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Care labels: a need of the day


Labeling of textiles is an important aspect to provide required information to the distributer, buyer and consumer about the product. However, labeling requirements do not apply until the products are ready for sale to the consumers. Labeling of textiles normally include the measurements, fibre content, care instructions, country of origin and manufacturer’s identification. Different law labels, flammability tags and safety tags are also attached depending upon the product and they gives adequate additional information to the consumers prior to purchase to take necessary precautions. This type of labeling will protect consumers against misrepresentation in labeling and advertising of textile fibre products and enable consumers to choose textile on the basis of fibre content. In this paper, we have emphasized the care label information with respect to washing, bleaching drying, ironing and dry cleaning of textile goods.

Keywords: Bars,Bleach, Dots, Dry, Dry Clean, Iron, Warning, Wash

1. Introduction

Care label means a permanent label or tag, containing regular care information and instructions, that is attached in such a manner that it will not become separated from the product and will remain legible during the useful life of the product.

(a). Basic care label symbols

As a minimum, laundering instructions include four symbols – washing, bleaching, drying and ironing. Dry cleaning instructions include one symbol. The basic five symbols are:

clip_image002(b) Order of the care label symbols

For apparel that needs to be laundered, at least four symbols must be used and they must appear in the following order – washing, bleaching, drying and ironing. If there is evidence that dry cleaning will damage the item and one wishes to warm against it, one should add the “do not dry clean” symbol last. If dry cleaning is the suggested care, only the dry cleaning symbol with any appropriate additions needs to be used. Following orders can be used:

clip_image0062. Representation of symbols

2.1 Dot (s) in symbol

Dot(s) added to the symbol indicates increasing heat or temperature. Dot(s) must be used to indicate the temperature. Dot(s) is in addition to the three symbols like

clip_image008clip_image004For example:                    clip_image0102.2 Bar(s) under the basic symbol

Bar(s) under to a basic care symbol means minus or reduced action or treatment.

  • Mild treatment – A bar [ _ ] under the symbol means that the treatment should be more mild than indicated by the same symbol without a bar i.e. reduced agitation. It is also referred as “permanent press cycle/setting”.
  • Very mild treatment – A double bar [ = ] under the symbol describes a very mild process e.g. much reduced agitation. It is also referred as “gentle/delicate setting”.

For example:

clip_image0122.3 Dot(s) and Bars(s) added together

Many times both Dot(s) and Bar(s) are added to the same symbol depending upon the type of care instruction to be conveyed.
For example:

clip_image0142.4 “X” Over symbol

This is a warning symbol i.e. treatment not permitted.
For example, an “X” over the wash symbol means “do not wash”. Other examples are also given below:


clip_image016 3. Representation of treatment

3.1 Care symbols for washing   

clip_image018Washing is the process designed to clean textile articles in an aqueous bath.
Washtub symbol represents the domestic washing treatment (by hand or machine).  It is used to convey information regarding the maximum washing temperature and the maximum washing process severity.

Table No 1: Washing care symbols
clip_image020clip_image022Minimum washing instructions

At a minimum, a washing instruction would include a method of washing and a method of drying, like “Machine wash. Tumble dry”. This means that the product can be machine washed and tumble dried at any temperature, that ironing is not necessary, that any type of bleach can be used, and that no warnings are required. Thus, all elements of a proper washing instruction would have to be considered washing, drying, ironing, bleaching and warnings.

3.2 Care symbols for bleaching

Bleaching is the process carried out in an aqueous medium, before, during or after washing, requiring the use of an oxidizing agent including either chlorine or oxygen/non-chlorine products, for the purpose of improving soil and stain removal and improving whiteness.

The triangle symbol represents the bleaching process.

clip_image023Table 2: Bleaching care symbols

clip_image0253.3 Care symbols for drying

Drying is the process carried out on textile articles after washing to remove excess water (or moisture).
Drying process is of two types

  • Natural drying

clip_image026Natural drying is the process carried out on textile articles after washing, with the intention of removing residual water by line drying or drip drying or drying flat in the sun or in the shade. Square symbol represents the natural drying process. Additional symbolization within the square represents the specific natural drying process.

  • Tumble drying

clip_image027Tumble drying after washing is the process carried out on textile articles after washing, with the intention of removing residual water by treatment with hot air in a rotating drum. The circle in square symbol represents tumble drying after washing process and the maximum temperature setting is being indicated by dot(s) placed within the symbol.

 Table 3: Natural drying symbols

clip_image029 Table 4: Tumble drying symbolclip_image031

3.4 Care symbols for ironing

The ironing and pressing is the process carried out on textile article to restore its shape and appearance by means of an appropriate appliance using heat, pressure and possibly steam.

The iron symbol represents the domestic ironing and pressing process, with or without steam.

 Table 5: Iron care symbols

clip_image0343.5 care symbols for dry cleaning 

clip_image035Dry cleaning is the process for cleaning textile articles by means of treatment in any solvent (excluding water) normally used for dry cleaning by professions. The circle symbol represents the dry cleaning and wet cleaning process for textile articles (excluding genuine leather and furs) carried out by “professional textile care” process.

 Table 6: Dry cleaning care symbols
clip_image037clip_image039Letters A, P and F in the circle refer to the solvents which may be used by dry cleaners.

4. Textile and apparel to be labeled

4.1 Information required on the care Label

Care labels for textile wearing apparel must provide either washing or dry cleaning instructions. Only one safe method of care is required to be provided regardless of the number of other safe methods that could also be used.

It is important to note that the manufacturer is not required to include information about other care procedures that may not be safe.

Care label must also warn about any part of a prescribed that is reasonably excepted to be used that could harm the garment.

In European Union and Switzerland, following requirements are sought:

  • Mandatory requirement
  • Size
  • Fibre content
  • Care labeling/washing instructions
  • Voluntary requirements
  • Origin marking
  • Brand or product name
  • Other consumer information

In USA, Federal Trade commission requires that imported and domestic textile products such as wedding gowns be attached with care labels. For example following four pieces of information must be there on the wedding gown label.
Wedding gown labels must contain four pieces information:

  • The identify of any one business in the distribution channel
  • The manufacturer
  • The manufacturer’s registered identification Number (RN), which is issued to companies in the U.S. and registered by the FTC.
  • The retail store’s name or RN.
  • The RN or business name of any other company in the U.S. directly involved in the distribution of the gown.
  • The label showing the name RN may be sewn-in or attached as a hang tag. Either way, it must be conspicuously placed.
100% Silk   Dry clean only RN 00001

Garment’s fibre content

65% Polyester 35% Silk
  • Country of origin

The imported wedding gowns must identify the country where they were processed or manufactured –

  • Gowns made entirely in the U.S. of materials also made in the U.S. must be labeled “Made in U.S.A. or an equivalent phrase.
  • Gowns made in the U.S. of imported materials must be labeled to show the processing or manufacturing that takes place in the U.S., as well as the imported component.
  • Gowns manufactured partly in the U.S. and partly abroad must identify both aspects.
  • If a gown is imported, the country- of origin label must be sewn in to comply with U.S. Customs Service requirements. If a gown is made in the U.S. – of either imported or domestic fabric –the country of origin information can be sewn in or placed on a hang-tag. In any case, the country-of-origin disclosure must be placed as close as possible to centre of the neck.
  • clip_image040Care instructions

The care label must identify –
At least one safe cleaning method either washing or dry cleaning and any necessary warnings about the cleaning method.

Example: If the care instruction is to dry-clean, the label must satisfy one type of solvent that may be used, unless all commercially available types of solvents can be used safely on the gown.

Example: If the gown is labeled for washing, the label must say whether any step of the normal washing process- washing, bleaching, drying, or ironing could harm the garment or other items cleaned with it.

4.2 Information not required on care label symbols

Exempted apparel:

  • Footwear, gloves and hats, or other articles used exclusively to cover or protect the head.

Excluded items:

  • Neckties, belts and other apparel items not used to cover or protect parts of the body.
  • Non-woven garments specially prepared for one-time use and do not require ordinary care.
  • Leather and suede are exempt, as well as household articles.
  • Garments sold to institutional buyers for commercial use.
  • Disposable garments.

A few textile articles do not require a permanently affixed care label, but care instructions must be provided.

  • Totally reversible apparel without pockets.
  • Textile articles that can be washed and dry-cleaned by the strongest possible method without harm.
  • Apparel where a label would harm its appearance.
  • International standards on care labels

ISO 3758: 2005

ASTM D5489

Efforts are being made to establish a harmonized care symbols among Europe, Asia and the US. Working teams have come to an agreement on a single symbol set that will accomplish the objectives of ISO 3758 and ASTM D5489 that satisfies the needs of European, American and Asian manufacturers and their consumers. The proposed harmonized symbol set is basically the current ASTM symbols with minor changes.

4.4 Size and colour of care label

Care label symbols do not have to be a specific size. But they do have to meet the existing Care Label Rule requirements of legibility. Of course, it is important to keep in mind, that failure to print legible care symbols may be considered an unfair or deceptive practice and result in civil penalties.

The care symbols do not have to be a particular color. However, coloured symbols may also be used for conveying specific instructions like:

  • In case, care symbol is in RED, it means “DO NOT” (like when symbol is marked with “X”)
  • In case, care symbol is in YELLOW, it means “WITH CARE”
  • In case, care symbol is in GREEN, it means “OK”
  • In case care symbol is in BLACK, there is no significance of colour only symbol itself convey the meaning of instructions.

4.5 Use of additional words with the symbols

The use of other additional words may be necessary where any part of the prescribed regular care procedure, which the consumer or professional cleaner could reasonably be expected to use, would harm the product or others being cleaned with it.

The number of additional words in the table should be kept to a minimum. Examples are shown in below

Table 7:Examples of additional wording

remove…before washing Professional leather clean only
Wash separately No optical brighteners
Wash with like colours Use wash net
Wash before use Do not steam
Wash inside out Steam only
Do not wring or twist Do not soak
Damp type only Steam iron recommended
Do not add fabric conditioner Dry away from direct heat
Remove promptly Reshape whilst damp
Iron reverse side only Line Dry
Do not iron decoration Reshape and dry flat
Dry flat Dry away from the sun

4.6 Examples of care labels


 5. Conclusions

The care label contains information on how to take care of the apparel. The beautiful textile materials can be deteriorated due to exposure to the specific environment and conditions such as washing, drying, ironing, bleaching and dry cleaning. Thus it has been imperative to have care label on apparels so as to retain their original properties. Care label is vital to consumer to the extent that it may influence the purchase decision. There are several standards of care label like Canadian, Australian, European, American and alike. Depending on the country we should follow the standard of care label.

6. Bibliography

  • Noemia D’souza, Fabric Care, New Age International Publication.
  • Subrata Das, Performance of Home Textiles, Woodhead publishing India in Textiles.
  • http://www.fabriclink.com/Care/Caresymbols.cfm retrieved on 25th Dec 2013.
  • Chris Tebbs, Care Labeling The Future, retrieved on 25th Dec 2013
  • http://www.textileaffairs.com/c-common.htmbrowsed on 26th Dec 2013
If anyone has any feedback or input regarding the published news, please contact: info@textiletoday.com.bd

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