Should You Wash New Clothes? Facts to Consider

Published December 29, 2020
Woman checking inventory in a clothing store

Many people ask themselves, "should you wash new clothes?" The answer is yes, you should. Learn why you should wash new clothing before wearing them. Get some tips for what to do if you can't wash new clothing.

Should You Wash New Clothes?

You should always wash new clothing before wearing them for the first time. Calling new clothes "new" can be a bit deceiving. New clothing has germs, dyes, and chemical irritants that could be harmful to you. Learn more about the harmful things found on and in new clothes.

Keeping Bacteria at Bay

New clothes might be new to you, but they've been through the hands of a lot of different people before meeting you. That includes other shoppers, workers at the store, and factories they came from. Therefore, those new to you clothes have seen many hands before showing up on your door or even getting on the clothes rack at the store. People commonly carry viruses, like COVID 19, and bacteria, like staph, on their hands and skin. Those germs can be transferred to the clothing when a person coughs or even tries something on.

Dyes in Clothing

In addition to being germy, new clothing also can have excess dyes on them. These dyes, like some used in tie dye clothing, can bleed out of the clothing as you sweat on to your skin. In addition to dyeing your skin, some of these dyes, like azo dyes, cause a skin reaction. In some people, this reaction can be quite severe and itchy.

Chemical Irritants in Clothing

In addition to just dye, textile warehouses also add additional chemicals, like formaldehyde and quinolines, for various purposes like avoiding wrinkles or mildew. However, these chemicals are known carcinogens, which can be dangerous. In addition to just being carcinogens, these chemicals cause rashes in those with sensitive skin. Formaldehyde is also known to cause chemical smells in new clothing.

How to Wash New Clothes

Since avoiding a rash or potential exposure to carcinogens is as easy as washing your clothing before wearing them, this is a route many people take. However, new clothing does require a bit of a special touch.

Woman washing clothes by hand
  1. Remove all tags.

  2. Turn the clothing inside out.

  3. Sort clothing, so only similar colors are being washed together. Dyes are likely to come out of the clothing in the first wash.

  4. Check the label to see the care instructions.

  5. Use the recommended washing machine settings on the care label, or handwash your items as recommended.

  6. Add ½ cup of baking soda to the rinse cycle to remove any residual chemical residue.

  7. Dry for at least 45 minutes or hang in the sun to dry.

If you don't have time for a full wash, you can rinse your clothing in very hot water, as long as it's recommended, and dry for at least 45 minutes. This should rinse away and kill most bacteria.

Getting Rid of Bacteria on New Clothes Without Washing

Some clothing you can't wash, or you just don't have time to wash. In that case, you can kill germs and dissipate chemicals through a few additional methods.

  • For leathers, wipe down with alcohol on a cloth.

  • Hang clothing in the sun for a few days to allow UV light to break down chemicals naturally.

  • Put clothing in the dryer for at least 45 minutes on high, after checking the tag.

Wearing New Clothes Without Washing

It's not recommended for you to wear new clothes without washing them. Not only could they have dangerous chemicals and germs on them, but dyes can seep out of the fabrics as you are wearing them, dyeing your skin. Therefore, you need to give your clothing a good washing before wearing them.

Should You Wash New Clothes? Facts to Consider