How to Label Clothing with Electronic Components

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How to Label Clothing with Electronic Components

Here in San Francisco, many fashion startups are adding electronic components into garments. The addition of electronics has spurred entrepreneurs to ask how they should properly label the garments for retail in the United States.

Short Answer: In the United States, There is not much of a difference in the process of labeling garments without electronics and labeling garments with electronics.

Below are the basics regarding garment labeling within the United States, as it applies to garments with electronic components. If you’d like a full analysis and advice to label your garments, please email

Cotton and Wool Act Requires:

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) created the Cotton and Wool Act which includes the labeling requirements of garments sold inside of the United States. This Act requires you to disclose the fiber content of garments. However, if the garment includes non-fiber materials, such as wiring, you do not need to list those materials on the garments. As for the fibers, you must list the generic names of each fiber, with the percentage of how much is used the garment, by descending order, so that the fibers which make up the largest percentage of the garment are listed first.  In this calculation, you are still only comparing the fiber contents against each other, non fiber materials, such as wiring, or even leather, are not included.

The FTC does allow a little wiggle room in this calculation; you only need to round to the nearest 5%, with a few exceptions for wool. It is expected that the fiber may vary 3% from the labeling. For example, if the label indicates that a product contains 40 percent cotton, the actual amount of cotton present may vary from 37 percent to 43 percent of the total fiber weight. That does not mean you can knowingly misrepresent fiber amounts. If you know that the product contains 37 percent cotton, the label should say “37% cotton.” The tolerance simply allows for a small amount of unintended fluctuations in the manufacturing process.

If you’d like get more specific, you may state the amount, of each fiber in the garment, unless it is less than 5% of the entire garment.  Should the fiber be less than 5% of the garment, only if the fiber maintains a function at that amount can it be included in the label. A great example of this would be Spandex. Even a small amount of Spandex changes how the garment conforms to the body.

Care & Use Labeling

Fiber content is just one section of the labeling requirements. The Federal Trade Commission also requires labeling on how the garment should be cared for. The rules can generally be broken two into statements: (1) you must tell the consumer reasonable ways to care for the garment (2) you must tell the consumer ways that the garment could be harmed by typical washing procedures.  With these statements, you must think carefully about how the electronic components, and the fabric will be affected as the garment is used overtime.  With a few exceptions, you must permanently attach the fabric care instructions to the garment.

The Federal Trade Commission lists 5 Topics to consider when labeling:

1. Washing

2. Bleaching

3. Drying

4. Ironing

5. Warnings

In general, you want to write instructions in the “positive,” meaning that you tell the consumer reasonable ways that they can care for the garment. For example, instead of only stating “do not wash,” state “spot clean with a damp cloth.”  Provide all actions needed for care of the product, including if there are detachable components that should be removed before cleaning.

When you know a washing, drying, bleaching, or ironing procedure will harm a garment, you may then include statements of negative activity, such as “Do not iron.” If you are aware that a procedure of care or general use may harm a person, such as through electric shock, be sure to include an easily seen and understood labeling warning the consumer, and advising the consumer to avoid that procedure