Content Labels found in clothing are misleading for a number of reasons. The content label only lists the outer shell fabric of the garment. For example a jacket contains outer and internal linings, collar felt and collar stiffening, shoulder pads, reinforcement tapes etc. None of these as well as external patches, ornamentation and embroidery or sewing thread are listed on the label. That means many suits labeled 100% wool contain shatnez and you would never know it from the label. Suits labeled 100% polyester or cotton are also found sometimes to contain shatnez.
According to government law any fiber in the garment which makes up less than 5% of the garment is not required to be listed on the content label. As mentioned above even one small thread of wool in a linen garment, or one small thread of linen in a wool garment renders the entire garment shatnez.
The author has found many cases were the content label was partially or completely incorrect.
That being said I still highly recommend that everyone should accustom themselves to reading content labels before buying clothing. Even though labels are not reliable you can still save yourself a lot of time and money. If you see it says wool and linen, mixed fibers or other fibers, do not take a chance. Put it back on the rack and keep looking!
Reprocessed Material is material made from a mixture of cloth remnants. Shoulder pads found in jackets and coats are often found to be made of reprocessed material. Because of the difficulty of accurately being able to examine reprocessed materials the opinions of the Poskim vary regarding the use of these garments which have already been purchased. However, most Rabbonim agree that it is preferable to avoid purchasing items containing reprocessed material in the first place. Testing of reprocessed material will occasionally reveal large quantities of wool and linen, which would make the garment unquestionably shatnez. The term “Other Fibers”, “Mixed Fibers”, O.F. or A.F. on a content label usually indicate the presence of reprocessed fibers.
Alterations and repairs done on a garment may also be a shatnez concern and one may need to have the repaired portion checked by a shatnez lab.
Sometimes it is important to know what a garment is made of even if there is no problem of shatnez in the garment itself.
The Rabbis forbade wearing two garments; one wool and one linen, one on top of the other in a manner were it is not possible to remove the bottom article without first removing the top garment.
For example; wearing wool sox’s with shoes stitched with linen thread. In such a case it is impossible to remove the sox without first removing the shoe. It appears as though they are bound together and forbidden as shatnez.
Were it is possible to remove the bottom garment without having to remove the top one even with some shifting around of the garments it is permitted. For example a tallis katon made of wool worn under a linen shirt; since it is possible to remove the tallis katon from under the shirt without removing the shirt, it is permitted. Likewise there is no problem of tucking a linen shirt into a pair of wool pants or skirt.
It is permitted to wear a wool garment on top of a linen one or vice versa if there is a third garment made of a neutral material separating them, even if it would not be possible to remove the bottom one without removing the top one.
Buyer Beware: Clothing and fabric storeowners are often unfamiliar with all of the components and fabrics incorporated in the garments they sell. Even the factories that manufacture clothing are often unaware of, and are not required to know, the content of internal reinforcements used in their products. Because of this lack of information, even a shomer shabbos retailer or manufacturer cannot be relied upon to claim that his merchandise is shatnez-free. This applies even though the clothing was manufactured especially for him, and even if he was present at the factory during production.
In addition, some storeowners are notorious for claiming that their garments are pre-tested or sample tested when in fact they are not. All garments pre-tested for stores by a certified shatnez laboratory will carry an official non-shatnez label in each item.
Unfortunately some stores in religious neighborhoods sew their own fake non-shatnez label on to suits and other garments.
Always look for a non-shatnez label which has the name of the certified shatnez laboratory on the label. If you do not see this you can assume that the garment has not been shatnez tested. If you wish to purchase the garment make sure to have it tested at a certified shatnez laboratory.
Rabbi Eliyahu Neiman in 1991 was certified as expert in the field of shatnez in testing and halacha from the “Vaad Mishmeres Habeged” of Bnei Brak and the “International Association of Professional Shatnez Testers and Laboratories” of Lakewood, NJ.
Founded and managed the “Kiryat Sefer-Modi’in Illit Shatnez Laboratory from 1991-2005.
Senior tester in “Mishmeres Nasson Shatnez Laboratories Jerusalem from 2002-2008.
Rabbi Neiman is presently manager of the “Shatnez Express Betar Illit” as well as the “RBS (Ramat Beit Shemesh) Shatnez Laboratory”. He also runs Shatnez pick-ups in Jerusalem’s Ramat Eshkol, Yeshiva Ohr Somayach and N’vei Yaakov.
(Jerusalem Kosher News – www.jerusalemkoshernews.com)