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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Monday, May 25, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Features

Labeling Guidelines A Godsend

By Shanna Southern Peterson Correspondent

You searched for days to find the perfect top to go with your favorite pants. But one trip through the washer, and the vibrant colors are now a muddled mess.

Most people would toss the top in the trash with disgust and swear never to buy that brand again.

But wait a minute. If you followed the instructions on the care label provided by the manufacturer and the shirt is ruined, you can return it (or any other clothing item) to the store where it was purchased for an exchange or refund.

Beginning this month, the Federal Trade Commission’s new Care Labeling Rule requires manufacturers to provide information detailing one safe cleaning method for all textile clothing.

Apparel intended for wear by adults or children must have a label firmly attached to the garment in an easy-to-find spot and the label must remain readable for the expected life of the item.

In addition to giving one safe cleaning method, the care labels must list any necessary warnings about that cleaning method.

For example, if the item is safe to wash, the temperature and agitation cycles must be described as well. If you can use bleach on the garment, it must specify whether any bleach is OK or if only non-chlorine bleach is appropriate.

Only one method of cleaning is required on the label and manufacturers do not have to warn of unsafe methods of cleaning. If a garment is labeled “washable,” it may not necessarily be “dry cleanable.”

The care instructions apply to all permanently attached parts of the garment including buttons, lace, linings, and trims.

So if your new sweater was labeled “washable,” you followed the instructions closely, and your daughter is now using it for her Barbie doll, you have some recourse.

Return the garment to the retailer, explain what happened and ask for an exchange or refund. If the retailer is unwilling to cooperate, ask for the manufacturer’s name and address, and write to the company.

In your letter, describe the garment and care label. Describe how often the garment has been cleaned and the method used. Include your name, address, a daytime telephone number, and the name and address of the retailer. Do not send the garment until you have heard from a company spokesperson.

If you are still having trouble getting a refund, you might consider reporting the incidents to the FTC, Consumer Response Center, Washington, DC 20580. Although they are unable to resolve individual disputes, you may provide information that indicates a pattern of violations.

Two important notes: First, some garments are exempt from the labeling law. They include clothing made primarily of leather or suede, footwear, gloves, and hats.

Second, if you remove the care instruction label from the garment after it has been purchased, you are releasing the manufacturer from liability.

The law only requires that apparel be replaced or a refund offered if the label is still intact and the instructions have been followed for cleaning.

So if that yellow and blue T-shirt is now green (and you followed the cleaning directions), you don’t have to throw it out. Take it back. It’s the law.

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