Requirements for textiles

Meeting requirements is an essential part of a producer’s export preparations. Importers must be sure the products entering the European market meet all legislative requirements, and therefore requires this from their suppliers. In addition, importers sometimes have additional requirements.

EU textiles legislation

EU legislation on textiles products can be divided into three categories:

  1. the restriction of harmful substances: REACH and POP
  2. textiles labelling
  3. specific requirements for certain product categories: children and personal protective equipment (PPE).

In addition, products intended for children and personal protective equipment (PPE) have some specific requirements.

REACH, Registration Evaluation Authorisation and Restriction Of Chemicals

REACH is the European legislation on chemicals, banning, restricting or requiring information on chemicals. The overall goal for REACH is consumer protection.

For textiles and garments, relevant chemicals include azo dyes, phthalates, nickel and heavy metals. The relevance in textile products depend on which materials you use, and which processes the product goes through.

Note that REACH is regularly reviewed and updated, with chemicals added. This is part of an overall development to restrict harmful substances.
Understanding REACH on the European Chemicals Agency website

POP, Persistent Organic Pollutants

The European regulation on POPs restricts so called persistent organic pollutants, substances with a harmful effect on the environment.

In textiles and garments production and products, these could potentially be used in pesticides, flame retardants, plasticisers, dye carriers and perfluorinated chemicals.

Just like substances restricted under REACH, the relevance for POP in textile products depends on materials and processes used.
Understanding POPs on the European Chemicals Agency website

Textiles labelling

Textiles put on the European market must be labelled according to the Textile Regulation on fibre names and related labelling and marking of the fibre composition of textile products. The aim of the legislation is harmonisation within the European Union, and for citizens to make informed choices.
Textiles and clothing legislation on the EU Commission's website

Personal Protective Equipment

Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE, is a specific category of clothing which must meet a different set of requirements based on their protective properties. In order to show that the products meet these requirements, they must also bear the CE-mark.
Personal protective equipment on the European Commission website

What causes products to be denied in the EU market?

Products rejected or withdrawn from any EU country are alerted in a database in order to make sure it does not end up in another EU country. These alerts are made available in the RAPEX database. To find out what type of problems that occur and lead to product rejections or withdrawals, search for different products in the EU rapid alert system for dangerous non-food products (RAPEX).

Children’s products

Children are the most protected consumer group, and extra measures have been taken to ensure children’s products marketed in the EU are safe. This includes the design of clothing for children, where standard EN 14682:2007 establishes requirements for cords and drawstrings on children’s clothing in order to avoid injuries.

Toys also face extra requirements, and must comply and be marked with the CE mark.
Toy safety in the EU on the European Commission website

The textiles industry going beyond legislation

In order to be sold on the European market, products often need to fulfil not only the legal requirements described above but also requirements as defined by private actors, sometimes in the form of standards.

Following private requirements or standards is voluntary for the producer. However, importing retailers or distributors often ask companies wishing to sell their products in Europe to have their product certified according to a certain standard. Here are some examples of such requirements.

OEKO-TEX certification

Standard 100 by OEKO-TEX restricts harmful substances, covering all restricted substances by REACH, and most restricted substances covered by the POPs Regulation. That said, the restrictions in OEKO-TEX are often stricter than the limit values set in EU legislation.

Looking at the market relevance, EU legislation sets the minimum for a product marketed in the EU. For certain market players, OEKO-TEX certification is an added value, where others consider it a requirement. In Sweden, OEKO-TEX is quite common for all textiles groups, and particularly for children’s clothing, bed linen, home textiles, work and professional clothing.

Zero Discharge Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC): manufacturing restrictions

Where the EU legislation limits hazardous substances in articles and products markets in the EU, the ZDHC Manufacturing Restricted Substance List (MRSL) goes one step further in restricting substances used in the processing of textiles. The MRSL was developed by brands with an interest in responsible use of chemicals, and has become a requirement for sourcing of textile, putting pressure on upstream manufacturers to provide materials that are produced using responsible substances. There are several brands and other industry players taking part in the initiative. Go to the MRSL list

Chemicals in textile: from material to final product

Chemicals are used at different stages in the processing of textiles. Which ones are relevant depends on the material used. The purpose for using chemicals in a process ranges from adding properties to the material (water repellent, fire resistant…), dyeing or as protection of the materials. For final articles, there may be other materials of relevance such as metal (think of zippers or buttons) or coatings and prints, or glue. These materials must also be compliant with the restrictions of hazardous substances applicable to them.

In order to comply, it is important that the chemicals used in the processes from raw material to final products are known. When aiming for the EU market, you must therefore make sure that your suppliers and the materials you use in your production also comply with the restrictions.

Get further support

Feel free to contact us at Open Trade Gate Sweden. If you are looking for an overview of restricted substances applicable to your specific products, send us a request indicating as many details as you can, and at least materials used. We will get back to you with an overview of chemicals restricted and their use in textiles processes.