Should You Wash New Clothes Before Wearing Them?

Biden WatchBlog Should You Wash New Clothes Before Wearing Them?
New clothes: To wash or not to wash? Tips for wearing fresh garments

  Reading time 8 minutes

When you bring home a brand-new piece of clothing, it’s tempting to rip off the tags and wear it immediately. However, the question arises: Is it OK to wear new clothes without washing? The short answer is yes. While new clothes may appear pristine, there’s more to them than meets the eye. Washing new clothes before wearing is not just about personal hygiene; it’s a matter of health and mindfulness about the substances with which your new garments have been treated before they reached your wardrobe.

Why Clothes Aren’t Clean When You Buy Them

You might think that a garment fresh off the shelf is clean, but the reality is quite different. When new clothes reach the store, they’ve already been through a lot.

Chemicals and Dyes Used in Manufacturing

Clothes are often treated with chemicals to enhance color or texture, prevent mold, and keep them looking new and unwrinkled during shipping. Formaldehyde, for instance, is commonly used in clothing to prevent mildew and is a known skin irritant. Other chemicals include synthetic dyes, which can lead to skin rashes, especially in those with sensitive skin.

The Journey from Factory to Store

The process from production to purchase is long and arduous. Clothing items are manufactured, often in various countries, packed, shipped, and handled numerous times before they finally make it onto store shelves. This table depicts a simplified journey of a typical piece of clothing:

StageProcessPotential Exposure
ManufacturingDyeing, Chemical TreatmentChemicals, Dyes
Warehouse StorageWrapping, BoxingDust, Pests, Warehouse Chemicals
TransportationShipping, Unloading, RepackingVehicle Exhaust, Handling Chemicals
Retail HandlingDisplay Setup, Customer TrialsDirt, Skin Cells, Perfumes

Each step of the way, new clothes are exposed to various environments and can collect dust, dirt, and other unseen elements.

Learn how to properly wash new clothes for the first time with these helpful tips

Potential Health Reasons to Wash New Clothes

New clothes come with beautiful designs and the excitement of adding something new to your collection. However, for your health and comfort, here are some reasons to throw them in the wash before wearing.

Skin Irritations and Allergies

The chemicals and dyes present in new clothes can cause skin irritations or worsen existing allergies. Even without an allergy diagnosis, sensitive skin is prone to react to these unnatural substances. Washing new clothes can remove these potential irritants, providing a safer and more comfortable experience.

The Presence of Germs and Bacteria

Numerous hands touch garments before you take them home, including factory workers, store employees, and other customers. This means that your clothes may have come into contact with germs and bacteria. A good wash can help sanitize the garment, giving you peace of mind.

The decision to wash your new clothes before wearing them is not only about personal care but also about acknowledging the invisible journey and hidden substances associated with your new purchases. By understanding that new does not necessarily mean clean, you can make informed choices for your health and well-being.

The Environmental and Social Perspective

Beyond personal health, washing new clothes before wearing them for the first time has broader implications.

Economical Consumption and Water Usage

Being mindful of the environment means considering the water and energy consumed in washing clothes. The eco-conscious consumer might worry about the impact of washing clothes that are technically ‘clean.’ However, this concern should be balanced against the potential health impacts of wearing unwashed garments. To mitigate environmental effects, opt for eco-friendly detergents, cold water washes, and full loads.

Ethical Considerations and Labor Conditions

The manufacturing of clothes often involves labor under questionable conditions. By washing new clothes, you are in a way, respecting the hands that made them, ensuring any residues from difficult workplaces are cleansed away. It’s also an opportunity to reflect on the production chain and possibly make more ethically informed choices in the future.

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How to Properly Wash New Clothes

Now that the importance of washing new clothes is clear, let’s discuss How to wash new clothes for the first time.

Reading and Understanding Care Labels

Before anything else, check the care label. This provides the washing instructions specific to the fabric and design of your garment. From water temperature to drying methods, following these guidelines will ensure the longevity and appearance of your clothes.

Choosing the Right Detergent and Water Temperature

Opt for a mild detergent and the water temperature specified on the label. Cold water is typically recommended for dark or bright colors to prevent running, while warm water can be more effective for heavy soils or odors.

Here are some fabric-specific tips:

  1. Cotton: Use a regular cycle and lukewarm water.
  2. Synthetics: Cold water is best to prevent shrinking or stretching.
  3. Delicates: Hand wash or use a delicate cycle with cold water and a gentle detergent.

Exceptions to the Rule

Not every new purchase may require washing. For instance:

  1. If you’ve acquired clothing from a sustainable brand that forgoes harmful chemicals, you might decide to skip the initial wash.
  2. Items like outerwear, which don’t come into direct contact with your skin, could potentially be worn right away, especially if they will be washed infrequently.
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In conclusion, while the decision ultimately lies with you, washing new clothes before their first wear is generally advisable. This is for health reasons due to chemicals, dyes, and germs that may be present, but it also allows for a moment of reflection on the environmental and social impacts of our clothing choices. Consistently choosing to wash your new clothes can become a small but significant step toward maintaining good personal hygiene and a clean conscience.


  • Is it necessary to wash all types of new clothes before wearing them? Yes, it’s typically recommended to wash all types of new clothes, especially those that come in direct contact with your skin, to remove chemicals, dyes, and bacteria they may have gathered.
  • Can washing new clothes be harmful to the environment? Washing clothes does have an environmental impact, but this can be mitigated by using environmentally friendly practices like using cold water, eco-friendly detergents, and washing full loads.
  • How can I tell if my new clothes have harmful chemicals? The presence of chemicals is not always detectable by smell or sight. Reading labels and being aware of the manufacturing processes can provide clues, but washing the clothes is the safest option.
  • What if the clothing label says ‘wash separately?’ If a label advises washing separately, it’s usually because of the risk of color bleeding. In this case, wash the item on its own to avoid staining other clothes.
  • Should new clothes always be washed with detergent? While using a detergent is advisable for a thorough clean, for very sensitive skin or minor concerns, rinsing clothes in plain water can be a preliminary step. However, detergent is typically needed to fully remove all substances the clothes may carry.