Product Evaluation Lab Frequently Asked Questions

 

Q. Can you determine if something is made of organic cotton?

A. “Organic” refers to a production process following guidelines that are certified as Organic.  Once that certified bale of cotton is processed into a yarn there is no absolute testing technique that can determine whether or not that product is made from organic cotton versus conventional cotton.   (Although some companies are experimenting with technologies that might one day be able to distinguish organic cotton from cotton grown by modern conventional methods, the science is not yet proven.) The best source of information is to ask your supplier for the organic certification information.  For more information about the USDA National Organic Program please see their website:  http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/nop

Q. Can you determine if cotton in the yarn is combed or not?

A. No, once the fiber is converted into a yarn there is no definitive or quantitative way to determine whether or not the fiber was combed prior to spinning.  A purely subjective judgement would be the only means available.

Q. Can you determine if this is made from cotton from a specific country?

A. No, once a bale of cotton is opened and converted into a yarn the only source of information about the origin is from the records of the suppliers.  You cannot physically or chemically test a cotton product to determine the country in which the cotton was produced.

Q. Can you determine if this product is made from Pima, Egyptian or extra long staple cotton?

A. Maybe.  First it should be noted that the supplier should be able to provide documentation to prove that extra long staple fiber has been used.  Supima has a program through which you can determine approved suppliers of Pima products.  http://www.supima.com/locate-suppliers/  As for testing, there is no physical test that will make this determination once the fiber is converted into a yarn.  Very fine yarn counts (Ne 50/1 and higher) are most likely made from extra long staple (ELS) cottons just based on the physics involved.  In other words, it is not physically possible to create extremely fine yarns from shorter staple fibers.  Some research has been done to use DNA testing to determine Pima versus other cottons.  For information on the possible use of this technology see the Applied DNA Sciences website: http://www.adnas.com/products/biomaterial_genotyping   

Q. Can you determine what portion of this garment is made from recycled cotton?

A. No, once cotton has been converted into a yarn you cannot tell if the original fiber was from virgin raw cotton or from recycled materials.

Q. What detergent is used for standard laundering?

A. American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (AATCC) detergents are used for standard laundering procedures.  AATCC detergents are developed to represent a typical- middle of the road detergent available in the consumer marketplace.  The most critical reason for using AATCC standard detergents is that the formulation is consistent.  Detergents sold to consumers continuously undergo subtle modifications in formulations and formulations can vary by region related to the water conditions (hardness) in different areas.  For consistency in testing, a consistent formulation is required.  The detergent is available in both powder and liquid forms and the Product Evaluation Laboratory  uses the AATCC liquid detergent based on the higher percentage of consumers that use liquid versus powder detergents at home.  For details about the standard detergent and its development please see the AATCC Monographs: 1993 AATCC Standard Reference Detergent and Laundry Detergents in General and 2003 AATCC Standard Reference Liquid Laundry Detergent.  https://www.aatcc.org/

Q. What are the standard wash cycle/dry cycle settings for laundering?

A. The test method in question defines the conditions required for laundering.  For most testing performed within the Product Evaluation Laboratory the following settings are used:

  • Washing: Normal setting, 12 minute wash, warm (105 F) wash water temperature.  Table 1 designation “III” , Table IIA designation “Normal” of the Standardization of Home Laundering Test Conditions Monograph.  
  • Drying: Tumble Dry, Cotton sturdy/Normal setting (150 F) for 30 minutes including 10 min cool down.  Table III designation “A”, Table  IV designation “a” for Normal in the Standardization of Home Laundering Test Conditions Monograph.  
  • For additional information please see the AATCC Monograph: Standardization of Home Laundering Test Conditions.

Q. What is conditioning?

A. Conditioning is the process of allowing test samples to come to standard moisture equilibrium in a specific environment.  The standard environment for textile testing is 70F +/- 2 F and 65% +/- 2% humidity and the Standard Practice for Conditioning and Testing of Textiles is ASTM D1776. – “The conditioning prescribed in this practice is designed to obtain reproducible results on textiles and textile products. Results of tests obtained on these materials under uncontrolled atmosphere conditions may not be comparable with each other. In general, many of the physical properties of textiles and textile products are influenced by relative humidity and temperature in a manner that affects the results of the tests. To make reliable comparisons among different textile materials and products, and among different laboratories, it is necessary to standardize the humidity and temperature conditions to which the textile material or product is subjected prior to, and during, testing.” (from ASTM D1776 Section 5.0 Significance and Use  http://www.astm.org/ )

Q. Does dimensional change and shrinkage mean the same thing?

A. AATCC defines dimensional change as: “a generic term for changes in length or width of a fabric specimen subjected to specified conditions. The change is usually expressed as a percentage of the initial dimension of the specimen.”  (from AATCC Test Method 135 https://www.aatcc.org/) The change can be in the positive direction due to an increase in length and/or width (growth) or negative direction due to a decrease in length and/or width (shrinkage).  Shrinkage is one potential outcome of dimensional change but dimensional change refers to change in either direction therefore can refer to either growth or shrinkage.

Q. What’s the difference between easy care and wrinkle free and no iron?

A. Various marketing terms may be used to convey the property of smoothness or resistance to wrinkling.  Officially, we are not aware of any standard definitions that apply to the different terms and these terms, as well as many others, may have different specifications depending on the brand/retailer/manufacturer.  An informal review of a limited number of brand specifications leads to these general comments using the AATCC Test Method 124 Smoothness Appearance (SA) rating scale https://www.aatcc.org/:

  • “easy care” ≤3.0
  • “wrinkle free” 3.2-3.8 or as high as 4.0
  • “no iron” ≥ 3.8 or higher than 4.0

Q. What is moisture management?

A. As defined in the AATCC Moisture Management Technical Supplement: “for apparel, linens, and soft goods, the engineered or inherent transport of water vapor or aqueous liquids such as perspiration or water (relates to comfort)”.  This technical supplement provides extensive details about moisture management and the testing of moisture management products and is available through AATCC.  https://www.aatcc.org/

Q. What is USP Medical Grade Cotton? What process and test requirements make it meet that standard?

A. U.S. Pharmacopeia is the group that creates the standards to classify items as USP Grade.  Please see their website and contact them for questions pertaining to USP Medical Grade Cotton. http://www.usp.org/referenceStandards/

 

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