ShutterStockBefore you cut off the tags, peel off the stickers and slip on your newest clothing purchase, you may want to make a stop at the washing machine. Although new clothing may look clean and pressed fresh from the rack, it could actually harm your health.
According to Donald Belstio, MD, a professor of dermatology at Columbia University Medical Center, new clothes do pose some risk of adverse health effects when worn unwashed. For starters, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Dr. Belstio explained that dyes and formaldehyde resins found on new garments can cause irritation to the skin as well as allergic reactions. Pre-washing of new clothes will prevent any residual dyes from staining our skin or other pieces of upholstery, like chairs, and more important, remove any irritants, as New York City dermatologist Hilary Baldwin, MD, told Real Simple. But there’s more.
Dr. Belstio also warns that cases of lice have been transmitted from clothing tried on in the store dressing room, and there are certain infectious diseases that can be passed along through clothing, including scabies. Dr. Baldwin advises consumers that it’s especially critical to pre-wash pieces like intimates, lingerie, and swimsuits. Here’s how you can wash your dedicates by hand.
You may not want to picture this, but it’s likely that you’re not the first person to try on that new outfit—it’s probably been tried on the dressing room, and that’s just the first of many instances of possible skin contact. It’s also likely that your garment came into contact with multiple people during the manufacturing, shipping, stocking, and selling phases. There’s just no real way of knowing how many hands or other body parts have touched your clothing, Dr. Belstio warns. Ew!
“In terms of hygiene, washing your new clothes a very smart thing to do,” Dr. Belstio said. “Being a dermatologist, I’ve seen examples of some strange stuff, so I don’t take any chances.”
To wash new clothes, simply rinse them in very hot water (if they can handle that temperature—check the tag first), and hang them to dry, so as not to damage the fabric. While you prepare your new, germ-free clothes for their big fashion debut, here are other common laundry mistakes you want to avoid.