Textile care used to be straightforward when everything was made of natural fibres. However, as rayon, nylon and, when a long list of polyester fibres were introduced into textile production in the 1950s, care instructions became more complex. There were also new finishes and manufacturing techniques, such as bonding, used for the production of garments that required special consideration when cleaning.
Internationalism, the movement of the post-war period that affected everything from trade relations to architectural styles, was promoted by the International Standardization Organization (ISO) in textile industry symposiums in the late 1950s. As a result, the international textile care labelling group GINETEX (Groupement Internationale d’Etiquetage pour l’Entretien des Textiles) was founded in 1962 for the express purpose of creating international textile care labels. This organization, located in Paris, was formed from representatives of the textile, garment, chemical (dye) and detergent industries. From here the story gets muddy as to who was doing what and when. Britain, Canada, and Japan were testing their own systems of pictographic care symbols while the ISO was moving to standardise pictographic symbols as early as 1970.
The Canadian care symbol system used green (go ahead), amber (caution), and red (don’t try) with the five symbols (wash tub, bleach triangle, square dryer, iron, and dry cleaning circle.) When the Canadian Textile Labelling Act required all garments sold in Canada to be accurately identified for content as of July 1, 1973, care symbols were not legally required, although they were widely used by Canadian manufacturers. In 2003 the Canadian system was updated to harmonize with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and (ISO) standards, and the colour code was dropped.