Clothes Care

In the UK Care Labelling is a voluntary system. However, current Trading Standards practice suggests that when a care label has been put into a garment (or any textile item) then that label becomes part of the description of the article in respect of the ‘Sale of Goods Act – Fitness for Purpose’ and is therefore legally binding.

What is a “Care Label”?

A care label gives the recommended care instructions. The label must be attached so that it will not become separated from the product, and it must remain legible during the useful life of the product. You should be able to see the care label or find it easily.When a garment has two or more parts that are sold as a unit, only one care label is required. However, if each piece is designated to be sold separately or if each piece requires different care procedures, then each part of the article must have its own label. Occasionally, you may wish to remove the care label, but this may entail some risk as full information or warning regarding proper care will no longer be available to either yourself or the drycleaner.

What should the care label say?

A proper informative care label is one that uses the symbols specified by the HLCC (The Home Laundry Consultative Council, the UK’s representative body for care labelling). The Care Label should: Give full instructions for at least one satisfactory method of cleaning, with the specified method representing the most severe process that the garment will withstand whilst maintaining its original condition. Warn about any part of the recommended method of cleaning that a cleaner could reasonably be expected to use that would harm the garment or harm other garments being cleaned with it and warn if there is no method for cleaning a garment without damaging it. The care instruction on the label applies to all permanently attached parts of the garment,such as buttons, linings, interlinings and other decorative trims. Some labels state “Dry Clean Only, Exclusive of Decorative Trim”, but these are unacceptable.

What to do if the label is followed and still a problem develops.

If the manufacturer’s instructions are followed and the garment is damaged, the garment should be returned to the shop from which it was bought with an explanation of what has happened. If the shop will not resolve the problem, write to the manufacturer. In the letter, provide a description of the garment and state all the information that is given on the labels. Estimate how many times the garment has been washed or drycleaned and provide the full name and address of the shop where it was purchased. If satisfaction is not received by these means, it may be necessary to pursue the matter through the Trading Standards Office and ultimately through the Small Claims Court.

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