC will be collecting public comment up until Nov. 16, 2012 on the above updated proposals and more. Instructions on how to submit comments will appear in its forthcoming Federal Register Notice. Check back here for the link.

It’s also a good time for outdoor brands to undergo a tag refresher course, reviewing the current rules (click here), to see if any changes for improvement can be made. In our industry where so many garments are next-to-skin, a tag strategy shouldn’t be overlooked.

Here a few things to consider:

>> According to the FTC, “labels must be attached permanently and securely and be legible during the useful life of the product,” but SNEWS recommends you make it easy for consumers to remove labels, if they wish, without damaging the product or making it more itchy.

>> You can forgo tags by directly printing the required information on the garment’s fabric.

>> Shoes gloves and hats are exempt from the care labeling rules.

>> Totally reversible clothing, without pockets, are also exempt, but require a conspicuous temporary label at the point of sale.

>> Other countries have their own rules and regulations on the matter. See here, for example, what European countries require on their labels for textile sales.

–David Clucas