esearch has shown that the children’s apparel industry is booming, and honestly, we’re not surprised. Custom bibs and hats are adorable gifts for baby showers, and thanks to social media, matching “parent-child” tees have become extremely popular. In 2016, global sales for children’s apparel and footwear outperformed adult fashion sales by experiencing a total value growth of 5% to reach $203.4 billion! Last year, childrenswear outpaced womenswear and menswear in retail value growth again. In simpler terms – children’s apparel is on the rise.  

However, before you dive head first into adding custom childrenswear to your screenprinting services, there are important regulations and best practices your business should follow.

Rules and Regulations

The Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) 2008 Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) regulates printing on apparel or products marketed for children ages 12 and under. The two main regulations to be aware of for screenprinters are lead and phthalates (the restrictions are highly detailed in Title I of the CPSIA).


The harmful effects of lead have been well documented, so it’s not surprising that the total amount used is highly regulated in children’s apparel. The total lead content in any children’s product must not exceed 100 parts per million, and for materials that can easily be scraped off a product – total lead content cannot exceed 90 parts per million.


While many are familiar with the harmful effects of lead, most people are less knowledgeable about phthalates. According to the CDC, phthalates (also referred to as plasticizers) are a group of chemicals which make plastics more flexible and less prone to breakage. While the long-term health effects of exposure to phthalates are still unknown, some phthalates have been shown to have damaging effects. In fact, several phthalates have been banned from use in childrenswear, particularly sleepwear for children ages three and under. Certain phthalates like DEHP, DBP, and BBP cannot be present in quantities higher than 0.1%.

The CPSIA requires all final products be tested by a CPSC approved third-party testing facility, and require a Children’s Product Certificate (CPC) verifying compliance. It is possible to avoid third-party testing if you acquire the certification from your apparel and ink suppliers verifying the products have been third-party tested and meet CPSC requirements.

Generally, the rule of thumb regarding the two regulations listed above, is to keep proof of all your CPSIA compliant materials by properly labeling and tracking your apparel and ink sources. The burden of proof falls on the person selling the product, so you want to protect your company from receiving fines.

Pro Tip: Brands like Gildan, American Apparel, and Rabbit Skins come with CPSIA compliant tracking labels.

Safety Tips and Best Practices

Now that you’re familiar with the government regulations, we’ve listed a few safety tips and best practices to help you navigate the industry.

Apparel Choice

When choosing your base apparel remember to think safety first. Snaps, buttons and zippers can all be choking hazards. Also, drawstrings extending longer than three inches from the garment can also be hazardous for infants. It’s important to check all childrenswear before printing to make sure any fasteners are securely attached to the apparel. Try searching for styles with looser necklines and softer fabric so it’s convenient and comfy for the child.

Pro Tip: Drawstring-less hoodies or envelope neck onesies present the same stylish look without raising safety concerns.

Pallet Board Sizing

A common rookie mistake when printing children’s apparel is not having a range of pallet board sizes, resulting in your kid tees being stretched out and ruined from using an adult-sized board. Investing in smaller pallet boards is a must if you want to be successful with your custom childrenswear.

Pro Tip: The pallet board should be at least one inch smaller than the width of the chest of the shirt.

Ink Selection

Children tend to have more sensitive skin, so water-based (eco-friendly) inks with a soft hand feel are generally the best solution for screenprinting. However, there are phthalate-free plastisol inks and specialty inks (glitter, puffer, etc) that will work also. Remember to confirm any ink you are using is CPSIA compliant and keep track of what you used for each order for proof. Fortunately, most ink in the U.S. will be lead and phthalate free.


Matching “mini-me” styles are adorable and extremely popular, but can pose a few design problems. When shrinking the design down from the adult-sized substrate the detail might become less clear. You will likely need to re-work the adult-sized design to be sized proportionately for a smaller substrate (which can mean making a simpler version). Also, any letters will probably need to be size and space adjusted for the kid version. As always, be sure you are adhering to copyright laws when it comes to your designs to avoid infringement.

Screenprinting children’s apparel can seem daunting due to the government regulations, however, you shouldn’t let it deter you from adding custom childrenswear to your services. If you cover your legal bases and follow best practices, you can end up with a successful custom children’s apparel business.

Does your company already print custom children’s apparel? What other tips or best practices would you list? Share your knowledge in the comments below!

This article is in no way fully conclusive list of all the regulations, tips and best practices. It’s meant as a basic guide for getting started! Visit S&S Activewear to search CPSIA compliant apparel for your inventory.

Sep 13, 2018
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