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The Federal Trade Commission is seeking public comments on proposed amendments to the Care Labeling Rule, which requires labels to be placed on clothing and certain piece goods indicating instructions for at least one safe method for cleaning the product. The FTC proposed amending the rule to require home washing instructions for garments for which home washing is appropriate. This amendment would permit optional dry cleaning instructions for such washable items, so long as dry cleaning would be an appropriate alternative cleaning method. Comments on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPR) will be accepted until July 27, 1998. The Commission is also proposing to allow labels to recommend a new garment cleaning technique, professional wet cleaning.

The Care Labeling Rule, issued in 1971, requires clothing manufacturers and importers to attach care labels to garments, giving full instructions for at least one satisfactory method of care, or stating that the garment cannot be cleaned. The label also must warn against any part of the recommended care method that would harm the garment or other garments being cleaned with it. The rule provides that manufacturers and importers must have a reasonable basis to substantiate their instructions and warnings.

In June 1994, as part of its periodic review of its rules and guides to determine their effectiveness and impact, the Commission requested public comments on, among other things, whether the rule should be modified to allow the use of symbols instead of words. The FTC also sought comments on a "dual disclosure" requirement that would require labeling for both dry cleaning and washing, and comments on whether any change was necessary to the rule's reasonable basis requirements.

Today's announcement follows the FTC's Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) published on December 28, 1995. (The FTC received 64 comments in response to that request.) At that time, the FTC sought comments on whether the rule should be amended to require a laundering instruction for all covered products for which laundering is appropriate. The Commission received 41 comments supporting that proposal.

The Commission is now seeking comments in four general areas:

  • whether to require that an item that can be cleaned by home washing be labeled with instructions for home washing;
  • whether to allow a garment that can be professionally wet cleaned to be labeled with instructions for professional wet cleaning;
  • to clarify what can constitute a reasonable basis for care instructions; and
  • to change the definitions of "cold," "warm" and "hot" water to match those used by an independent standards and testing association.

In July 1997, the FTC permitted clothing manufacturers to start using specified care symbols, in place of written instructions, on permanent labels inside garments to indicate a method for properly cleaning them.

Comments on these and other questions, detailed in a notice published in the May 8, 1998 Federal Register, will be accepted until July 27. Comments should be captioned "16 CFR Part 423 -- Care Labeling Rule -- Comment," and sent to the Office of the Secretary, Federal Trade Commission, Room 159, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580.

The Commission vote to issue the notice of proposed rulemaking announced today was 4-0, with Commissioner Mary L. Azcuenaga not participating.

Copies of the Federal Register Notice, the Commission's Care Labeling Rule, and other news releases relating to the Care Labeling Rule, are available from the FTC's web site at and also from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-FTC-HELP (202-382-4357); TDD 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.

(FTC Matter No. R511915)

Contact Information

Media Contact:
Brenda Mack
Office of Public Affairs
Staff Contact:
Bureau of Consumer Protection
Constance M. Vecellio or Mary K. Engle
202-326-2966 or 202-326-3161