Ashley Rey
June 17, 2016 2:32 pm

It logically seems like washing the new clothes you buy before wearing them should probably be a priority. I don’t usually act on this, and I’m sure you don’t either. Who wants to strip the “new clothes” smell from their on-trend t-shirt before they even get the chance to wear it? Well, according to and Lana Hogue, clothing manufacturing expert and instructor at Garment Industry 411, it’s highly recommended that we wash all new items that come in direct contact with our skin — with very little exception.

Donald Belsito, a professor of dermatology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, told The Wall Street Journal that he has 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.” Eeeeek.

And if odor and lice from unfamiliar bodies who’ve tried on the same pair of jeans prior doesn’t strike fear, harsh chemicals living in those very textiles should. “You should absolutely wash clothes before you wear them, especially anything that is right next to the skin,” Hogue suggests.


You would think that you’d be fine as long as you stay away from the big, bright (and obviously) color-treated garments, but Hogue would say differently. “Even natural fibers require caustic chemicals,” says Hogue. “Even if you buy a 100 percent cotton shirt.” Hogue also notes that textiles are chemically treated out of necessity, to prevent mold growth and to transform yarn into fabric.

Formaldehyde is one of the most frequently used chemicals in clothing and textile creation, and according to a 2010 study on its over-use in the fashion world by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, it brings a variety of serious health risks to those who come into contact with it. However, the greatest concern and health risk associated with formaldehyde in clothing stems from dermal exposure. It could come in the form of eczema, and is characterized by rashes, blisters, and flaky, dry skin that can itch or burn. 

Reading the tags to make sure clothing doesn’t contain too many harsh chemicals like formaldehyde is definitely a start, but doing so can be difficult as clothing labels do not identify items treated with or containing formaldehyde. 

Knowing this makes pre-washing our new gear that much more important. Confused on where to start? No worries! Lana Hogue has a list of items that you should totally wash before wearing:

  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • Undershirts
  • Athletic wear
  • T-shirts
  • Shorts
  • Summer dresses
  • And, swimsuits you don’t plan to wear in the water immediately

There are a few exceptions to this: outerwear, because it won’t be worn directly on your skin; formal wear, because a wrinkly prom dress is never okay;  and, swimsuits you plan on wearing ASAP, because the pool and ocean will help with the pre-wash.

Old habits die hard, but we have to kill this one with haste. Just make sure you keep a roll of quarters handy.