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Should You Wash New Clothes Before Wearing Them?

For some people, whether to wash new clothes before wearing is a no-brainer. For others, clothes will never look any better or brighter than when they’re still shop-fresh.

Are new clothes clean? Or should you put them straight into the washing machine?

Turns out, clothes may look clean and fresh off the rack, but they’re actually covered with chemicals and crawling with germs. Experts say we should wash new clothes before we wear them, especially if the garment will be in direct contact with our skin or if it’s something we will sweat on.

Here’s why you should always wash new clothes, especially if they’re for your little ones.

wash new clothes before wearing

1. Because of the dyes and chemical finishes on new clothes

Most fabrics get their colour from azo-aniline dyes. These chemicals can induce severe skin reactions, particularly in children who are allergic to them.

Putting new clothes through the wash flushes out the extra dye that can otherwise end up on your skin or on your other garments.

Another reason to wash new clothes is formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. Manufacturers use formaldehyde resin on clothing to stop them wrinkling and to prevent the growth of mould and mildew during the shipping process.

These chemicals are irritating to the skin, eyes, and nose. They can spark full-blown allergic reactions, especially in those with sensitive skin, and are a nightmare for people with conditions like eczema.

Even if you only purchase clothes made with natural fibres, you still have to wash them. Experts say even 100% cotton garments are treated with potentially irritating chemicals before being sold.

2. Because new clothes are icky

Don’t forget, your clothes have been through many hands and may have been tried on by any number of people at the store. Clothes end up on dirty stockroom and change room floors. Ever tried on clothes when you're sweaty? Or haven't washed your hands? Well, so has everyone else!

And, yes, your new dress could be carrying other peoples’ germs.

Scientists have found respiratory secretions, yeast, and even faecal germs lurking in new clothes.

Contaminated clothing can cause diseases like fungal infections, diarrhoea, MRSA, hepatitis A, salmonella, athlete’s foot, and scabies. Another thing you can get from wearing unwashed new clothes? Lice.

Doctors say the number of germs on new clothes normally isn’t enough to make us seriously ill. But if your immune system is compromised, you can definitely catch a bug from wearing contaminated clothing.

Which brings us to #3.

why wash new clothes before wearing Why wash new clothes before wearing them? Think of all the people who try on the clothes before you buy them!

3. Because babies are vulnerable to bugs and harsh chemicals

Babies, with their developing immune systems, are more susceptible to the disease-causing bacteria and viruses on new clothes. And because their skin is much thinner than ours, they are particularly sensitive to the nasty chemicals sprayed on fabrics.

Children and infants with sensitive skin can develop rashes in areas that come in constant contact with their clothing—armpits, wrists, waists, and necks.

Wash baby clothes before wearing to prevent skin reactions. It’s also why you should use detergents without optical brighteners, bleach, and fragrances—chemicals that can cause skin reactions.

natural laundry powders and liquids to wash new clothes before wearing There are plenty of great natural laundry product options that work really well

Washing baby clothes

Wash all new clothes, baby blankets, bibs, swaddles, and bedding before you put them away. Use a gentle laundry powder. It doesn’t have to be a specifically “baby” washing powder—any eco friendly, fragrance free washing powder will be okay.

If the clothing you bought has strong odours, soak it overnight in a bucket filled with water and a cup of baking soda. Let it air dry in a breezy location after washing.

Here's some of our favourite (and most popular) laundry powders and liquids at Hello Charlie:

Do you wash clothes before you wear them for the first time? How about baby clothes? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Image: BigStock

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