July 24, 1998
Dear Mr. Clark:
This letter is being written with respect to the Federal Trade Commission rulemaking to amend its Trade Regulation Rule on Care Labeling of Textile Wearing Apparel and Certain Piece Goods ("The Care Labeling Rule" or "Rule").
Below are the specific comments associated with the Care Labeling Rule. In addition, we are formally submitting to you our report "Pollution Prevention in the Garment Care Industry: Assessing the Viability of Professional Wet Cleaning." Reference to this report is made throughout this Rule, and is cited as UCLA PPERC. The study specifically evaluated the performance, financial, and environmental viability of professional wet cleaning and concluded that professional wet cleaning is capable of cleaning the range of garments that would otherwise be taken to a dry cleaner. These findings inform our comments below.
Finally, we are formally requesting participation in the workshop you are organizing for the Rule.
Suggested Changes to Proposed Rule
The comments in this section focus on Part D - Section-By-Section Description of Proposed Amendments.
AMENDMENT TO SECTION 423.1
Change #1: Add finishing equipment to definition of wet cleaning.
(Add at the end of definition of wet cleaning) "Finishing wet cleaned garments is accomplished with either conventional professional pressing equipment or specific finishing equipment (e.g. tensioning equipment) used by professional wet cleaners."
Reason for Change #1:
Finishing is part of professional cleaning process.
Finishing may be different if a garment is wet cleaned than dry cleaned.
Most professional wet cleaners who clean the range of garments that otherwise would be dry cleaned have purchased tensioning equipment to finish certain types of garments (e.g. jackets, pants).
AMENDMENT TO SECTION 423.6 (b)
Change #1: Require the fiber content for all garments be listed on the permanent label.
Reasons for Change #1:
Currently, cleaners with dry clean equipment may choose to wet clean a garment labeled 'Dry Clean' or 'Dry Clean Only' if the item has stains which are more effectively removed by wet cleaning. Requiring all garments to carry the fiber content on the permanent care label provides the cleaner the necessary information to wet clean any garment.
By only requiring fiber content on 'Professionally Wet Clean' labeled garments makes labeling these garments more onerous than garments labeled 'Dry Clean' and thus may serve as a barrier for manufacturers to label garments 'Professionally Wet Clean.'
For the professional cleaner, knowing the fiber content of a garment is key to effective spot removal for both wet cleaning or dry cleaning garments.Change #2: Require that all garments that can be professionally wet cleaned carry a professionally wet clean instruction which otherwise cannot be home laundered.
Reasons for Change #2:
It is misleading to garment owners to exclusively label a garment 'Dry Clean' if the garment could also be professionally wet cleaned.
Garment owners who see professional wet cleaning as environmentally preferable would more likely take these garments to a professional wet cleaner if the garment included a professionally wet clean instruction.
For non-home washable garments, not requiring garments that can be professionally wet cleaned to be label as such creates a comparative disadvantage for cleaners who only have professional wet cleaning equipment.
Professional wet cleaners who wet clean garments labeled 'Dry Clean' are servicing the garment contrary to the care label and thus are more vulnerable to claims made by customers that they ruined a garment even when it was not their fault (e.g. manufacturing flaw, problem existing prior to cleaning, etc.).
Since garments will be allowed to carry a 'Professionally Wet Clean' label, those garments not labeled 'Professionally Wet Clean' may give the impression to the customer that they are not able to be professionally wet cleaned. This may reduce the professional wet cleaner's customer base as well as make the cleaner potentially more vulnerable to claims.Since the motivation for this rule is, in part, due to EPA's desire to reduce PCE use, not requiring non-home-launderable garments that could be professionally wet cleaned to carry a 'Professional Wet Clean' label increases the chance that the garment will be dry cleaned, thus contributing to the use of PCE that otherwise could be reduced.
The reasons for why the Commission is not proposing an amendment to the Rule that would require a wet cleaning instruction (see Section 2, Subsection b of Proposed Rule) are problematic.
The first reason given is that "professional wet cleaning is a very new technology, and it does not appear to be widely available."
Professional wet cleaning should no longer be seen as a "very new technology." Professional wet cleaning has had commercial application for more than six years, with an increasing number of wet clean machine manufactures and detergent manufactures competing for a market share.
In terms of the availability of wet cleaning, professional wet cleaning, as the FTC itself observes, "appears to be growing rapidly." In addition, one of the most significant barriers to dry cleaners adding or switching to wet cleaning technology is the "dry clean" or "dry clean only" care label.
The second reason given is that "there is not a standardized test by which manufacturers can establish a reasonable basis for a professional wet cleaning instruction."
The difficulty in developing a standardized test method for wet cleaning has less to do with the newness of the technology and more to do with the variability of the parameters determining how a specific garment should be wet cleaned. This variability is due not only to differences in individual garments (e.g. fabric, fiber, etc.) but to variability in wet clean machines, in cleaning detergents, and in finishing equipment. In PCE-based dry cleaning, this variability is reduced because of the use of PCE as the solvent, making it easier to standardize a test method. If there were only one wet clean machine manufacturer, one detergent supplier, and one finishing equipment supplier, standardization may be possible for wet cleaning. It is not possible for the FTC to simplify the problem by choosing one manufacturer or supplier over another in order to create a method for standardization. This suggests that the availability of a standardized test method is a particularly poor criteria for the development of care instructions.
The fact that professional wet cleaners have been able to choose a configuration of wet clean machines, detergents, and finishing equipment to clean the full range of garments that otherwise would have been dry cleaned means that manufacturers can also develop configurations of wet clean equipment and supplies that are sufficient to test all garments for whether garment can carry a 'Professional Wet Clean' label.
In the proposed Rule the FTC states that the Rule " would permit manufacturers to include a 'professionally wet clean' instruction on labels for those items for which they have a reasonable basis for a professional wet clean instruction." Since the FTC believes that manufacturers have the capacity for determining a reasonable basis for wet cleaning and since there are configurations of wet clean equipment and supplies that are capable of cleaning a full range of garments, it is appropriate to require manufacturers to test whether their garments can be professionally wet cleaned.
Change #3: Clarify need to specify one type of professional wet cleaning equipment
Reason for Change #3:
It is unclear what is meant by "type" of professional wet cleaning equipment. Does type mean wet clean washers, wet clean dryers, wet clean finishing equipment, or does it mean specific types of these equipment (e.g. Daewoo, Aquatex washer, etc.).
Change #4: Require professional wet clean instruction to specify the use of professional wet clean finishing equipment if deemed necessary
Reason for Change #4:
While most garments that can be wet cleaned do not require using special finishing equipment, such as tensioning equipment, some manufacturers may feel that it is necessary to use this specific pressing equipment to finish their garments if the garment was wet cleaned.
Exemption from EIS
The proposed Rule asks for comments regarding the Draft Environmental Assessment.
As stated in the Draft Environmental Assessment, the amendments to the Rule were partially motivated by the Environmental Protection Agency's goal of reducing the use of dry cleaning solvents. Yet, there are a number of reasons why the proposed rule, as written, will place significant barriers limiting EPA's goal of reducing the use of dry cleaning solvents. These reasons have already been discussed above. The reasons are summarized here.
Allow vs. Require 'Professional Wet Clean' Label
Mislabeling a garment 'Dry Clean' when the garment could be wet cleaned makes it more likely that the garment will be dry cleaned than if the garment carried a 'Professional Wet Clean' label, thus leading to greater PCE use.
Instructions for Wet Cleaning vs. 'Professional Wet Clean' Label
Requiring instructions for wet cleaning is not necessary for wet cleaners, yet makes care labeling for wet cleaning more onerous for manufacturers leading to more garments being labeled 'Dry Clean' when they could be professionally wet cleaned. This unnecessary requirement can potentially lead to more garments being dry cleaned and thus greater PCE use.Fiber Content for 'Professional Wet Clean' Garments vs. Fiber Content For All Garments That Cannot Be Home Laundered
Requiring fiber content only for garments labeled 'Professionally Wet Clean' not only makes it more onerous for manufacturers to label a garment with a professional wet clean label but does not provide dry cleaners with important information to wet clean garments when they feel it is appropriate.
In sum, while the Draft Environmental Assessment states the EPA's belief that the proposed action will have "positive effects", it is very possible that the amendments to the Rule will have a negative effect of reducing the percentage of garments that otherwise would have been wet cleaned. This is particularly due to the problem of not requiring all garments that need professional cleaning and that can be professionally wet cleaned to carry a 'Professionally Wet Clean' label. By creating a situation where some garment carry a 'Professional Wet Clean' label while other garments carry a 'Dry Clean' label creates the impression that garments labeled 'Dry Clean' cannot be professionally wet cleaned. That is, garment owners are likely to be more skeptical about wet cleaning a garment labeled 'Dry Clean' after the creation of the 'Professionally Wet Clean' label than before. Thus, not requiring manufacturers to carry of 'Professional Wet Clean' label most likely will narrow the demand for professional wet cleaning. This negative effect can be mitigated by fully informing garments owners whether a garment can be professionally wet cleaned. Without this mitigation, the negative effect of this Rule would warrant a full EIS.
If the FTC would like us to expand upon any of the comments discussed above, place do not hesitate to write. Otherwise we look forward participating in the upcoming workshop.
Luce Professor, Urban Environmental Studies