National Clothesline
FTC roundtable on care labeling
Focus will be on new wetcleaning instruction
Another step in the process of revamping the care labeling rule will take place Oct. 1 in Washington, DC, when the Federal Trade Commission hosts a public roundtable on its proposals.
The process began two years ago when the FTC asked for comments on how the rule could be updated and improved.
A year ago, the commission proposed changes to the rule in the following four areas:
• Allowing the use of a “professionally wetclean” care instruction.
• Updating the definition of drycleaning to reflect current practices and account for new cleaning solvents.
• Letting manufacturers use care symbols approved by the American Society of Testing and Material (ASTM) or the International Organization for Standards (ISO) in place of written instructions.
• Clarifying what constitutes a reasonable basis for care instructions.
The FTC said the Oct. 1 roundtable will focus on the proposal to include professional instructions for wetcleaning on labels if the garment can be professionally wetcleaned and on whether a wetcleaning instruction should be required for such garments.
Also to be addressed is the cost of substantiating wetcleaning instructions, the availability of wetcleaning, consumer awareness of wetcleaning, and the content of labels providing a wetcleaning instruction.
Other aspects of the proposed rule changes will also be open for discussion. These include the differences between ASTM International and both the 2005 and 2012 ISO care symbols; whether labels should identify ISO symbols as such if used to comply with the rule; the change in the meaning of the circle P symbol in the ASTM system; and consumer understanding of symbols. 
In addition, the roundtable will include a discussion about the absence of ASTM and ISO symbols for solvents other than perchloroethylene and petroleum.
The roundtable also will address what constitutes a reasonable basis for care instructions.
Adding wetcleaning to the possible care methods for garments has been before the FTC for years. In 2000, the FTC rejected a proposal to add wetcleaning saying then that it was “premature to permit such an instruction due to the absence of a suitable definition and appropriate test method.”
But last year, the commission said it was ready to go forward with a wetcleaning instruction, saying  that the a suitable definition is now available.
The FTC cited a definition of wetcleaning and test procedures for determining whether apparel can be wetcleaned professionally in the ISO standard “Textiles — Professional care, drycleaning and wetcleaning of fabrics and garments.”
That standard says: “Wetclean means a commercial process for cleaning products or specimens in water carried out by professionals using special technology (cleaning, rinsing, and spinning), detergents, and additives to minimize adverse effects, followed by appropriate drying and restorative finishing procedures.”
The FTC also said it received much support for wetcleaning when it posed the question to the public in 2011, in particular noting an increased acceptance and use of wetcleaning among professional cleaners. Not having a “wetcleaning” label available could place wetcleaners at a disadvantage, the commission said, which would discourage the use of that technology.
However, the FTC stopped short of saying a wetcleaning label would be required for all wetcleanable garments.
The absence of such a label would not “result in deception or unfairness under the FTC Act,” the commission said, adding that it is also not certain that “the benefits of requiring a wetcleaning instruction would exceed the costs such a requirement would impose on manufacturers and importers.”
The Oct. 1 roundtable will be in the FTC’s Satellite Building Conference Center at 601 New Jersey Ave, NW, Washington, DC, from 9:15 a.m. until 3:45 p.m.
Written comments regarding the agenda topics, the issues discussed by the panelists at the roundtable, or the issues raised in comments received in response to the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking must be received by Oct. 15.
Information on the roundtable and the FTC’s proposals is available at www.ftc.gov/opa/