National Clothesline
Wetcleaning label proposal draws comments, advice
With the Federal Trade Commission ready to add wetcleaning to the list of possible care label instruction, many in the industry have questions and advice about how it should be implemented.
Allowing wetcleaning is one of four changes to the label rule that the commission proposed in September, reversing its decision in 2000 when it rejected wetcleaning as a care instruction, saying at the time there wasn’t a suitable definition of the process.
Now the FTC says there is a suitable definition and test procedures. The current proposal is to allow wetcleaning as an option.
Most of the 84 comments received on the proposal came from the drycleaning industry and among those the implementation of a wetcleaning label drew the most attention. Two main areas of concern were addressed: first, that the instruction should specify “professional wetcleaning” so as not to be confused with water-based home care processes, and second, that wetcleaning should be indicated for any item that can be wetcleaned.
“It is important that consumers not interpret wetcleaning as a process they can do at home and that is why the care label must state ‘Professional Wetclean,’” wrote Mary Scalco, CEO of the Drycleaning and Laundry Institute.
Scalco noted that many consumers are not aware of the needs or benefits of professional wetcleaning and, in fact, have only limited information about any aspect of the garment care process.
In comments submitted on behalf of the International Drycleaners Congress and the International Committee on Textile Care (CINET), in support the wetcleaning instruction, Chris Tebbs the wetcleaning instruction would “require positive marketing to ensure that it is not confused with washing processes.”
Several commenters urged the FTC to go a step further than merely allowing a wetcleaning care label. They want wetcleaning instructions to be included on any garment that can be professionally wetcleaned.
“The proposed rule, which allows but does not require the use of a ‘Professional Wetclean’ label, is unfair and deceptive to the professional cleaners, manufacturers and especially to the consumers that wear garments labeled ‘Dryclean Only’ or ‘Dryclean,’” wrote Gus Chang, president of the Professional Wetcleaners Associations.
“Customers come into our facilities and ask for their garments to be drycleaned because the garments are labeled ‘Dryclean’ or ‘Dryclean Only,’” Chang said.  “If we tell our customers we will be wetcleaning their garments, they may decide to go to a drycleaner and we lose business.
Chang and other commenters also expressed concern that if a wetcleaning instruction is merely optional, few garment makers will bother to include it. He noted that in Europe where wetcleaning has been allowed as a care instruction since 2007, few garments sold there continue to use show only drycleaning as a care instruction even though they can be successfully wetcleaned.
Jason Wentworth, a Portland, ME, wetcleaner, said his plant does 100 percent wetcleaning even though “about 80 percent of the garments we encounter say ‘dryclean only’ or some form of this… it would be extremely helpful for our customers to know that many of the garments they own can be safely wetcleaned or drycleaned.”
“I am not asking for some advantage for my business, just a level playing field where consumers are informed of the choices they have for cleaning their garments,” he said. “And for those of us who are wetcleaning, some protection from consumer complaints if we clean their garments according to the care tag.”
DLI’s comments suggested that all acceptable methods of care should be shown.
“In our members’ experience, a dryclean label is interpreted to mean ‘do not wash’ by many, if not all, consumers,” DLI said, adding that some consumers will not buy anything with a dryclean label.
“If all methods of care are required to be on the label, this consumer might be willing to purchase the item. The cleaner would then have the option of selecting a care method to satisfy the consumer yet still safely refurbish the garment.”