It’s laundry day at the Federal Trade Commission and by mid-morning, clothing and laundry appliance manufacturers, retailers, detergent and bleach companies and other industry members will be unfolding a basket full of new educational materials for consumers. The industry will be joining the FTC to unveil their contributions to "FTC Project CLEAN" -- Care Labeling Education and Awareness Network -- a campaign to educate consumers about the new, voluntary symbols that can start appearing on clothing care labels beginning today. The symbols, which show consumers how to safely launder or clean their clothing, will be permitted on care labels so long as the manufacturers include with the garments a written explanation of what the symbols mean for the first 18 months they are in use. In granting the industry permission to use symbols on care labels instead of written words, the FTC pledged to coordinate a national campaign to help consumers in the transition to symbols by making sure they have easy access to additional descriptive information regarding how to care for their clothing.
At a press conference this morning, the FTC and its partners revealed numerous projects toward that end. The FTC’s third floor hearing room was heaped with items bearing the new symbols -- strung from one side of the room to the other was a clothesline on which hung FTC- logo T-shirts, each sporting one of the five basic symbols; a coat rack displayed garments with the symbols and explanations; a television set in one corner ran a 30-second video to be shown on a TV shopping program; a computer in another corner demonstrated a compact disc chock-full of "how to" information developed for clothing manufacturers; a stain removal chart displaying the care symbols on the reverse side was available for hanging in consumers’ laundry rooms; someone was ironing shirts with an iron showing the iron-related symbols; and a bleach bottle, a detergent box and assorted other items also were labeled with the soon-to-be-familiar symbols.
"Thanks to industry contributions to FTC Project CLEAN, consumers will find the care symbols and explanations on bottles, boxes, hang tags, hangers, charts and a myriad of other places beginning today," said Jodie Bernstein, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. "As a result of this ongoing partnership effort, consumers will be awash with information about how to get the best looking laundry -- perhaps more information than they had before the symbols went into effect.
"We’re grateful for the contributions of industry, which we know has a stake in getting this information out," Bernstein continued. "The apparel industry petitioned the Commission to permit use of symbols so that American-made products can be marketed with the same care labels throughout North America. Making sure consumers recognize and understand the symbols is critical to industry and to the FTC."
"Your favorite sweater shrank, your new pants puckered, and the colors in your designer shirt ran. You’re furious.
"Don’t toss the clothes out just yet. If you followed the cleaning instructions on the care labels, you can return the garments and ask the retailer for an exchange or a refund."
So advises a new FTC brochure for consumers, "Closet Cues: Care Labels and Your Clothes." The free brochure explains in detail the FTC’s Care Labeling Rule, which requires manufacturers to tag their clothing with at least one safe cleaning method. The tag must be firmly attached, easy to find, and readable for the useful life of the garment. The FTC brochure also includes a clothing care symbol guide. The brochure is available on the FTC’s web site (www.ftc.gov -- Look under "Items of Special Interest.") and from the agency’s Public Reference Branch, Room 130, Washington, D.C. 20580.
Clorox Company, Textile Industry Affairs Division, Frederick, Maryland
J.C. Penney Company, Plano, Texas
Has created English/Spanish language hang tags showing and explaining all the care labeling symbols, which will be attached to every J.C. Penney brand clothing item.
International Fabricare Institute, Silver Spring, Maryland
Has produced, so far, about 130,000 hanger tags with all the symbols and explanations, to be distributed by dry cleaners to consumers.
Rowenta, Inc., Medford, Massachusetts
Has placed the ironing-related symbols and descriptions directly on its irons, with explanations in five languages.
QVC, Inc., West Chester, Pennsylvania
Has produced 30-second "viewer educational" segments on the symbols, which will air on the "AM STYLE" program on Saturday mornings.
Pittsfield Weaving Company, Inc., Pittsfield, New Hampshire
Has manufactured, so far, more than 20,000 woven bookmarks explaining the care symbols for insertion in the American Apparel Manufacturers Association membership directory, and distribution by the Canadian Apparel Federation, at trade shows and by the FTC.
Hints from Heloise, household hints syndicated columnist
Her July 1st column focuses on the care label symbols.
Paxar Corporation, White Plains, New York
Has produced a 12-page "Care Label Booklet" updated to include the symbols as part of a kit for distribution to clothing manufacturers. The kit also includes a bookmark, label layouts, three versions of a hang tag with symbol explanations, and format changes for programming language that will allow manufacturers to download the care symbols for in-plant label and tag printing. Manufacturers and retailers may contact Paxar at its 800 number (1-800-33PAXAR) or its website (www.paxar.com) for answers to their questions about the symbols.
The Procter & Gamble Company, Cincinnati, Ohio
The Soap and Detergent Association, New York, New York
Produced a Care Symbol Chart to be included in the July/August issue of its "Cleanliness Facts" newsletter and distributed at the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences annual meeting, attended by teachers and Cooperative Extension agents.
Salant Corp., New York, New York
Will be distributing 25,000 brochures regarding the care symbols in 75 "John Henry and Friends" and "Manhattan Outlet" stores.
Other partners who are contributing to the FTC Project Clean consumer and industry education program include:
American Textile Manufacturers Institute, Washington, D.C.
National Association of Hosiery Manufacturers, Inc., Charlotte, North Carolina
Good Housekeeping Magazine, New York, New York
American Apparel Manufacturers Association, Arlington, Virginia
The FTC also noted that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is distributing information to land grant universities and home extension agents. The care symbols adopted by the FTC were developed by American Society for Testing and Materials.
Copies of the "Closet Cues" brochure and a Federal Register notice announcing the FTC’s conditional exemption to the Care Labeling Rule to permit the use of symbols are available from the FTC’s web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC’s Public Reference Branch, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-326-2222; TTY for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710.