The apparel and textile industries worldwide have set different standards for care labeling a product. It becomes the suppliers or manufacturers responsibility to make sure customers understand the right methods of maintaining a product. Any piece of a textile product has two major kinds of labels, one that describes the fibre composition of the fabric and the other that contains washing and ironing instructions, which is generally called care labeling.
Different countries have set different standards, rules, and laws for the manufacturers or exporters that need to be duly followed. For example, the Canadian General Standard Board requires apparel manufacturers to include information related to temperature in Celsius only, in its care labels. Similarly, the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) care labeling rule in America, required updating their rule of specifying the use of 'hot', 'warm', and 'cold' in the labeling instructions. And also needed to define what is hot and what is warm to make it easy for consumers.
Why is care labeling given so much importance in the apparel and the textile industry? Labels in clothes and other textile articles play a huge role in the buying decision of a consumer. For some, the convenience of dry cleaning might be a reason to pick up a certain garment, while some might prefer machine wash more economic. Hence consumers, look beyond the aesthetics and fabric of a product. The after use and maintenance is vital to push their decision forward or backward to buy.
Apart from this, the care labeling functions as a guideline to washing and caring. The instructions also help laundry washers and dry cleaners, while cleaning clothes and other textile articles like carpets, curtains, or cushion covers for their consumers. It also serves as guidelines to consumers for increasing the life of a product and can prevent them from causing damage of a garment.
Colorfastness, shape, ironing, appearance, are also the matters of concerns with consumers post purchase of a product. The chemical composition and structure of fibres used in a fabric decide the method of cleaning and storing an article. According to the chemical sensitivity of the fabric, the type of detergent, bleaching, or dry cleaning will be determined, and depending on heat sensitivity of the fabric, the washing, drying, and ironing will be established.
Fabrics that are loosely woven, and can easily get out of shape, require special care while washing, drying, and ironing. All these things help in maintaining the condition and serviceability of the garments and other products. The creation of a garment or a textile article adds to the intricacy of caring procedures. It is not possible to add all details to strengthen the life of a product; hence it is only fair on the part of the suppliers to help customers with care labeling to guide them.
The care labeling standards applies to everyone who is a part of the manufacturing process i.e. suppliers, importers, distributors, retailers, and producers of the products. Although every country follows its own set of standards and mandatory rules of care labeling, there are a few set of pre-requisites that apply to most of them. The care labels need to be permanently attached to the product and must be legible. It must be able to put up with the procedures mentioned thereby. Only symbols are not enough, instructions also need to go with labels.
Labels attached in products, must also be easily found by consumers during the point of purchase. In case of the product being packaged in a way, which the customer cannot have access to the care label, a pamphlet or a ticket needs to be attached to the package. Products having more than one piece, for instance in children nightwear, say a pair of pajamas and t-shirt, then both the items must bear care label individually.
The products included under mandatory standards as far as textiles are concerned are as follows: clothing, household textiles, apparels, furnishings, bedding, and mattresses. However, other textile products like second hand clothes, textile items used in footwear, cloths used for cleaning, medical and surgical purpose textiles like bandages, dressings, and sanitary pads do not require care labeling.
All kinds of symbols can be found on a label. But, there are five basic ones that go in care instructions of labels and they are as follows:
1. Washing: The adjacent symbol shows the general washing instructions. Some labels also use a picture of an actual washing machine to show machine wash. Dots are used to indicate temperature. A single dot represents 30C. Two dots indicate 40C, with the addition of each dot, the temperature increases by 10C.
2. Bleaching: A triangle is the symbol for bleaching. A big 'x' over the triangle means no bleaching. And when the triangle encompasses two diagonal lines, then it indicates the garment must be washed with non-chlorine bleach only.
3. Drying: A normal drying symbol is a circle enclosed in a square. The dot in the symbol indicates the temperature. Some garments also include hang dry instructions on the label.
4. Ironing: Different kinds of fabrics require ironing at different temperatures. The dots in the ironing symbol indicate the intensity of the heat of the iron.
5. Dry Cleaning: A simple circle is the dry cleaning symbol, the circle with a P suggests dry clean with any solvent except trichloroethylene, and the circle with a big cross indicates no dry clean.
Comprehending these symbols is no rocket science and with a little help, a consumer can prevent possible damages to an expensive garment and increase its life. Failing to meet desired standards for care labeling of products can land suppliers and manufacturers in trouble of paying huge sum of fines and penalties. Besides cleaning, drying, and ironing guidelines, care labels also require mentioning the country of origin and fibre contents.
It can be concluded that, maintaining and following a good labeling practice is of utmost importance to the apparel and textile industry. It creates goodwill among consumers, shows that a company or brand cares and gives rise to a fine business sense.