WHAT IS A LAW LABEL?
A “law label” is a disclosure label required by state law to be sewn into every bedding product made of filling encased in an outer cover. This includes comforters, pillows, featherbeds and mattresses. The label must disclose, in language specified by law, the type of filling, and in the case of down products, the exact percentage of down and feathers. This is the best way to determine the exact contents of the product you intend to buy – because advertising and packaging regulations are vague and rarely enforced.
Law labels may be attached only by bedding manufacturers and others licensed to do so. The agencies which license manufacturers and regulate the content of their law labels are usually a part of a state’s department of public health.
HOW DO I TELL IF MY PRODUCT REALLY CONTAINS DOWN OR FEATHERS?
First, understand three terms: down, feather, and fiber. Down is the soft, fluffy clusters taken from the undercoating of geese or ducks (and it is many times more expensive than feathers). Feathers are the bird's outer covering, and have a hard, spiny quill. Down has little weight, but great insulating abilities. Feathers are relatively inexpensive, but are heavy and do not insulate nearly as well. Fiber refers to pieces of damaged or broken down clusters or feathers. ALL THREE OF THESE ARE PRESENT IN PRODUCTS SOLD AS “DOWN.” This is because the mechanical process used to sort down from feathers is not perfect. Some feathers and fiber, in trace amounts, will always remain in the purest down fill. So, it is inaccurate and contrary to law, to state that a product contains "all down," "pure down," or "100% down." Don't let a salesperson tell you that it does.
Recognizing that all down products contain some trace of feathers and fiber, new regulations require manufacturers to tell you the minimum percentage of down clusters in the product. As long as it contains at least 75% white goose down clusters, the product may be labeled as "white goose down." However, that label must also state, in a slightly smaller typeface, that the product actually contains "minimum 75% down.” (75% down is actually pretty average for most down products offered for sale in the United States today). A better quality down that measures 650 fill power might be labeled as "minimum 85% down" clusters. Thus a typical 650 fill power down pillow might be labeled as follows:
This product contains all new material
WHITE GOOSE DOWN
(minimum 85 percent down)
The 85 percent does not mean that the product is inferior. Indeed this item would contain over 13 percent more "down" clusters than the 75% minimum that is required by law. And remember, any product with 85% down clusters would have such a small trace amount of feathers and fiber that it would be virtually undetectable. Moreover, it is practically impossible to mechanically sort the down finer than 90 to 95 percent (about a 750 fill power down rating).
WHAT NEED NOT APPEAR ON A DOWN LAW LABEL?
Although every state has different disclosure requirements, many states do not require that the color or the species of the bird be disclosed. For instance, many states allow the use of the term “white down” without stating if it is made of goose or duck. Similarly, many states allow the term “goose down” without disclosing if it is gray or white. Beware of feather pillows labeled "crushed feathers" as they are made of large feathers in excess of the legal limit to be sold as whole feathers, and had to be crushed in order to be used.
Of course, there are many variables that determine the quality of a down or feather fill . . . .and in the end, the best advice is to purchase only from a manufacturer that you trust.