Clothing and Textiles Regulations in the European Union: A Complete Guide

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Planning to import clothing or textile products in the EU? In this guide, we introduce regulations and standards that importers or manufacturers placing clothing and textile products in the EU market should know. This includes REACH, the General Product Safety Directive, the Personal Protective Equipment Directive, and more.

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REACH: Chemicals & Heavy Metals

REACH regulates dangerous chemical substances in consumer products, including apparel and textiles. Hundreds of chemicals are used during the process of textile manufacturing, including substances that are deemed toxic and, as such, are restricted.

For example, phthalates might be used to improve the product’s brightness, and it is restricted by REACH. Therefore, it is essential to ensure that your products don’t contain substances above the prescribed limitations under REACH.

Does REACH apply to textiles?

Yes, REACH applies to consumer products in the European Union, including clothing and textile products.

What are the obligations of REACH regulation?

Here we listed the main sectors that are subjected to the REACH regulation:

a. A manufacturer in the EU that produces chemical substances, or products that contain any chemical substances

b. An importer based in the EU who buys chemical substances, or products from outside the EU that contain any chemical substances

c. A company or user who handles any chemicals in industrial or professional activity in the EU

Manufacturers and importers need to ensure that their products comply with REACH substances restrictions (e.g. substances listed on Annex XVII) and notification obligations (e.g. substances listed on the SVHC Candidate List).

Although REACH does not apply to countries outside the EU, it has become an international reference for other countries as well. For example, Switzerland is not part of the EU but they generally accept some EU regulations, including REACH.

REACH SVHC Testing

How do I know which chemicals and heavy metals are restricted?

As already mentioned, Annex XVII and the SVHC Candidate List provided a list of restricted substances. In theory, you could take the time to read through these lists and make sure that your products do not contain any of the listed substances.

However, this is not practical. In many cases, it could be difficult even to know what chemical substances are contained in your products. A lab testing company can help to assess which chemicals, heavy metals, and pollutants to test for, and perform the relevant tests.

Hence, if you work with a lab, as an importer you don’t need to keep track of all substances that might be restricted.

What restricted substances are mostly commonly found in clothing and textiles products?

These are examples of restricted substances that are found in clothing and textile products:

a. Aromatic amines (from azo dyes, used to provide vibrant colors to textiles)

b. Formaldehyde (used to increase colorfastness and anti-wrinkle of the textiles)

c. Phthalates (might be found in plastic parts of the clothing or textiles, used to improve brightness)

d. Pentachlorophenol (PCP) (used as preservatives in the textiles)

e. Organotin compounds (used for anti-microbial function and to prevent unpleasant odors caused by sweat)

f. Alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEOs) (used as surfactant)

Is lab testing mandatory?

A REACH lab testing might not be mandatory for your products. However, failing to comply with its obligations can result in heavy penalties such as imprisonment, fines, or withdrawal of your products from the market.

In addition, regulatory compliance requirements could be difficult to follow as they might require knowledge and experience. For example, four new substances were added to the REACH SVHC Candidate List list in January 2021. Since regulations are updated on a non-regular basis, it’s not always easy to keep track of all the updates, including new substance restrictions.

Hence, it is recommended to get your products lab-tested, and obtain a valid test report for your products.

General Product Safety Directive (GPSD)

The General Product Safety Directive (GPSD) aims to ensure the general safety of consumer products before they can be placed in the EU market. The GPSD covers consumer products, including clothing and textile products. It includes safety, labeling, and documentation requirements.

EN standards

By complying with harmonized standards, your clothing or textile products obtain a presumption of conformity with the technical requirements of the GPSD, for the aspects covered by the standard. Currently, there is only one harmonized standard for clothing under the GPSD:

EN 14682 Safety of children’s clothing — Cords and drawstrings on children’s clothing

When harmonized standards don’t exist, importers or manufacturers of clothing or textiles can still use other international or national standards such as:

a. EN 17394 Safety of children’s clothing – Security of attachment of buttons – Test method

b. EN 14878 Textiles – Burning behavior of children’s nightwear – Specification

Requirements

The GPSD outlines several requirements for importers, manufacturers, or distributors selling their products in the EU, including the following:

  • Creation and backup of the Risk Assessment Report
  • Creation of the Technical File
  • Provide traceability label
  • Obtain test reports (if applicable)
  • Creation of the user manual for the products (if applicable)

Clothing and Textiles EN Standards

In this section, we list EN standards that are relevant for clothing and textiles.

Children’s Clothing EN Standards

EN standards that are for children’s clothing include the following:

a. EN 14878 – Burning Behavior of Children’s Nightwear

b. EN 14682 – Safety of Children’s Clothing

c. EN 17394-1 – Textiles and Textile Products: Part 1 – Safety of children’s clothing – Security of attachment of attached components to infants’ clothing – Specification

d. EN 17394-2 – Textiles and Textile Products: Part 2 – Safety of children’s clothing – Security of attachment of buttons – Test method

e. EN 17394-3 – Textiles and Textile Products: Part 3: Safety of children’s clothing – Security of attachment of metal mechanically applied press fasteners – Test method

f. EN 17394-4 – Textiles and Textile Products: Part 4: Safety of children’s clothing – Security of attachment of components except buttons and metal mechanically applied press fasteners – Test method

Jeans

Protective Clothing EN Standards

Protective clothing such as high visibility vests might be subjected to the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Regulation. Here are some examples of EN standards relevant for personal protective clothing:

a. EN ISO 20471: High Visibility Clothing Test Methods and Requirements

b. EN 1150: Protective Clothing. Visibility Clothing for Non-Professional Use

c. EN 342: Protective clothing – Ensembles and Garments for Protection Against Cold

d. EN 343: Waterproof and Breathable Protective Clothing

e. EN 531: Protective clothing for industrial workers exposed to heat (excluding firefighters’ and welders’ clothing)

f. EN 13034: Protective Clothing Against Liquid Chemicals

EN ISO 12952-1 – Textiles. Assessment of the ignitability of bedding items. Ignition source. Smoldering cigarette

EN ISO 12952-1 specifies test methods to assess the ignitability of bedding items when subjected to a smoldering cigarette. EN ISO 12952 covers the following bedding items:

  • Mattress covers
  • Underlays
  • Incontinence sheets and pads
  • Sheets
  • Blankets
  • Electric blankets
  • Quilts (duvets)
  • Covers
  • Pillows (whatever the filling)
  • Bolsters
  • Pillowcases

EN ISO 12952 excludes mattresses, bed bases, and mattress pads.

EN ISO 12952-2 – Textiles. Assessment of the ignitability of bedding items. Part 2: Ignition source: match-flame equivalent

EN ISO 12952 specifies the test methods to assess the ignitability of all bedding items when subjected to match-flame equivalent. This part of the standard covers the same product scope as part one.

EN 13772 – Textiles and textile products. Burning behavior. Curtains and drapes. Measurement of the flame spread of vertically oriented specimens with large ignition source

EN 13772 specifies a test method to measure the spread of vertically oriented textile fabrics that are intended for curtains and drapes under the large ignition flame. These types of curtains and drapes are in the form of single or multi-component such as coated, quilted, multilayered, or other similar constructions.

Personal Protective Equipment Regulation

The Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Regulation covers protective clothing used in work or residential environments to protect the users from chemical erosion, heat, electricity, or other types of hazards.

Product Scope

This regulation covers protective clothing or textile wear such as the following:

  • Water-proof trousers
  • Fire-proof clothing
  • High visibility clothing
  • Protective gloves
  • Earmuffs

The PPE Regulation classifies personal protective equipment into three categories, according to the severity of the risk they are designed to protect from.

Requirements

These are some requirements that importers or manufacturers of PPE products should follow before placing their products in the EU:

  • Create a User Manual
  • Create a Technical File
  • Obtain Test Report
  • Prepare a Declaration of Conformity (DoC)
  • Affix CE marking label
  • Provide product traceability label

PPE that is classified as either Category II or III requires the involvement of a Notified Body.

Textile Labeling and Fiber Composition Regulation

According to the Textile Labeling and Fiber Composition Regulation, products have to be labeled or marked whenever they are made available on the market. Here we summarize the required labeling information:

a. Fiber composition (e.g. 100% Polyester)

b. Non-textile parts of animal origin must be clearly specified (such as fur or leather)

c. The label should not contain abbreviations with the exception of mechanized processing codes

Textiles Care Labels

How do I know if my product is classified as a textile product

According to the regulation, “All products containing at least 80% by weight of textile fibres, including raw, semi-worked, worked, semi-manufactured, semi-made, and made-up products are covered by the Regulation”

Fiber Composition

As mentioned above, fiber content must be provided under the textile regulation. Here we listed some common fibers and attributes in the textile industry:

  • Silk (smooth fabric finish with high shine)
  • Wool (Warmth)
  • Nylon (Durable, Strong, lightweight, dries quickly)
  • Polyester (Durable, Strong, lightweight, dries quickly)
  • Cotton (Lightweight, absorbent)
  • Spandex (Elastic, strong, lightweight)

Placement

In general, textile products must carry a durable, legible, easily visible, and accessible label, either on the product or on its packaging. Take an example as a T-shirt. It is recommended to affix the label on the inner side of the product, towards the neck.

Sizes and Care Instructions

Harmonization of the size system is covered by the voluntary standard EN 13402 on the size designation of clothes. Even though sizes are not required by the regulation, it is still recommended to add them to the label.

Similar to sizes, care instructions are not mandatory under the textile regulation.

Country of Origin

In the European Union, there is no such obligation for providing the Country of Origin on the label. However, if you choose to state the Country of Origin on the label, it must not be misleading to consumers.

Language

The information on the label should be written in the official languages of the EU country where the textile is marketed. For example, you should translate the label into the German language, if you plan to place your textiles products in Germany.

Clothing Lab Testing

Lab testing is often the only way to make sure that your clothing or textile products do not contain restricted or prohibited chemicals by the applicable regulations, such as formaldehyde, phthalates, and aromatic amines.

Lab testing is also necessary to ensure that your clothing or textile products comply with relevant standards such as EN 14682 – Safety of Children’s Clothing and EN 14878 – Burning Behavior of Children’s Nightwear.

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    Disclaimer: The content on this website is provided for general information only. The content includes summaries written by our team members based on publicly available information about product safety standards, labeling, documentation, testing, processes, and other product compliance related topics. However, we don’t guarantee that we cover every single relevant regulation/standard/requirement, or that the information is free from errors, or covering every single scenario and exemption. We do make mistakes from time to time. We never provide legal advice of any sort.

    Changes/Updates: Product standards and substance restrictions are subject to frequent updates and changes. In addition, new regulations, standards, and/or requirements may also become effective at any time. We don’t update our articles whenever new standards/regulations/rules are added or changed. We recommend that you consult a lab testing company or other professional to get the latest information about mandatory standards/regulations in your market, country, or state. Lab testing companies generally stay up to date on new and updated standards and regulations.

    National/State-Level Standards/Regulations: Many articles don't cover all European national and US state standards, regulations, and requirements. We recommend that you consult a testing company or other professional to confirm all relevant (and current) national/state level standards and regulations.
  • 19 Responses to “Clothing and Textiles Regulations in the European Union: A Complete Guide

    1. Eunice at 9:30 pm

      Hi is it mandatory for all adult apparel(not sleepwear) sold in EU to have REACH testing done?

    2. Nina white at 5:31 am

      Helloo,

      Does EU requires the name of distribitor or manufacture on textiles as hats and jackets?
      Do you also have more information of the information needed on accessories as signs?

      Appreciate your help!

    3. N at 5:07 pm

      Hi Fredric, do you know if fabric composition is required on the products like tie, bowman and bath mat?

      1. Fredrik Gronkvist at 3:30 pm

        Hi N,

        I cannot remember. But, there is a list on the EU website.

      2. Liz at 5:21 pm

        Yes its required on all product, where the product is too small to have the COO like socks and bow ties, this then needs to be added to the packaging.

    4. Walty Fernandes at 9:54 pm

      Hi
      I would like to inquire about what recent regulations the company need to comply for exporting garments manufacturing in India to the EU.
      I am presently based in Scotland and in a process of registering an office.

      Kindly advise,

      Best regards,

      Walty

      1. Fredrik Gronkvist at 1:17 pm

        Hi Walty,

        I suggest you try our compliance information tool: https://www.compliancegate.com

    5. Robert Atkinson at 7:45 pm

      Are European clothing sellers required to indicate fabric contents at POS for the clothing articles they sell?

      1. Fredrik Gronkvist at 2:21 pm

        Hi Robert,

        What do you mean with POS? The products must be correctly labeled and the fiber content is part of that requirement.

        1. Raja Anuragi at 10:51 pm

          Hi Fredrik
          I am a new learner of textile compliance because I want to make my career in this field. So please suggest me how I can pursue in future

          1. Fredrik Gronkvist at 11:22 am

            Hi Raja,

            I guess the best way forward is to seek employment as some of the big testing companies like SGS or Intertek

        2. Spritt Schapiro at 8:58 pm

          POS= Point of sale. If sold online that would mean on the website at the point of looking at the item and determine to buy. In physical store Point of sale could either be in the store on a sign next to the product or on the product itself.
          For textile for EU it have to be both on the product (sew-in label) in national language, and if sold online it has to be on the product page in the webshop as well in national language, as it has to be accessible at point of sale. :) Article 16 in EC 1007/2011.

    6. 5 Important Things Importers Must Know About Product Safety at 7:07 pm

      […] requirements (e.g. Care Labels, CE mark, Country of Origin, FCC […]

    7. peter greenwood at 11:19 pm

      Hi Fredrik,

      Great article.

      Do you have any information on what tests need to be done for children’s footwear?

    8. Casey at 12:08 pm

      what is the legal fabric composition tolerance for EU? eg. the fabric in 100% Cotton, 75%Cotton/23%Polyamide/2%Elastane

      1. shaji at 6:42 pm

        it is 0 on single component like 100% cotton ( no tolerance)
        +-3% on multi component.

    9. Tyler Johnson at 3:15 pm

      That’s interesting that there are no regulations on sizes or care instructions being labeled on textiles in the EU. I feel like there would be different regulations for that kind of thing in different parts of the world. I’ll have to consider getting someone to help me make sure that I follow all the rules of different countries if I decide to start a company and it does well enough to expand into different countries.

      1. Fredrik Gronkvist at 9:26 am

        Perhaps, but it would also be very problematic to regulate the exact measurements as different types of apparel have different fits. It’s probably best if the governments stay out of that.

      2. shaji at 6:46 pm

        internationally there is no law in regards to size and care instruction . But suggested care must protect the products in its life . Size always depends on customer size requirement and fit comments .

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