Why you should always wash new clothes before wearing them.

When you come home after a successful shopping trip with a bag of new clothes, the very last place you want to take them is the laundry.

But tearing off the tags and wearing them immediately really isn’t the best idea.

According to experts, you should always wash them before you take them for a spin (boring, we know). While they may be “new” to your wardrobe, their existence didn’t start the minute you picked it up off the rack.

“You should absolutely wash clothes before you wear them, especially anything that is right next to the skin or that you will sweat on,” clothing manufacturer expert Lana Hogue told ELLE.

Plus the sweat of the 10 plus people who tried the item on in the shop before you… *shudders*

Watch: Managing Director Anne Market goes shopping for a complete makeover. Post continues after video.


One word: LICE.

“I have seen cases of lice that were possibly transmitted from trying on in the store, and there are certain infectious diseases that can be passed on through clothing,” Donald Belsito, a professor of dermatology at Columbia University Medical Centre in New York told The Wall Street Journal.

He warned that you can never tell what’s lurking in the material of your clothing – and that while lice were unable to survive for long without a host, they did have a preference for clothes made of natural fibres.

“The other infestation I’ve seen from clothing is scabies,” he said.

Excuse us while we repeatedly shower for the next few hours. (Some shopping inspiration. Post continues after gallery.)

It’s not just surprise guests that should have you running to the washing machine.

According to Hogue, the chemicals used in various stages of the clothes manufacturing process can cause immediate problems for your skin.

“Most of the chemicals used in dyeing fabric and putting those finishes on yarns that allow them to be processed through spinning equipment are known skin irritants,” she told ELLE.

The two main allergens you’re likely to react to in clothes are dye and formaldehyde resin.

Azo-aniline dyes are used to colour synthetic textiles and for the small number of people who are allergic, can cause a skin reaction comparable to contact with poison ivy. Others may experience slightly inflamed, dry or itchy patches of skin.

Image: iStock

"[It happens] especially near the areas where there is friction or sweating, like the waist, neck and thighs and around the armpits," Dr Belisto told WSJ.

This reaction can repeatedly occur until the dye has been rinsed out which may take several washes, so those who are allergic may have to avoid it completely.

Formaldehyde resin, used to prevent cotton-polyester blends from wrinkling and to limit mildew, can cause two forms of eczema - allergic contact dermatitis and irritant contact dermatitis. Signs of both are flaky skin and rashes.

The chemical is also a category three carcinogen, the lowest hazard level.

While most countries enforce strict regulations, a 2010 study by the US Government Accountability founds that some fabrics for sale in the US actually exceeded the allowable levels of the resin.

Image: iStock

Again, the fact that the item is made from natural fibre doesn't necessarily mean it's chemical-free. As Clare Press points out in her book Wardrobe Crisis, cotton production accounts for 25 per cent of insecticide use and 10 per cent herbicide use worldwide.

While a little scary, washing your clothes (at least twice if you want to be thorough) before use will minimise the risk of any of these problems.

According to Hogue, any item that touches the skin including socks, underwear, activewear, T-shirts, summer dresses and some swimwear are non-negotiable.

This is because sweating opens your pores allowing chemicals to be absorbed into the skin more easily.

Outerwear like jackets and coats which don't directly touch the skin are unlikely to cause irritation.

If you're already fretting about the expensive dry cleaning bill coming your way, don't.

"It's not going to do you a whole lot of good to go dry clean it, because then you are putting fresh chemicals in the fabric. But I would air it out before wearing it," she said.

Image: iStock

Do you always wash new clothes before wearing them?