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HQ 086230

March 14, 1990

CLA-2 CO:R:C:G 086230 CRS


TARIFF NO.: 6310.10.2010

Robert T. Stack, Esq.
Tompkins & Davidson
One Whitehall Street
New York, NY 10004

RE: Soiled and Torn Terry Towels; Reconsideration of HRL 085031

Dear Mr. Stack:

This is in reply to your letter dated December 19, 1989, on behalf of your client Fab Tech, Inc., in which you requested a reconsideration of Headquarters Ruling Letter (HRL) 085031 dated August 7, 1989. Samples were submitted with your request.


The sample merchandise consists of terry towels in various sizes and states of repair. Most are solid white but some are accented with a colored stripe down the center of the article; a number appear to have been intentionally cut and soiled. You state that the towels are by-products of the textile industry and consist of mill ends, leader cloth and damaged fabric, and as a result, are suitable only for use as industrial wipers.

In HRL 085031 the articles in question were classified in subheading 6302.60.0020, HTSUSA, under the provision for toilet linen and kitchen linen, of terry toweling, of cotton, towels, other. It was Customs' view that the towels were not classifiable as rags since they were apparently capable of being repaired and were therefore not "beyond cleaning or repair" as required by the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, Explanatory Notes. The basis of this decision was a letter from Mr. John Calvert of Fab Tech stating that the company was considering repairing the towels and enquiring as to whether this would affect the classification of the towels. Since the towels were deemed not to be beyond repair they were classified as towels of heading 6302, rather than as rags of heading 6310, HTSUSA.

Fab Tech purchases new towels/rags from overseas suppliers and sells them to wholesalers. The end use of these products is almost exclusively as industrial wipers. You have stated that in their current condition, the towels imported by Fab Tech cannot withstand more than several washings and that the intent of the sewing operation was to enable the end users of the towels to launder them so that they could be re-used. However, the proposed sewing operation subsequently proved uneconomical as it was determined that the cost of repair exceeded the value added by cleaning. Consequently, the towels were never repaired.

You state that your client believes the original classification to be incorrect and requests that we reconsider our previous ruling. In support of this contention, additional samples were submitted with your letter of December 19, 1989. Specifically, the terry towels now at issue, which are imported in bulk from Pakistan, consist of the following:

1. A 16" x 16" towel, finished on three sides, with a 2 inch intentional cut;

2. A 19" x 15" towel, soiled in several places, and with a 1 inch intentional cut;

3. A 38" x 36" towel, finished on two sides, with several light stains, a line of demarcation or open weave down the middle of the article, and a 1 inch intentional cut. Both the finished and unfinished edges are frayed;

4. A 18" x 15" towel, with numerous stains and an apparently intentional 1 inch cut;

5. A towel with a 1 inch green stripe down the center, stained and with a 1 inch cut.

6. A 15" x 13" towel, finished on three sides, with minor stains and a 1 inch intentional cut;

7. A 15" x 21" towel with a hole and a 2 inch cut, unravelling on two edges.

On January 17, 1990, you submitted an additional set of samples consisting of eight terry towels. These are similar to the sample towels submitted with your December 19, 1989, letter as regards size and the presence of intentional cuts, although some are slightly more soiled.

You state that these samples are representative of the condition of new terry goods purchased by your client, Fab Tech, Inc., in Pakistan. In addition, you advise that terry fabric pieces may range in size from 15 inches by 18 inches to as large as 30 inches by 60 inches and that, on average, 96 percent of the articles are of plain bleach terry material, 70 percent are hemmed on three or four sides, and 20 percent on two sides. Fab Tech purchases and imports these articles in bulk packages in which towels of different sizes and various defects or stains are commingled.

As further support of your request for reconsideration, you also submitted a copy of a booklet published by the Textile Rental Services Association of America (TRSA) entitled Purchasing Specifications for Linen, Garments, Towels, and Dust Control (1985). In addition, letters were attached from Professor Herbert J. Barndt of the Philadelphia College of Textiles, and from Stuart Daniels, President, International Association of Wiping Cloth Manufacturers. Finally, the submission contains a pricing comparison between so-called first quality towels of various kinds and rags. The prices are quoted on a C&F basis, i.e., c.i.f. less insurance.


Whether the articles in question are towels of heading 6302, HTSUSA, or rags of heading 6310, HTSUSA.


Heading 6302, HTSUSA, covers bed linen, table linen, toilet linen and kitchen linen. According to the Explanatory Notes, which constitute the official interpretation of the Harmonized System at the international level (four and six digits), articles of heading 6302:
are usually made of cotton or flax, but sometimes also of hemp, ramie or man-made fibers, etc.; they are normally of a kind suitable for laundering. They include:

(3) Toilet linen, e.g., hand or face towels (including roller towels), bath towels, beach towels, face cloths and toilet gloves.

You state that the object of the proposed sewing operation was to enable the end user to wash the towels after use without causing them to fall apart. Thus without further processing, the towels at issue may not be suitable for laundering. Nevertheless, Mr. W. G. Moore of Fieldcrest/Cannon, in response to questioning from Customs' National Import Specialists in New York, stated that in his opinion, merchandise of this nature could be laundered or reused since terry has enough structural integrity that it would not ravel badly, even if the edges were unfinished. However, Mr. Moore also stated that he believed that merchandise of this type, especially if used to clean oil or paint, would not be reused. In this regard, it is Customs' position that the articles in question are not suitable for laundering since they are unlikely to be reused.

Moreover, the articles in question, although originally manufactured as face towels and the like, are not suitable for use as such. According to the TRSA's Purchasing Specification for Linen, Garments, Towels and Dust Control (1985) at 9, articles suitable for use as bath towels, face towels and the like
must be strong enough to withstand the strain of rubbing and pulling, twisting and tugging of the user, and numerous launderings.

Given the condition of the articles in question, it is Customs' view that the towels imported by Fab Tech do not meet this standard.

Furthermore, you contend that the articles in question are commercially unfit for sale either as first quality goods (may contain flaws, but flaws do not exceed an acceptable level) or second quality goods (contain flaws which do not impair serviceability but do affect appearance), and that the primary market for such towels/rags is to wholesalers of wiping cloths. This is supported by cost comparison of towels and rags imported from Pakistan, which on a C&F basis shows a $0.97/lb differential between the price of rags and an estimated base price for towels.

In light of the condition of the imported articles, as well as the price differential between towels and rags, it is Customs' position that the articles in question are not classifiable as towels.

Heading 6310, HTSUSA, covers, inter alia, used and new rags. The Explanatory Note to 6310 provides in relevant part that:

[r]ags may consist of articles of furnishing or clothing or of other old textile articles so worn out, soiled or torn as to be beyond cleaning or repair, or of new small cuttings (e.g., dressmakers' or tailors' snippings).

To fall in the heading, these products must be worn, dirty or torn, or in small pieces. They are generally fit only for recovery (e.g., by pulling) of the fibers (which are usually re-spun), for the manufacture of paper or plastics, for the manufacture of polishing materials (e.g., polishing wheels), or for use as industrial wipers (e.g., machine wipers).

The articles in question are dirty and torn. It is immaterial for the purposes of heading 6310 whether they arrived in this condition as the result of prolonged wear or whether they were intentionally cut and soiled. What is essential, however, is that the articles be dirty and torn to the extent that they are beyond cleaning or repair.

Towels similar to those in question were examined by Herbert J. Barndt, an associate professor at the Philadelphia College of Textiles. While only two of the five articles examined were new, both were stained and had either cuts or tears, in consequence of which, both were determined to be beyond repair.

The articles in question are fit only for use as industrial wipers or wiping rags. They are not suitable for use as bath or face towels, even were they to be repaired. Similarly they are unfit for use as institutional towels, i.e., towels rented or purchased by hospitals, laboratories and the like. Consequently, it is Customs' position that the towels are beyond practicable or commercially feasible repair. Since the merchandise at issue is dirty and torn, and beyond repair it meets the requirements for classification in heading 6310, HTSUSA.


The articles in question are classifiable in subheading 6310.10.2010, HTSUSA, under the provision for used or new rags... of textile materials, sorted, other, of cotton. Articles in this subheading are duty-free.

Please be advised that this ruling is confined to the sample merchandise. General Note 5, HTSUSA, provides in pertinent part:

(a) Whenever goods subject to different rates of duty are so packed together or mingled that the quantity or value of each class of goods cannot be readily ascertained by customs officers (without physical segregation of the shipment or the contents of any entire package thereof), by one or more of the following means:

(i) sampling,

(ii) verification of packing lists or other documents filed at the time of entry, or

(iii) evidence showing performance of commercial settlement tests generally accepted in the trade and filed in such time and manner as may be prescribed by regulations of the Secretary of the Treasury,
the commingled goods shall be subject to the highest rate of duty applicable to any part thereof unless the consignee or his agent segregates the goods pursuant to subparagraph (b) hereof.

As a result, if some of the imported articles are not worn out, soiled or torn so as to be beyond cleaning or repair, the imported merchandise could be considered commingled and, therefore, classifiable as towels.

Pursuant to section 177.9, Customs Regulations (19 CFR 177.9), HRL 085031 of August 7, 1989 is modified in conformity with the foregoing.


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