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Is It Necessary to Wash New Clothes?

Shopping is a favorite hobby for many, and the rush that comes from bringing home bags of new clothes is hard to match. But what about after you get home

There is some debate about whether you should wash new clothes before wearing them. And while there are those who think wearing new, unwashed clothes is harmless, there are three compelling reasons why you should reconsider.

a chic woman carrying a large shopping bag, hailing a taxi

Shopping is a favorite hobby for many, and the rush that comes from bringing home bags of new clothes is hard to match. But what about after you get home?

There is some debate about whether you should wash new clothes before wearing them. And while there are those who think wearing new, unwashed clothes is harmless, there are three compelling reasons why you should reconsider.

1. Skin Irritants

Though it isn’t visible, by the time you see a garment on the rack, it has likely already been treated with several chemicals, such as anti-wrinkle agents, stain repellents, softness enhancers, and color fasteners. One of the chemicals used is urea-formaldehyde, which is used to enhance the texture of certain fabrics and prevent wrinkles. While such treatments and finishes won’t irritate everyone, those with sensitive skin or skin conditions may be affected.

Fortunately, these chemicals are easily removed with a quick wash.

If you are concerned about being exposed to chemicals, you can purchase more eco-friendly materials, such as wool, cashmere, organic cotton, and linen.

100% organic cotton tee

Organically produced fibers are not treated with the same chemicals, but be sure to read the care labels, as some manufacturers treat natural fibers with a chemical to stop mildew growth.

2. Dye Transfer

In some cases, the dye from clothing can be transferred to skin. Many synthetic fibers, such as acrylic and polyester, are colored using azo-aniline dyes. Such dyes are known to cause allergic reactions in certain individuals, including young children. The allergic reaction is similar to poison ivy and results in inflamed patches of skin.

3. Insects, Bacteria, and Fungi

New clothing isn't as clean as you would believe. When someone tries on a garment or even handles it, there is a chance of bacteria and fungus being transferred to the fabric. Dressing rooms, too, carry different fungi, including athlete’s foot.

This is a definite concern if you purchase vintage clothing. What is new to you has already been touched hundreds of times by others. While second hand stores do wash items before selling them, you should still wash your new clothing before wearing it.

Tips for Washing New Clothes

Before placing your new clothing in the washing machine, take the time to review the care instructions on the tags. If any tags instruct you to wash the garment separately or to be wary of color bleeding, set those aside.

clothing care instructions

To properly clean the remaining garments, follow these tips:

  • Refrain from using too much detergent. If excess detergent is used, a single rinse won’t be enough to fully remove all the detergent from the clothing.
  • Avoid mixing colored clothing with white pieces, because there may be some dye transference. Any leaked colors will soak into your white clothing. The only exception to the rule is pastel colored clothing, which will rarely bleed. Those can be safely washed with white garments.
  • Group your colors together to preserve the dyes. Partner bright colors, such as orange, yellow, and pink, together. Cooler colors, like blues and greens can be washed at the same time. Blacks and purples can also be mixed together. Another alternative is to rinse the new colored clothing first to see if the water is colored. Wash any items alone that might bleed until the water is clear. From there, you can wash everything together.
  • Also partner cotton with cotton, denim with denim, and synthetics with synthetics when laundering.

How to Preserve New Clothing Colors

a mesh bag of laundry being put in the washing machine

By following these tips, you can keep your new clothes from fading:

  • Turn new clothes inside out to keep the colors on the outside from fading too quickly and to protect embellishments. While doing this, make sure you have removed all tags and stickers from the clothing.
  • Use a mesh laundry bag to protect delicate pieces during the laundering process.
  • Prior to washing your garments, soak them in cold water. Add in some oxygen bleach or salt to lock in the colors.
  • Always wash clothing in cold water. Detergents are formulated to remove dirt and bacteria in cold water. Plus, cold water is much less abrasive to fibers and will help keep colors looking brilliant.
  • Skip the bleach! Bleach is caustic and will harm your clothing. Make the switch to vinegar. It brightens and eliminates foul smells.
  • Avoid overstuffing the washing machine with new clothing. Overstuffed loads are harder on your washing machine and on your clothing. The same rule applies to the dryer.
  • When your clothes have finished washing, remove them immediately. The longer wet clothing sits in piles, the greater the risk of colors bleeding together.

For the first wash, avoid using the dryer. Hang the new clothes on a line outside, away from the sun. Doing so will keep the garments fresh and also reduce the risk of color fading. In the event that you don’t have access to a clothes line, select the lowest heat setting or a delicate mode on the dryer.

FAQs

1. How do you wash new clothes for the first time?

The best way to wash new clothes for the first time is to turn each garment inside out after removing tags and stickers. Then, separate the items into groups based on color, and wash each group on the gentlest setting. Make sure you measure out the detergent exactly to avoid using too much. Then let your clothing air dry.

clothes drying on a washing line outdoors

2. Do I need to wash new clothes before wearing them?

Yes, you should wash new clothes prior to wearing them for the first time. Many items are treated with chemicals to prevent wrinkles and damage during transport. Some of these treatments and finishes can irritate your skin. Plus, anyone who tries on clothing could potentially transfer bacteria, insects, and fungi to the clothing.

3. Can you put new clothes in the washing machine?

Yes, you can, but you should always check the care label first. Some of your new clothes may be dry clean only or have specific instructions to follow.

4. How do you wash colored clothes for the first time?

The best practice for washing colored clothes for the first time is to separate everything by color and wash those batches separately (or each piece one at a time). Turning the clothes inside out also protects the dye from fading and any embellishments from getting ruined in the washing machine. Use a gentle detergent and a delicate setting with cold water.

Though it can be time consuming and inconvenient to wait to wear new clothing until after it is washed, the benefits far outweigh the costs. Minimize the inconvenience by shopping for an event or occasion well in advance of the date you need the garment, so there will be plenty of time to have it laundered. Then you can be confident that at the end of the day, you’ll only be left with pleasant memories rather than dyed or irritated skin.

a glamorous woman shopping for clothes in a fashion store

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