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Should You Wash Clothes Before Wearing? - Yes, Here's Why

Everybody buys new clothes now and then. Hopefully, you’ve learned to make the most of the experience. You’ve learned about picking the right clothes, and you can appreciate new outfits and how they make you look and feel. We’re not going to get into the shopping too much today. Instead, we need to talk about what you do with your new clothes. Do you wash them before you wear them? If not, you should.


It’s pretty simple. We wash clothes so that they’ll be clean. That’s not too complicated. But, you wonder, why do we need to wash new clothes? Aren’t they clean in the first place? The answer to that is a resounding no. Your new clothes have likely never been washed. If they have, it was a long time ago, and they’ve been exposed to some stuff you really don’t want to think about. So, we’re going to think about it long and hard. Come learn about how disgusting your new clothes really are.

How Are Your Clothes Made?

Have you ever spent time thinking about clothing manufacturing? It’s not the most automated process out there. People are involved a lot, which means they come into contact with the clothes. That seems pretty normal — until you think too hard about it. 

Picture it. You’re making clothes. There’s cloth everywhere. You sneeze. It’s going to be at least a little tempting to wipe down on all of that excess cloth, right?

That’s just one possible example out of countless scenarios. Here’s the thing. Even if you aren’t being outright gross while you make the clothes, anyone who has a cough is going to spew their germs everywhere. People shed hair and skin onto the cloth. You don’t have to wear hairnets and protective gear. Through sheer human contact, this clothing is exposed to disease and all of the gross things that are part of humanity.

Then, it all happens again with shipping. Amazon might have some cool robots, but there are still a lot of people working in those fulfillment centers. Anything you don’t want a person to touch to your new clothes is going to happen during shipping.

Guess what. It’s not over yet. It all happens again when employees put the clothes on the rack. And then again when people try on the clothes. Throughout the process, any clothes you want to buy are exposed to a lot of diseases and things you don’t want to think about, and since they’re made from cloth, they’re not remotely antimicrobial. You definitely want to wash it all before you wear it, and we have some science to prove it.

garment factory

The Studies

For the skeptics out there, multiple studies have been conducted on this topic. Your new clothes have way more germs than your old clothes. A study from New York University showed a prevalence of a number of infectious bacteria on clothing in stores. Those bacteria include strep and staph. The study also found plenty of fecal matter on the clothes too. Yeah, society is truly disgusting.

Another study was done by Columbia Medical. It found lice and fungi on plenty of new clothes. That means you could get athlete’s foot, skin rashes, lice, and a number of other things you don't want from wearing new clothes without washing them.

Now, none of this is to say that every piece of new clothing is a death trap. Overall, the risk that you’ll get something from one item is low. But, if you never wash your new clothes, you’ll eventually be exposed to things you don’t like. It’s better to make it a habit. 

If you’re not convinced, keep reading. There’s more to worry about than infections. 

Chemicals, Yay!

Making clothing involves the use of a lot of chemicals. Those include dyes, anti-wrinkling agents, and a number of other substances. None of these are toxic, but they can cause allergic reactions, rashes, and irritation.

More concerning is that people handle the clothing. In addition to getting their germs on your new threads, they get a bunch of chemical residue on there too. That can include tanning agents, resins, oils, acids, and all manner of other stuff. Again, none of this is deadly, but it’s surprisingly common for people to get skin irritation from wearing unwashed new clothing. Thankfully, a single round in the washing machine takes care of most of it.


Aside from cleaning the clothes, there’s a completely separate, practical reason to wash the new stuff before you wear it. A lot of clothing is made from cotton, and cotton tends to shrink after you wash it. Hopefully, you’re an accomplished enough adult to already know this. When you shop for clothes, you account for shrinkage and buy the right size accordingly.

Since you’re buying some clothes a little big, you’re faced with two choices. You can wear a baggy outfit to break it in and then enjoy it fitting right after it shrinks, or you can wash it before you wear it. It’s not a life-changing decision, but you can skip an awkward first outing by being proactive. Considering how much that first wash is doing to keep germs off of you, it seems like a no-brainer.

Quality Check

Another advantage of washing first is that it gives you an immediate quality check. Sometimes, we all buy cheap clothes. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if you want to know if you got a bargain or a dud, a single trip through the wash cycle can tell you a lot. This is particularly useful as a means of quality checking a new brand.

So, when you get something new, check the wash instructions and give them a go. If your new item is colored garbage, you’ll see loose threads or other unwanted signs of wear off of the first wash. It’s annoying, but at least you found out before buying in bulk, right? Just, keep those washing instructions in mind. If the tag says not to tumble dry, you can’t blame the manufacturers for your mistake.

Improve Your Washing Game

man doing laundry

Since you’re now a true believer and you’re going to wash all of your clothes before wearing them the first time, it’s probably worthwhile to learn more about how to wash your clothes. We’re going to give you a quick tutorial to keep you out of trouble in the laundry department.

The first rule of washing clothes is to check the tags. We mentioned this before, but it merits repeating. The tag is going to tell you if it can be machine washed. It’s going to tell you whether you should use hot or cold water. It will also mention if you need a delicate cycle. It will also tell you if you can’t use regular drying. If it says not to tumble dry or dry with heat, you’re best letting the item air dry on a hanger. The most important of the tags is the label that says dry clean only. You should believe in the honesty of that label.

So, assuming you’re following instructions, there are a few tips that will help you with laundry. You probably already know to separate clothes by color and material. In case that isn’t clear, you want white clothes in their own group, red clothes alone, blue clothes alone, and a final group for dark colors. This will prevent them from bleeding into each other.

You also want to wash clothes together that have the same durability. So, your delicates go in a different pile from your t-shirts. The labels can help with this.

Aside from that, you want to shop around with your detergents. Find something that works with your machine (many new machines need high-efficiency detergent) and smells nice to you. You’re going to be wearing these clothes after all. You should also get dryer sheets and color protection sheets. The former helps with static and makes your laundry smell extra fresh. The latter will protect you from the occasional color mishap.

If you have an advanced wardrobe (that might include anti-chafing boxer briefs), you’ll want to broaden your laundry knowledge. You can learn how to get rid of pit stains on any clothes. You can learn how to take care of more delicate and expensive fabrics and materials. It’s worth spending the time to study a bit more.

Regardless, it’s good that you’ve learned to wash your new clothes. That was unpleasantness you didn’t realize was in your life.


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