Types of Tests in Apparel Quality Control

Beyond the sharp eyes of inspectors, apparel quality control relies heavily on a complete testing program. These tests act as scientific evaluations to ensure garments meet specific performance standards, safety regulations, and consumer expectations. Different tests are conducted throughout the production process, from raw materials to finished products, to assess diverse aspects of the clothing.

This focus on testing goes beyond simply checking for defects. It’s about ensuring the garment performs as intended. For instance, activewear needs to wick away sweat and allow breathability during exercise, while children’s clothing should prioritize safety by minimizing choking hazards and meeting stricter flammability standards. Similarly, workwear might require tests for tear and puncture resistance depending on the specific job requirements.

By incorporating a multi-tiered testing program, manufacturers gain valuable insights into the quality and functionality of their garments. That helps identify and address potential issues early on, saving key resources such as time and money. They also allow us to demonstrate compliance with industry standards and safety regulations. 

A well-designed testing program boosts consumer trust and brand reputation reliability.

Here’s a breakdown of the different tests used in apparel quality control, along with specific examples for each category:

Types of Tests

1. Visual Inspection: This is the most basic test, relying on technicians and inspectors’ trained eyes to check for defects like stitching inconsistencies, colour variations, or improper labelling. That goes beyond simple observation. Professionals are trained to identify defects like:

  • Stitching Defects: Skipped stitches, uneven stitch density, thread breaks, puckering, and misaligned seams.
  • Fabric Defects: Uneven weave, colour variations, stains, slubs (irregular yarn thickness), and abrasion marks.
  • Construction Defects: Incorrect seam types, missing trims (like tapes, reinforcements, and buttons), uneven buttonholes, improper zipper installation, and misaligned pockets
  • Labeling Defects: Incorrect sizing information, faded or missing care labels, and typographical errors.
Apparel Quality Control

2. Mechanical Tests: These tests use specialized equipment to evaluate the physical properties of fabrics, trims, and garments. They can be further categorized as:

a) Informal Tests: Quick checks during production, like seam strength by hand-pulling or zipper functionality. These provide quick checks during fittings and production:

  • Seam Strength Tests: Manually pulling seams to assess strength and identify weak points.
  • Zipper Functionality Tests: Checking for smooth operation and secure closure.
  • Buttonhole Functionality Tests: Verifying buttons can be fastened and unfastened easily.
  • Colorfastness Rub Tests: Manually rub fabric samples against a white cloth to check for colour bleeding.

b) Formal Laboratory Tests: Detailed analyses performed in controlled environments to measure specific performance parameters. These offer in-depth analyses using specialized equipment. Common examples are the tensile strength test, washing resistance test, and pilling resistance test. 

Mandatory Tests

Depending on the garment type, target market, and country regulations, specific tests are mandatory. These often focus on safety: 

  • Harmful Substances Testing: Ensures the absence of restricted chemicals like formaldehyde or lead, which is especially important for children’s wear.
  • Flammability Testing: This verifies compliance with fire safety standards for specific clothing categories, such as sleepwear, nightwear, and certain types of workwear.

Common Laboratory Tests for Durability

These tests evaluate the durability and performance of everyday garments: 

  • Tensile Strength Testing: Machines measure the force required to break a fabric sample, indicating tear resistance.
  • Abrasion Resistance Testing: A mechanical arm rubs the fabric against a rough surface to assess wear and tear potential.
  • Washing Resistance Testing: Garments are subjected to simulated washing cycles to evaluate shrinkage, colour change, and seam integrity.
  • Colorfastness Tests: Especial equipment measures colour change after exposure to different factors such as sunlight, washing, crocking, perspiration, and dry cleaning.
  • Dimensional Stability Testing: Garments are measured before and after washing to assess shrinkage or stretching.
  • Pilling Resistance Testing: Evaluates the fabric’s tendency to form small balls of fibre on the surface.
  • Snag Resistance Testing: Measures the fabric’s susceptibility to catching on sharp objects.
Apparel Quality Control

Tests for Special Needs

Additional tests are performed for garments with specific functionalities, for example: 

  • Moisture Management Testing: Evaluates the fabric’s ability to wick away sweat from the body. 
  • Breathability Testing: Measures how well the fabric allows air to circulate. 
  • Seam Strength Testing under Dynamic Load: Tests seam strength during movement and exercise stress.  
  • Puncture Resistance Testing: Evaluates the fabric’s ability to resist punctures from sharp objects, which is important for some workwear applications. 
  • Antimicrobial Testing: Measures the fabric’s ability to inhibit bacterial growth, which is essential for sportswear or medical garments.
  • Waterproof/Windproof Testing: These tests involve exposing the fabric to water or wind under controlled conditions to assess its repellency.
  • Other specific tests: Anti-mould, wrinkle resistance, care labelling and barcode tests, eco-textile testing (banned azo colourants, heavy metals, etc.), and UV protection.

By employing the appropriate tests alongside inspections, we can ensure our garments meet quality standards, perform as intended, and comply with safety regulations.

This information is a part of the extensive research conducted for our third book, Strong Seams, a seam catalogue focused on garment durability and quality. 
We couldn’t include all the research in the book. However, we believe it’s worth sharing with people like you who are also interested in quality and long-lasting garments.

We hope the material is helpful. If you want to know more about our book Strong Seams, please visit the following link: book Strong Seams (link)

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