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Cotton

Many of us think of labels only as the tags that itch our necks, but a significant amount of time and thought goes into label preparation.

These efforts help to ensure the legality of a product intended for sale in the US and internationally. By labeling correctly, manufacturers and importers will get products to market more quickly and avoid the potential cost of delays, re-labeling, and damage to brand image caused by consumer complaints.

Types of Labels

All textile and apparel products in the US must include the following information:

  • fiber content
  • country of origin
  • manufacturer or dealer identity
  • care instructions (must be permanently attached to the product)

Care instructions are mandatory only for apparel. However, most manufacturers and brands of home textiles also provide care instructions as a best practice.

While size labeling is optional in the US market, most companies include it on their products for the convenience of the consumer.

Although labeling requirements do not apply until the product is ready to be sold and shipped to the end user, US Customs and Boarder Protection may have differing regulations that could result in your shipments being held.

Who Must Comply?

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforces The Care Labeling Rule, which requires the following importers and manufacturers to attach care instructions to garments:

  • importers and manufacturers of textile wearing apparel
  • importers and manufacturers of piece goods sold to consumers who make wearing apparel
  • any person or organization that directs or controls the manufacturing or importing of textile wearing apparel or piece goods for making wearing apparel

Labels on items that must comply with The Care Labeling Rule must be conspicuous and exposed, to allow for easy access by the consumer.

Some items, such as reversible clothing without pockets, do not need permanent care labels, while others require no care instructions at all (e.g. garments custom-made with material provided by the consumer, footwear and backpacks).

Country of Origin

FTC does not have any requirements for the location of Country of Origin labels. However, US Customs requires that this information must be at the center back neck position for blouses and, for items with a waistline, at center back waist. This example shows how important it is to understand the rules of all government agencies.

Fiber Content

The US Federal Trade Commission regulates fiber content on many textile products, including apparel, accessory items and home textiles. The following acts pertain to textile products sold in the US:

  • Textile Fiber Identification Act – 16 CFR 303
  • Wool Products Labeling Act - 16 CFR 300 
  • Fur Products Labeling Act – 16 CFR 301
  • The Leather Guide - 16 CFR 24

The Textile Fiber Identification Act has very specific requirements for how the content is disclosed.

Manufacturer or Dealer Identity

All product categories must be labeled with the company’s legal name. To satisfy the labeling requirement, textile products may use the Registered Identification Number (RN) of the manufacturer or importer instead of a name.

The FTC may issue and register an RN to any firm in the US that manufactures or imports textile, wool or fur products. An RN is not required to do business in the US.

Some exemptions

The general labeling rules do not apply in a number of cases, including:

  • Shoes
  • Gloves
  • Hats
  • Belts
  • Suspenders and neckties
  • Non-reusable upholstery or mattress stuffing
  • Outer coverings of upholstered furniture, mattresses and box springs
  • Marked manufacturers’ remnants of up to 10 yards when the fiber content is unknown and not easily determined 
  • Trim up to 5 inches wide

While there are exclusions to certain products under the Textile Fiber Identification Act, there are other regulations for labelling wool, leather and leather like materials, and fur. For example, the Guides for Select Leather and Imitation Leather Products - 16 CFR Part 24, helps manufacturers correctly label products made of synthetic leather to avoid misrepresentation to the consumer.

Special claims labeling

Today many companies are marketing products with functional claims, such as moisture management, water proof breathable, and antibacterial. This type of labeling is regulated by FTC as Truth In Labeling, meaning that whatever claims are made, must be true and substantiated by scientific evidence.

Consequences of Mislabeling

If a product label includes misleading or false information about the item’s contents, care instructions, country of origin, performance claims and so on, it is a case of mislabeling. For example, if a fabric contains 2% organic cotton and 98% non-organic cotton and the manufacturer’s label says “Fine Organic Cotton Blend”, it is misleading the consumer into thinking the garment is made up of entirely organic cotton. This would be considered deceptive advertising. Claims on labels or hangtags, such as one stating that a garment provides 50+ protection from UV radiation, must be able to substantiate such claims.

The consequence of mislabeling products is a “civil charge” which can cost a company thousands of dollars and cause damage to its reputation. Companies that falsely labeled products as being made of bamboo, when they were actually made of rayon, paid $1.26 million to settle the FTC charges.

How SGS Can Help

SGS helps companies around the world by providing specialized solutions to improve labeling accuracy and production efficiency. We can present your company with all of the information needed regarding inspection, testing, certification, and verification.

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For more information contact your local SGS representative, or our global team and visit Softlines and Accessories.

Louann Spirito 
Director - Technical Support, Global Softlines
SGS North America Inc.
t: +1 973 575 5252

References

Threading Your Way Through the Labeling Requirements Under the Textile and Wool Acts
Clothes Captioning: Complying with the Care Labeling Rule
U.S. Labeling Requirements for Textile, Apparel, Footwear and Travel Goods
Four National Retailers Agree to Pay Penalties Totaling $1.26 Million for Allegedly Falsely Labeling Textiles as Made of Bamboo, While They Actually Were Rayon