International Care Labelling Systems for Textiles 


International care labels offer consumers guidance on how to maintain their clothing, advising on optimal washing methods, ironing instructions, and more. These labels provide reassurance to suppliers of woven and non-woven material suppliers that garments will retain their appearance, texture, and fit through repeated cleanings if the recommended care instructions are followed. Different care labeling systems exist worldwide, some mandated by governments while others are recognized as international norms. It’s worth noting that compliance with these systems is not always mandatory.

International Care Labelling Systems 

Fabric manufacturers need to ensure that clothes do not get damaged during cleaning, as this can lead to customer complaints, expensive returns, and a negative brand image. To avoid this, they should provide clear and easy-to-understand care labels that can help customers with their cleaning process and influence their purchasing decisions. Customers, especially silk and cotton buyers, tend to prefer garments with simple care instructions rather than those with complicated or confusing procedures.

There are five care labeling systems in the textile industry

1. The International Care Labelling System (GINETEX)

GINETEX, the International Association for Textile Care Labelling, has governed care labels globally since 1975, with member nations including Belgium, France, Germany, England, Netherlands, Israel, Austria, Switzerland, and Spain. The organization aims to inform consumers about textile care through a uniform system of symbols transcending language barriers. GINETEX promotes voluntary international care labeling to prevent confusion from different systems. The care labeling system is founded on principles like providing information on permitted treatments, transparent and universal usage of symbols, and adapting to consumer habits without complexity. The organization emphasizes harmonized labels, avoiding misinterpretation, and keeping pace with technological advancements.

2. The American Care Labelling System

The Federal Trade Commission’s Care Label rule in the United States mandates that care labels can consist of words, symbols, or a combination of both. The prescribed order for care instructions includes machine wash/hand wash/dry-clean, washing temperature (hot/warm/cold), washing machine program (delicate/permanent press/normal cycle), bleaching instruction (do not bleach/non-chlorine bleach/chlorine bleach), drying method (tumble dry/line dry/flat dry/drip dry), ironing (do not iron/cool iron/warm iron/hot iron), and warnings. Manufacturers and importers must ensure that labels are permanently attached, remain legible throughout the product’s useful life, specify regular care requirements, and caution against potential harm. Since December 1996, the U.S. has adopted a symbol-only system without words on care labels.

3. The Japanese Care Labelling System

In the Japanese care labeling system, symbols must adhere to a specified order, arranged from left to right: 1) Washing, 2) Bleaching, 3) Ironing, 4) Dry-Cleaning, 5) Wringing, and 6) Drying. Several conventions exist: for colored items not usually bleached, the symbol for chlorine bleaching may be omitted. Products not typically ironed may exclude ironing symbols (except ‘cannot be ironed’). Items washable with water may skip dry-cleaning symbols (except ‘cannot be dry-cleaned’). Symbol colors should be black or dark blue, while prohibition symbols should be red on a white background. This ensures clarity and uniformity in conveying care instructions.

4. The Canadian Care Labelling System

Canada introduced its first care labeling guideline for woven and non-woven material suppliers in 1973. It employed color codes green (go ahead), amber (caution), and red (do not try) alongside five symbols—wash tub, bleach triangle, square dryer, iron, and dry-cleaning circle. In 2003, Canada updated this system to align with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and ISO standards, leading to the discontinuation of the color-coded approach. This update aimed to harmonize care labeling practices with international standards, ensuring consistency and compliance within the North American trade framework.

5. The European Care Labelling System 

European Union committees are collaborating with international bodies to review and establish unified care label standards under the ISO scheme. GENETEX trademark symbols are used in Europe, and a trademark fee must be paid to GENETEX for garments sold in GENETEX countries. A proper care label for European countries should include at least four to five symbols in the specified sequence: Washing, Bleaching, Ironing, Dry-Cleaning, and Drying. This emphasizes the importance of a standardized approach to care labeling for textiles within the European market.

For those looking for an online fabric store in India on TEXchange Global or interested in cotton fabric online in India, Indian textile manufacturers often follow international standards and symbols for care labels, especially those established by GINETEX. If you are trading textiles through Damodar Menon International, you can discuss the care labeling systems with our trading experts. 

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