NAFTA Care Symbols by Apparel Search - Terms of Interest to the Fashion Industry

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the information on this page may be out dated.  Information may have changed, depending on when you are reading this article.  Please check with the appropriate agency for most current information.  Care Labeling is a very important issue and has legal ramifications if done incorrectly.  Do NOT use any information on this page as a decision making factory for any element of your care labels.  Please conduct further research to make sure that you have the most current information available.  Again, this is an article written by a garmento, not a lawyer (also not a care label expert).  Utilize this page at your own risk.


January 2019 Update:  NAFTA is now called the U.S., Mexico, Canada Agreement, or USMCA.

The Agreement between the United States of America, the United Mexican States, and Canada is a signed but not ratified free trade agreement between Canada, Mexico, and the United States. It is referred to differently by each signatory—in the United States, it is called the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA); in Canada, it is called the Canada–United States–Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) in English and the Accord Canada–États-Unis–Mexique (ACEUM) in French; and in Mexico, it is called the Tratado entre México, Estados Unidos y Canadá (T-MEC).The agreement is sometimes referred to as "New NAFTA" in reference to the previous trilateral agreement it is meant to supersede, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Below is for historical reference regarding NAFTA.

One of the major reasons behind the introduction of care label symbols is to harmonize American clothing labeling regulations with those of Canada and Mexico.

In July, 1997 the Federal Trade Commission adopted a conditional exemption to the Care Label Rule that allowed the use of symbols in lieu of words on care labels. A condition was attached to the exemption requiring that, if symbols were used without words, until January 1, 1999 the words defining the symbols must be provided in some other medium such as a hang tag or package insert.  This was used as a method to help transition so that consumers could learn the meaning of the care symbols.


    The ASTM symbols are accepted in NAFTA countries.

    ◊  ISO / GINETEX symbols are accepted in most of Europe and Asia.

    ◊  Japan has their own symbol system.

    It would be great if the FTC would formulate a system of symbols that can harmonize the ASTM and ISO care symbol systems.  I have previously heard threw the grape vine that the FTC does not believe the system of symbols set up by the International Standards Organization (ISO) and known as Ginetex is as comprehensive as those developed by the ASTM.  However, I am not certain if that is fact.
    The need for care label symbols as an alternative to written instructions results from increased international trade and, more specifically, from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). NAFTA requires standardization of care instructions for apparel sold in Mexico, Canada, and the United States.  Manufacturers can prepare labels written in three languages: English, French, and Spanish, or use more universal care symbols.

    Using care symbols will help consumers.
    Using care symbols should help limit size of care labels in garments.
    Smaller care labels result in manufacturing cost savings.
    Care symbols will help international travelers better understand care labels in foreign countries

    The intent is that the new symbols will become standard in all countries participating in the North American Free Trade Agreement. This means that apparel manufacturers will now be able to use the same care label on garments offered for sale in any or all of these countries. And consumers will be able to make purchase decisions based upon care requirements, and follow appropriate care instructions, without knowledge of the language.

    The move to care label symbols will hopefully help satisfy consumer demand asking the apparel industry to decrease the size of care labels.  In addition to the fact that larger labels are very uncomfortable, moving to smaller labels may ultimately result in lower cost garments.  This also will help the consumer.  Using symbols instead of words is a simple method for saving both space and money.

    Although NAFTA care symbols does not create an international solution, it certainly does help the countries involved in this agreement.  Hopefully, in the future their will be a global standard for care labeling.

    Companies, organizations, governments, and associations must come together to create an international labeling standard for apparel and fashion accessories. 

    Note: the above information may have changed, depending on when you are reading this article.  Please check with the appropriate agency for most current information.  If you find any information out dated, please let us know and we will try to make updates.

    You may also wish to read the ISO Care Symbols page and the wash care label page.


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