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Should You Wash New Clothing Items Before Wearing Them?

By Sandra Roussy February 11, 2024 Beauty

The simple answer to that question is yes. But have you ever wondered why it is recommended that you wash your clothes before wearing them for the first time?

Have you ever developed a rash a few days after wearing a brand-new clothing item? Has this been happening more frequently? As we get older, our skin tends to thin and become more sensitive. We may react more easily to irritants now more than ever.

There are a few reasons why washing your new garment before putting it in contact with your skin for an extended period of time is a good idea.

Why Wash Your New Clothes?

Excess Dyes

One of the most common reasons to wash your new item is because of the residual and extra dyes that are on the garments that can transfer to your skin and alleviate the chances of provoking allergic contact dermatitis.

This can cause a rash that can last for several days or even weeks. This skin reaction can happen out of the blue even if you have worn unwashed new clothing items in the past. Synthetic fabrics, like polyester and nylon, are fabrics that seem to harbor the most excess dyes.

It is suggested that you wash your new item separately before including it with your regular wash, but if this is not possible a Sixty & Me reader suggested washing your new clothing items with color catcher sheets, like Shout® Color Catcher Dye-Trapping Sheet

Shout® Color Catcher Dye-Trapping Sheet

These sheets help to soak up and capture stray dyes from new clothing in your laundry, protecting your other garments from potential harm caused by color bleeding. The sheets also provide protection and longevity of the vibrant colors of your clothing. Thanks for the suggestion!

Chemicals and Fabric Treatments

Chemicals used in producing fabrics and manufacturing garments can be irritating to the skin and even harmful to your health. The apparel industry doesn’t have the cleanest slate when it comes to health and environmental concerns. Fabric treatments and finishes, like anti-wrinkles for example, can irritate sensitive skin. The treatment applied fades over time with regular washes.

Dust and Allergens

Clothes can accumulate dust, dirt, and allergens during transportation and storage. Washing helps to remove these particles, making the clothes cleaner and more comfortable to wear, especially if you have allergies or sensitivities.

Not as New as You Think

Is your new garment really new? Chances are the item has been tried on in the store before you purchased it. It may have even been bought, worn, and returned. Also, many hands have touched your new clothing item before it made it to your closet; from the apparel workers to the shop employees.

People carry bacteria, fungi, and even insects on their bodies (yes, even you). Although chances are low, you may increase the risk of contracting an infection from a garment.

Insider Facts

I worked in the apparel industry for over 20 years and part of my job as a fashion designer was to have fit samples and approved samples delivered to my office before production. These are essentially the same garments that, after approval, are manufactured the same way the sample was and then shipped to the stores.

I have opened boxes of surprises a few times over the years. I once had a stowaway. A small iguana-type animal had hitched a ride all the way from China to Canada. This little guy didn’t make it, but he sure left behind his natural bodily matter on the samples. Other times, samples smelled of smoke or had other unpleasant odors.

Bottom Line, Wash Before Wearing

Now that I have probably scared the bejesus out of you, you know the main reasons for washing clothes before wearing them for the first time. Read the care label on the garment and wash according to the instructions and have peace of mind.


Let’s Have a Conversation:

Do you always wash your new garments before wearing them? Did you know all these reasons why you should wash your new clothing items? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.

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  • I have always washed new clothes before wearing them. Besides the fact that other people have probably tried them on, the smells are gross!

Hi there
I diligently wash all my clothes before I wear them for all of the above reasons. As well as the fact they can have carcinogens such as formaldehyde and who knows what else – why take a chance ?


I did know about these. Growing up during a lice epidemic we had to wash our new clothes and were never allowed to try on even hats. I also worked in retail in the men’s clothing department. You may not have been able to try on underwear in the store fitting rooms but you could at home and bring them back. I can remember the first time someone brought in a men’s pack of underwear with a couple that looked like they were tried on out of the package yuk. Anyway the manager had me use like this little folding thing to properly refold them into the pack seal it and put them back on the shelf. The unpacking of boxes of clothes was not as clean as you would expect there was like this powdery substance that always seemed to break my arms out in a rash. Oh and bring clothes out of the stock room that you would see rat droppings around and the occasional roach. Yeap I wash my clothes before I wear them.


I always air out drycleaned clothes outdoors because of potential chemicals in them during the process. In addition, I air out store bought clothes because of possible chemicals during the finishing process and in case someone has tried them on previously. I wash any new clothes that makes the recommendation to do so first before wearing.

The Author

Sandra is the middle-aged woman you hear about who sheds everything she owns and sets out into the world to rediscover and redefine herself. After more than twenty years spent in the fashion industry designing collections for brands such as La Senza, Victoria’s Secret, and JACOB Lingerie, she shifted her path and pursued her longtime passion for writing, traveling, and photography. Sandra was published in the NY Times best selling book Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It. A deeply personal essay hand-picked by Elizabeth Gilbert about loss, facing fears, and going after dreams. Visit her website:

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