Conventional wisdom (and your mom) says that you should always wash new clothes before putting them on. But like, I want to put these new jorts on right now because they make my thighs look thicc, soooo… what to do? Unfortunately, washing them before wearing them is a bright idea, for three main reasons…
There Are Potentially Dangerous Chemicals on Them
“Some companies use pesticides and chemicals — like formaldehyde — to prevent mildew and bugs during the shipping and production processes,” explains L.A.-based stylist Rayne Parvis. “Those chemicals can cause skin irritation.” In California, for instance, Proposition 65 requires that businesses warn consumers about significant exposures to chemicals, like formaldehyde, that cause cancer or birth defects, which has forced many clothing companies to admit that their products contain such chemicals. “Washing your garments is highly recommended for this reason as well,” Parvis adds.
However, many experts argue that, in most cases, these Proposition 65 labels make products seem much more dangerous than they really are, which means the idea that your new pair of jeans can cause cancer is most likely overblown. Still, it couldn’t hurt to run them through the washing machine before you put them on.
There Are Loads of People Germs on Them
“On the retail side, many people wear and return clothes,” Parvis explains. “So if you’re kind of a germaphobe, washing your clothes before wearing them can give you some peace of mind.” Additionally, that new pair of pants you just bought could easily have been tried on by dozens of people (and their dirty butts) before you decided to buy them. In fact, according to a study performed by Philip Tierno, professor of microbiology and pathology at New York University, in which he tested several garments from three popular clothing chains, many of these clothes are covered in things like feces, skin flora, vaginal organisms, yeast and respiratory secretions by the time they leave the store in someone’s shopping bag.
I can also tell you, from personal experience working in a secondhand store, that while we made an effort to avoid taking in items that were obviously gross, we also never washed a single thing. So if you buy vintage, I definitely recommend washing before wearing.
They Might Mess Up Your Other Clothes
Many new clothes have extra dyes that can rub off onto your skin or the other clothes you’re wearing, so washing them to remove those dyes is a good way to avoid stained skin and clothes. Additionally, if you plan on having your new clothes tailored, Parvis recommends washing them first to make sure they shrink down before the tailor cuts into them. “I always recommend washing jeans, clothes containing cotton or any items that have the potential to shrink before tailoring them,” she says. “For example, if you tailor your 99 percent cotton denim before washing them, they may end up being hemmed too short.”
All said and done, washing before wearing is a good move — if anything, to get rid of the lingering ball sweat from the dude who inevitably went commando in the dressing room.