The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires manufacturers to attach a permanent label to textile garments that provides directions for their care. According to the 1972 Care Label Rule and its 1984 amendments, manufacturers and importers must list at least one method of safe care for a garment. The Rule covers all textile clothing except footwear, gloves, hats, suede and leather clothing, and household items, such as linens.
The Care Label Rule stipulates that the care label is easily found, will not separate from the garment, and will remain legible during the garment's useful life. The label must warn about any part of the recommended care method that would harm the garment or other garments being laundered or drycleaned with it. It also must warn when there is no method for cleaning a garment without damaging it.
Symbols also may appear on a care label to supplement written instructions. When a garment carries an international symbol tag, all care methods will usually be listed. If you are not sure of a symbol's meaning, ask your local cleaner to explain it to you.
May I Remove The Care Labels
Garments are required to have a care label attached at the time of purchase so that you can take care instructions into consideration when you buy an item. Removing the care label entails some risk, as full information or warnings regarding proper care will no longer be available to you or your cleaner.
Cleaning Methods - Definitions
Dryclean: Uses normal drycleaning fluid found in any commercial or coin-operated drycleaning establishment. The process may include moisture added to the fluid, hot tumble drying (160º), and pressing by steam press or steam air-form finishing.
Professionally Dryclean: Restricts the drycleaning process to methods possible only in commercial drycleaning plants. "Professionally Dryclean" must be accompanied by further information, such as "use reduced moisture," "low heat," or "no steam finishing."
Machine Wash: Indicates use of either a commercial or home washing machine. Other information may be added giving specific washing temperatures, size of the load, or drying procedures.
Does "Washable" Mean It Also Can Be Drycleaned?
If a garment's care label says "washable," it may -or may not- be safely drycleaned; there is no way of telling from the label. A manufacturer or importer is only required to list one method of safe care, no matter how many other methods also could be used safely. The manufacturer or importer also is not required to warn about other care procedure that may not be safe. The International Fabricare Institute (IFI) supports voluntary "alternative labeling" by manufacturers to inform consumers of all satisfactory care methods.
If you request a method of cleaning not listed on the care label, a cleaner may ask you to sign a consent form. With or without the form, cleaners who accept garments for cleaning are obligated to clean them in a professional manner, to the best of their ability.
What If You Follow The Label And A Problem Develops?
If you or the cleaner follow the manufacturer's instructions and the garment is damaged, you should return the garment to the store and explain what happened. If the store will not resolve the problem, ask for the manufacturer's name and address and write to the company. Provide a full description of the garment and state all the information that is given on the labels and tags. Estimate how many times the garment has been washed or drycleaned, and provide the full name and address of the store where it was purchased.
You should also send a copy of your complaint letter to the Federal Trade Commission, c/o Correspondence Branch, Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC cannot resolve your individual problem, but the information you and other consumers supply may reveal a pattern or practice requiring the Commission's attention. If you have purchased clothing that has no care label attached, you should contact the FTC, giving the name and address of the store and manufacturer.