Embellishing products is a very popular model of business, but what sort of rules surround such a thing in terms of product safety?
So if you are embellishing a tee, you'll follow the same steps as if you were making the tee from raw fabric. If you are embellishing a stuffed toy, you'll follow the same steps as that toy would follow being made from raw materials.
But you're probably new to all of this, so you are staring at me with a blank face like 'well...uh...okayyyyy???'. Here are a few links for the specific items you might be embellishing. You can read them later after this article.
- Children's Clothing
- Stuffed Toys
- Blankets, Burp Cloths, Pillow Cases
Adult & General Use Products
If you are embellishing adult's clothing, you'll need to ensure that it complies with the Flammability of Wearing Apparel regulation (16 CFR Part 1610). That is, if you purchase a zip-up sweater/hoodie and the lining is a raised surfaced material that is not 100% polyester, you'll need to connect with the manufacturer to make sure that it complies. If the material is 100% polyester or you are using something that uses plain surfaced materials (like tees), nothing more is needed.
Tumblers should be compliant with FDA regulations regarding contact with food as well as the material you are adding.
Other adult/general use products typically don't have any added work. Just purchase, embellish, and sell.
All children's products require compliance to Total Lead Content (CPSIA Sec 101a) and Lead in Surface Coatings (16 CFR Part 1303).
Products like blankets, burp cloths, and pillow cases will only require compliance to those two things. - You'll likely not need any information here since they are typically made of exempt-from-testing materials.
Clothing follows the same two Lead regulations as well as the Flammability regulation that adult clothing follows. - Tees won't need any information here because they are exempt from testing. Anything with zippers, snaps, or raised surfaced materials will need a children's product certificate from the supplier.
Products that are toys will need to comply with the two Lead regulations as well as Heavy Elements, Phthalates, and ASTM F963. - You will need a children's product certificate from the supplier.
A Special Note on Toys
If you've received the children's product certificate from the supplier of the toy you are embellishing AND your embellishing does not affect the structural integrity of the toy (such as embroidering birth stats on a creature that has a zipper to reach the inside), you do NOT have to retest for ASTM F963.
If your embellishment requires that you, in some way, disassemble the toy, you may need to retest for ASTM F963.
The Embellishment You Add Matters
Ok, so now you know what the original product needs and you have any of the information you needed for it. Now what?
If you are embroidering something, you will not need any testing information for the thread unless it is metallic (children's product) or SUPER fuzzy (clothing - like this recall). You do not need any information about the stabilizer unless it is a treatment *and* does not wash away.
If you are dying something for children, you will not need any testing information for the dyes.
If you are painting something for children, you'll need a lab report for the Lead in Surface Coatings requirement.
If you are adding heat transfer vinyl (HTV) to a children's product, you'll need information from the supplier for Total Lead Content, Heavy Elements (toys), and Phthalates (toys & childcare articles).
Added Labeling Is Required
For all children's products, you will need to add new labeling information. Whether you choose to keep the existing tags or replace them, you are responsible for ensuring all information required is still available on the product.
If you keep the existing tag, it should already have things like fiber content, country of origin, care information (clothing), and batch/dates of manufacture (children's products). You will need to add your business name & contact, at minimum, to indicate that you are the final step to the finished product and you are the person to contact in the event of an issue with the finished product.
If you remove the existing tag, be sure to replace any information you've removed.
Children's Product Certificate
Even if the original children's product was exempt from testing and your addition is exempt from testing, you will need to create your own children's product certificate for this new finished product.
If you received a children's product certificate from your supplier of the original product, you will still need to create your own for the new finished product.
You will create a document for each different type of children's product you have (tee, bodysuit, blanket, toy, etc.) and you will create a new one for every month that you have made these products.
A Final Note About Legalities
When embellishing products there are a number of considerations to be mindful of.
1. You will be responsible for assisting in any recall that the original product may be affected by.
2. You are responsible for reporting to the CPSC, and providing remedy for, any safety issues your finished products have even if that issue is from the original product and not due to your addition.
2. Be aware that a company may not permit alterations to their products due to brand reputation and safety.
3. Watch for intellectual property. Some companies are made to be altered (Gildan®, Bella + Canvas®, AJ Blanks, etc.), some companies are not and use of their registered trademarks can become an issue (Gerber®, Carters®, Garanimals®). Please seek guidance from an intellectual property lawyer for further assistance.
If this was a lot, don't worry, it is and I understand that! That's why I offer services to help and have created digital books that walk you through the process, step-by-step, in a more conversational tone.
Join my free Facebook group, US Product Safety Compliance.
The Makers Community membership.
Free basic product safety course.