United States federal law mandates that manufacturers test many of the products and garments they make, to ensure that they are safe for use by the general public. ‘Children’s products’ for example, is an area with stringent requirements. If you’re launching a product line and are unsure of what testing may be required, use this page on the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website to find out.
Not everyone has to perform product testing. But does that mean you should make stuff that is entirely un-tested? If you care about quality and use experience, the answer should be no.
There are two main ways to perform tests on your goods. The first is to contract a testing agency to check whatever elements of the design are of interest or concern. The second is to have friends and family use the product or wear the garment, and provide informal feedback. Most smaller or new brands will want to use a combination of these two methods.
Agencies such as Intertek and UL specialize in testing consumer products across a range of categories. Test options vary widely, from seam strength to flammability to lead content. Browsing the services listed under your particular category on these company’s sites is a great way to gauge the best practices for your product type.
Once you decide on which test(s) to conduct, you simply send the agency samples of your goods and they’ll return a formal report with testing results. It’s a straightforward procedure, and the costs are not out of bounds for small makers. Testing ‘weight capacity’, for example, can be done for under $200!
Having friends and family ‘test’ products is likely to be free, and while the data is not as technical, the information that you receive can be equally as valuable. Holistic feedback such as, “Stuff kept falling out of the pockets” or “The zippers were hard to move” can help you improve your overall product design before investing in production.
Testing in all forms is crucial because it helps prevent negligence on both the part of the person who designed the product, as well as the factory in charge of putting it all together. For those serious about bringing good products into the market place, it’s a great idea to create a ‘testing plan’ for each item in your line. This plan should overview government requirements, optional agency tests, and a simple strategy for engaging friends and family.