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3 Surprising Reasons You Should Always Wash New Clothes

new clothes

To wash or not to wash? That is the question many of us ask ourselves when it comes to new clothes. It’s a question I’ve asked myself many times in the past, but until recently, I had no idea how important the answer would turn out to be!

The answer is a resounding yes, you should wash new clothes before wearing them. Today I’ll be explaining the various reasons why it’s a good practice, and sharing useful tips that will help you make the process quick and easy! :-)

3 Reasons Why You Should Wash New Clothes Before Wearing Them

new clothes

1. Loose Dye Transfer

New clothes often have a small amount of dye resting on the surface that wasn’t absorbed during the dyeing process. If you don’t wash the item before you wear it, that loose dye could transfer onto your skin or other clothes.

Aside from being a bit messy, dye transfer can also lead to a rash-like skin condition called allergic contact dermatitis. Washing your clothes before wearing them is the simplest way to remove any potentially irritating loose dye that may be lingering on the fabric.

2. Bacteria & Insects

There’s no telling what may be lingering the fabric of new clothing. If the item was tried on by other people before you bought it, it could easily contain bacteria or even small insects like lice carried by those individuals.

Rather than leave it to chance, just wash the item in hot water to eliminate any bacteria or pests lurking in the fabric.

new clothes

3. Chemicals

During production, new clothes are treated with all sorts of chemicals to protect them in transit. The chemicals include stain repellents, color fasteners, anti-wrinkle agents, softness enhancers, and more.

And when clothing is shipped over long distances, manufacturers may even treat it with urea-formaldehyde to help prevent mildew from forming on the fabric. You definitely don’t want that on your skin, so that’s reason enough to wash new clothes before wearing them!

5 Tips & Tricks To Wash New Clothes

Tip #1 – Wash Them Alone

It’s a good idea to wash new clothing alone if possible. This will prevent chemicals and loose dye from transferring to other items in the wash.

new clothes

Tip #2 – Use Gentle Detergent

If you’re washing clothes for babies or people with sensitive skin, be sure to use a gentle detergent. Detergents that are free of fragrances and dyes are the best choice for sensitive skin!

Tip #3 – Don’t Forget Towels & Linens

It’s not just new clothes that should be washed—towels and linens should get the same treatment too! Washing new towels can also help improve their absorbency by removing any protective surface coatings.

Tip #4 – Wash New-To-You Items Too

Even though secondhand items are usually cleaned before they are offered up for resale, it’s a good idea to wash them when you bring them home. At the very least, it will ensure that no one in your family has a reaction to whatever detergents or fabric softeners the secondhand shop used to clean the item originally.

new clothes

Tip #5 – Use Vinegar For Odors

If you’re washing a new or new-to-you clothing item that has a particularly strong smell, add one cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle. Vinegar is highly effective at neutralizing odors in fabric, and it’s a great natural fabric softener too!

What was the last new item of clothing you bought?

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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.
I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee

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  • Good one! I broke my mother’s rule on always washing store bought when I was given a beautiful black cashmere sweater about 35 years ago when cashmere was very special. Excellent Scottish brand. Wore it immediately and got awful rash everywhere. Doc said it was a dye reaction. Never again!

  • I used to work in a factory where I sewed Wrangler and Rustler brand blue jeans. The pieces had pattern paper between some of the pieces of fabric that had warnings about formaldehyde as part of the permanent press treatment. The finished articles of clothing were NOT washed before inspection, tags applied and packing for shipping. “Stone washed” is a fabric treatment that occurs before it ever hits the sewing floor. And not only does a lot of fabric pieces hit the floor while it moves thru the factory, but a lot of people do not wash their hands before and after eating nor after going to the bathroom. My clothing that I wore to work would be blue from dye transfer from my lap to my chest, just from handling demin for the 9 hour work day. I wash all clothing that I buy before wearing it.

  • Not only do I wash all new fabrics with cleaning vinegar – not regular cooking vinegar, there is a big big difference between the two. I also put a cup of Baking Soda in the Rinse cycle-Don’t add vinegar and baking soda together!
    Baking soda – if you have animals it will wash their fur from your fabrics, makes whites whiter, colors brighter, and rids all smells away, just love it.

    • Cheryl,
      Thank you for your kind words. I am so happy that you love our website and tips! We are here to make people’s lives easier with solutions to everyday homekeeping, beauty routines, recipes, natural products and more.

  • I get why you’d wash towels before using them – simple to fluff them up and wash away whatever chemicals are on them. Now, as to washing brand new clothes, nope. I never have. I’ve never gotten an infection, a disease, or as one teacher put it, a “staff infection” from wearing new clothes. I don’t buy used clothes, but if I did, of course I’d wash them before putting them on. That goes without saying.

    • I always wash my new clothes. New jeans, well it poured and I was soaked, home took them off and my legs were indigo blue. A friend gave me a beautiful sweater for my birthday, put bag down and my cat attacked it – turned out he killed 2 bugs – freaked me out.

  • Hope it isn’t to late to make a comment about cleaning grout. If you don’t have a spin brush cleaner that’s rechargeable you need to buy ones. At my age it’s a lot easier on your back . Use Clorox toilet bowl cleaner with bleach . Let it sit while you get everything together for your spin brush. Use the right brush for the area even on wall tiles. Mop up the cleaner and what a difference I cleaned grout that had not been cleaned for years , when I finished it looked brand new . I had tried several other brands even commercial cleaners . Clorox with bleach green bottle works . Thank you have a good day

    • Hi Kathy,
      I do not know about what others do, but I do wash new clothing items, according to the directions. Some items call for cold water only in which case I use cold water and color-safe bleach. Clorox has a color-safe bleach that can be found in many supermarkets and it comes in a gold-colored bottle. I am sure that vinegar would work well, too.
      I have two pairs of straight leg, knit pants that I love for around the house, shopping or even going out to eat, but not to the “upscale” restaurant that we love when we celebrate our birthdays or our anniversary. The knit pants call for cold water only as hot water would shrink the fabric. Not all fabrics can withstand hot water.
      I think that when she thinks about it, Jillee will agree.

  • i had bought a pair of uggs boots , second hand but i did washed them before i wore them in the washing machine they came out clean and i always wash everything first .

  • I always wash things because you never know. Teachers are sometimes honored to wear a student’s football jersey the day before the homecoming game. Some teachers did not wash the shirt have gotten staff infections that way. Imagine what goes on in stores where people try on clothes or return them after using it .

  • Another good reason to wash everything new before using is, especially synthetic fabrics, contain formaldehyde which is a harmful chemical. Putting powdered milk in the washing cycle will take away the harmful chemicals. I have tested the fabric before washing and after washing with the powdered milk and it truly works.

  • I completely agree with the need to wash new clothing, bedding, towels, etc. While I knew about fabric dyes and other finishes, I am shocked to earn there could be mold inhibitors/formaldehyde! That is scary. Of course, if I order a garment online, I am going to try it on before washing to see if it fits in case I need to return it, depending on the store’s return policy. Usually if hang tags are removed, it can’t be returned and you would have to remove them before washing (as it would be obvious they had gotten wet). Most of us are going to be trying on clothes in stores before we buy them that have been tried on by other people and obviously not washed. Also, the advice to wash new items in hot water to kill germs, bugs, etc. isn’t always practical depending on the fabric content. Something you could do to help sanitize something that can’t be washed in hot water is to steam it. (My daughter’s prom dress comes to mind, as well as other delicate fabrics that would shrink or be damaged by hot water). So, basically, we can’t control every situation, just like a lot of other things in life, but we can do our best by washing our new clothes once we know they fit, and sheets, towels, etc. before use. I think it’s odd when I read reviews on clothing websites where people comment that they didn’t want to have to wash something before wearing it the first time, as it will need to be washed eventually, lol!

  • I wash to colorfast for stain treating. I have two wild kids, an electrician husband and a preverbal hole in my lip… all of which lead to stains. If you don’t wash and dry your new clothes prior to wearing them, you won’t be able to treat any spot without also lifting the underlying dye as well (or could even lift the dye and find the stain remains!).

    I always have a “try on” session once we’re home, that way we’re 100% about fit, color, and stitch quality (I ALWAYS check for stitching splits or loose threads) before removing the tags and washing- which makes them no longer exchange or returnable.

  • Jillee, would you please post on How do you clean porcelain tiles? I’ve heard so many things but trust your advise more than anyone Thanks Kelly

  • We always wash clothes if they are second hand. My main problem is if something doesn’t fit right or falls apart when you wash it, even if you’ve never worn it . Your out a lot of money, because working retail
    most stores won’t let you return it. So be sure to ask about the return policy before even washing new clothes.

  • Rule of thumb my parents taught me and my siblings: always wash, or clean, or sanitize anything you just bought because you don’t know where it’s been or whose it has been touched by or infected from; just because it’s in a package/wrapped or from a store or it’s new does not mean it’s clean. Thus I’ve always done this and it’s what my children knows. Thus thank you Jillie for elegantly pointing this out in this article! You see as an adult I was surprised to meet many people who looked at me like I have another limb growing on my shoulder when I tell them I wash/clean anything (including clothes or any washable textiles) I just bought before using it. It’s a no-brainer issue if one thinks about it. Why would one think it’s clean if it’s packaged and it comes from a store? Does one not realize it took many people to handle it before it landed on your hands? And how many processes (which includes exposure to anything-from dirt, chemicals, to bacteria/virus/mold spores/or any kind of pathogens) it takes to produce anything from inception to final product? Many of my in-law-relatives (aka relatives of my husband) have given me condescending and snide comments on this topic, but it never detered me from teaching what is correct to my children. I’m just glad I’m not the one exposing myself or my children to possible unhealthy substances.

  • I totally understand the need to wash new and especially new to you clothing but there are many items that we wear that cannot be washed dry clean only,leather vinyls how should these things be handled?

    • Laura, I clean my family’s leather clothes by turning it inside out and doing a short at-home-dry-Cleaning that you can easily buy from any store. Although it would say in the tag that “professional dry cleaning” is recommended I have never done any damage to any of our leather. Then after that, I turn it right side out and wipe the leather with a solution of 1 tsp pure Castile Tea Tree soap (an example of brand is Dr Bronner’s) diluted in 32 oz clean distilled water in a 32 oz spray bottle. Always have done my entire life and never had a problem.

      • Hi, R.J.,
        Before I became allergic to all wool clothing, I would wash the item or items by hand, with mild soap and I would use cold water, gently squeeze out the item or items, and then roll them up in a towel. I would dry the items by lying them flat on a table, either indoors or outdoors, on the picnic table, if weather permits. I would use some plastic wrap or waxed paper under these items. They came out looking great. The only things I send to the dry cleaners are my husband’s sport coats or overcoats, or my blazers and coats, and then not too often as they are dark in color. I use a sponge and mild soap to get the make-up off the collar of my winter coats since I do sometimes forgo a scarf.

  • Always do this as this what my mother taught us to do. As she said you do not know what is on the clothes to start with even the ones that are still wrapped in plastic and not tried on.

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