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.
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.
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.
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:
- Abode Baby Laundry Liquid – specially formulated for babies and toddlers
- Abode Zero Laundry Liquid – completely fragrance free
- Abode Sensitive Laundry Powder – front loader formula for sensitive skin, also available in a top loader formula
- Ecover Zero Laundry Liquid – completely fragrance free
- Ecover Delicates Laundry Liquid – ideal for knits and delicates
- Ecostore Top & Front Loader Laundry Powder – Lemon – my personal favourite. I’ve been using this for years, with two boys!
- Ecostore Geranium Orange Laundry Liquid – smells gorgeous thanks to essential oils and works a treat
Do you wash clothes before you wear them for the first time? How about baby clothes? Share your thoughts in the comments below.