What is the law?

Wearing apparel is covered by the Federal Trade Commissions (FTC) Care Label Rule. Textile garments sold in the United States must have a permanent, legible care label attached in a conspicuous place. All parts of the garment must be able to withstand the recommended care procedure.

Manufacturer Responsibility

The Care Label is intended to give both the consumer and the cleaner guidance on how to care for the item properly. If a label indicates “dry clean” or “wash,” this should mean that all components including the outer shell, lining, buttons, interfacing, fusing material, and trim will not be altered during cleaning. If any problem occurs, it is the responsibility of the manufacturer, who has not tested the component accurately before labeling.

Other defects to look for are:

  • Dyes that dissolve in dry cleaning solvent, water or detergent, causing bleeding or fading.
  • Sizing that dissolves in solvent or water.
  • Shrinkage due to failure to preshrink the fabric before garment construction.
  • Color loss or change in dyes sensitive to light or to action of the surroundings air.
  • Shrinkage or separation of fusible interfacing and bonded fabrics.
Why sign a consent form?

The majority of garments and household articles clean satisfactorily without and problems at all. Occasionally, your professional cleaner may recognize a potential problem and ask you to sign a consent form.

The use of a consent form is a signal that your cleaner is aware of a potential problem and is warning you of the risks. If you agree, the item will be processed with care. If damage does occur, however, the cleaner should not be held responsible, since he/she warned you of the risk obtained your consent to proceed.

Signing a consent form, of course, does not relive the cleaner of the normal responsibility of handling the item with professional care, according to accepted industry standards.

What can I do?

It depends where the responsibility lies. If the problem arises from a manufacturing defect, you should take the article back to the retailer. In some cases, the retailer may resist making an adjustment. Ask the retailer for the name of the manufacturer or the RN number, which is usually, is found on the fiber content label. Call the FTC at (202)-326-3170 or check the FTC’s web site, wwwftc.gov, under the business guidance section for the manufacturer’s address. Send a letter to the manufacturer describing the garment. Include all the information from the tags and labels as well as the name and address of the retailer. Give an explanation as to why you wish to return the item and describe the action you want them to take. Send the letter registered mail. You can find a sample complaint letter on the FTC web site under textile, wool, fur and Apparel Matters in Closet Cues: Care Labels and your Clothes. Sending a copy of your complaint letter to your FTC cannot resolve individual disputes the information you provide may indicate a pattern of violations of the Care Label Rule.

Dry Cleaner Responsibility

Occasionally, damage done in dry cleaning is the responsibility of the cleaner. In such cases, the cleaner will usually settle the claim promptly and fairly, often using the Fair Claims Guide published by the International Fabricare Institute (IFI). If there is some doubt about responsibility, the member cleaner can send the garment to the International Textile Analysis Laboratory to determine the cause of the problem.

Consumer Responsibility

Damage due to consumer use or storage often becomes apparent after cleaning. Many staining substances, once dry, are invisible until exposed to heat in cleaning and finishing. Then the stains darken and become more obvious. Several staining substances, such as alcoholic beverages, perfumes or household cleaning products, contain components that contribute to a color loss. Exposure to light also will cause local fading in affected areas. In most cases, damage from circumstances of use is not due to defective materials or mishandling by the cleaner and is considered the responsibility of the consumer.

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