Most of us wear our brand-new clothes before even washing them, as they usually look nice and clean.
Unfortunately, they aren’t. The Microbiology and Immunology at New York University director, Philip Tierno, Ph.D., has conducted tests on new unwashed clothes, which showed the presence of rather disturbing compounds on clothing. This is just one of the reasons why you need to wash your new clothes before wearing them. A lot of clothing items contain dyes and chemicals that can cause irritation and many other health problems. Even lice or some other insects can be transmitted on your new piece of clothing. By the end of this post, you might want to change your habit of wearing new clothes before washing them.
Vaginal Organisms, Respiratory Secretions, Feces…
Tierno tested blouses, pants, jackets, underwear, and other clothing items obtained from clothing store chains, including both, low-end and high-end options. The results showed that new clothes contained various unsavory compounds. Some of them are:
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- Fecal flora
- Respiratory secretions
- Skin flora
Tierno reported for ABC News that underwear, swimsuits, and other garments were the most contaminated clothing items, probably because a lot of people have tried them on, or even one with heavy contamination. If you think about it, it’s like touching someone’s groin or armpit. Although in most cases you won’t come down with anything, it still remains a possibility (1).
Trying on contaminated clothes can easily cause various illnesses like MRSA, hepatitis A, salmonella, streptococcus, traveler’s diarrhea, yeast infections, norovirus, etc. Although unlikely, there’s still the possibility that new clothes can transmit scabies and lice, especially if you have a weak immune system. According to Tierno, the majority of people have a strong immune system which can easily fight off a low number of organisms getting on their bodies when trying on new clothes. So getting in contact with them, doesn’t mean you will get ill (2).
One More Reason to Wash Your New Clothes – Chemical Contaminants
New clothes can contain a number of dangerous chemicals, depending on the country of manufacture. Such are the azo-aniline dyes that can cause mild to severe skin reactions. These dyes can leave people with sensitive skin with red, dry, and itchy skin on the area rubbed by the fabric. Most usually these areas are the thighs, armpits, neck, and waist. You can wash out most of the irritants, but with multiple items of washing.
New clothes are treated with formaldehyde resins to reduce wrinkling and mildew. As you may know, formaldehyde is considered a carcinogen, while resins are associated with eczema, skin rashes, and flaky skin (3).
The manufacturing of clothes also includes NPE (Nonylphenol ethoxylate), a toxic surfactant that disrupts the endocrine system. When NPEs are removed from the clothes by the process of washing, they get released into local water supplies, but here, they can’t be removed by the wastewater treatment plants. When in the environment, NPEs break down into the toxic endocrine-disrupting chemical NP (nonylphenol) which accumulates in wildlife and fish.
Chemicals Might Still Be Present in Your Clothing Even After You’ve Wash Them
Washing your new clothes won’t remove all the contained chemicals. For example, the antimicrobial triclosan included in some clothing items and fabrics can cause changes in hormone regulation and can even affect fetal development. According to some animal studies, triclosan might even affect fertility. They also indicate that bacteria exposed to it can develop antibiotic resistance. The studies even suggested an increased risk of cancer.
When it comes to stain-proof clothing, they contain PFCs (perfluorinated compounds) that are toxic to both, people and the environment. They are mostly included in non-stick cookware but are also present in fabrics. Most clothes, except for organic ones, are made from GE cotton (genetically engineered cotton). During its production, cotton is heavily treated with a number of chemicals like pesticides.
The Organic Consumers Association says that cotton production includes chemicals that don’t end with cultivation. Moreover, herbicides are used to help harvesting in order to defoliate the plants and ease their picking CSC. Textile production from plants includes more chemicals in their sizing, bleaching, straightening, drying, odor, stain resistance, shrink reduction, mothproofing, fireproofing, and wrinkle- and static-reduction.
Heat is used for the application of some of these substances, attaching them to the cotton fibers. The process includes several items of washing, but some detergents and softeners leave a residue that won’t be fully removed from the end product. Some of the chemicals for finishing are caustic soda, formaldehyde, urea resins, bromines, halogens, and sulfonamides.
There are some clothes that are even soaked with a long-lasting disinfectant that is very difficult to remove. Their smell remains and gives them away. The residues from these chemicals affect us with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities. Some have gotten allergic reactions to formaldehyde, like hives, by touching their skin with solutions on permanent press clothing which include formaldehyde.
The World’s Dirtiest Crop is the Conventionally Grown GE Cotton
The cotton industry includes heavy use of dangerous insecticides and herbicides, some of which are the most dangerous ones used on the market. That’s why cotton is considered the dirtiest crop in the world. The Organic Trade Association explains that cotton takes 2.5 percent of the entire cultivated land on the Planet, yet uses the highest percentage of the world’s insecticides, which is about 16 percent (5).
According to the World Health Organization, the top 3 of the most acutely dangerous insecticides to our health are aldicarb, methamidophos, and parathion, and guess what? They are among the top 10 most commonly used insecticides in the production of cotton. They are all classified as moderately to highly dangerous, as well as 6 of the remaining 7 insecticides.
The second best-selling insecticide used in cotton, aldicarb, is the most acutely toxic to humans. Only one drop absorbed through the skin is able to kill that person. However, 25 countries in the U.S. are still using this insecticide, and 16 of them have found it in their groundwater. This is dangerous on so many levels. It’s dangerous for farmers that use these chemicals, people buying cotton, and those living nearby the factories. In fact, the chemicals cause widespread environmental pollution so a lot of people will be affected.
On the other hand, organic cotton is not exposed to these toxic chemicals, and it’s not genetically engineered, so we recommend choosing it instead of GE cotton whenever you can.
Advice for Safer Clothing
- Safe and non-toxic clothing items are those made from organic cotton or those with the OEKO-TEX Standard 100 label. This means that the clothing has undergone testing which proved it’s free of dangerous amounts of over 100 substances, such as phthalates, azo dyes, pesticides, heavy metals, and allergenic dyes.
- Also, make sure you wash your new clothes before wearing them. Sometimes you may need to wash them twice. In case the clothing article isn’t machine washed, you may want to run it through a cycle in a hot dryer prior to wearing the clothing.
- It’s always good to leave some clothes while trying a new one, at least your underwear. Once you get home, wash it regardless if you have bought the new clothing or not.
- Another thing to keep in mind is washing your hands after shopping.
Via Dr. Mercola