Erosion of the care labels/washing tags
In our research on the erosion of care labels and washing tags, we found that in most countries, including the US, care labels are a legal requirement. Given we found that care labels were so often mandatory, and thus the erosion of their use unlikely, we provided data on common reasons that care labels were problematic, as well as information on alternative care label options. We also provided data on how some manufacturers apply for care label exemptions, as well as unique instances when care labels are not required, which is expanded upon below.
Care Label/Washing Tag Requirements
- The use of care labels is a legal requirement in most countries.
- There are five care labeling systems globally; The International Care Labeling System, The Japanese Care Labeling System, The Canadian Care Labeling System, The European Care Labeling System, and The American Care Labeling System.
- The American Care Labeling System allows for care labels that use either words, or a set of standardized symbols.
- All labels in the US following the Federal Trade Commission’s Care Label rules, must contain the following directions; a)whether the item is machine wash / hand wash / dry-clean b) washing temperature c)washing machine program d)bleaching instructions e) drying methods, e)ironing, and f)any additional warnings related to care.
Care Label Challenges
- While care labels are a legal requirement in most countries, and thus standard practice for all clothing items, there are common challenges associated with their use.
- One of the key challenges is that labels that are not well-placed or are made of abrasive materials and can cause skin irritation, or making clothing uncomfortable.
- Care instructions may favor being overly restrictive, in order to avoid care issues. For example, often items may say hand wash only, but be able to be washed in a machine, which has the potential to inhibit purchases.
- Instructions, especially on environmentally conscious new fabrics, may be hard to understand or not make clear sense.
Care Label Solutions & Exemptions
- Given the challenges of uncomfortable or abrasive care tags, while these tags can not be left out, some manufacturers are now being more selective about care tag fabrics used.
- For example, soft durable fabrics such as hi-definition satin is one option being used.
- Another innovative care label material is lasered suede, but might be cost restrictive and typically used for high end items.
- Use of universal language and symbols is a solution being used to make care labels easy to understand.
- The US American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) has been using a standardized system of only symbols and now words for care labels since 1996, which has recently been revised to include updated care and environmental considerations.
- Printing care instructions on an inner surface of a textile item rather than adding an additional tag is also a consideration.
- The following items have been deemed exempt from care labels, and can have temporary labels of point of sale instead; "totally reversible clothing without pockets, products that have been granted individual FTC exemption on grounds that care labels will harm their appearance or usefulness". FTC exemption is granted on an application basis only.
- Products that may be washed, bleached, dried, ironed and dry-cleaned by the harshest procedures can instead carry a temporary tag stating "Wash or dry clean, any normal method."
In order to provide information on the erosion and use of care labels and washing tags, we sourced data from manufacturing regulatory sources such as the FTC, industry reports, and additional relevant media sources. Given we found that care labels were required, and thus the erosion of their use unlikely, we provided data on common reasons care labels were problematic, as well as information on alternative care label options and solutions.