Most of us love new clothes. They are "perfect" - colors are bright, lines are crisp and pristine. So do you wash them before you wear them?
There are two good reasons to wash new clothes before you wear them. One is to wash out extra dye that can be transferred to your skin or other garments. And, more importantly, to remove chemical finishes that manufacturers put on clothes to enhance color or texture. The finishes won't bother everyone, but if you have sensitive skin you can develop a rash. Children's clothing, especially for babies should always be washed before they are worn. Babies are particularly sensitive to chemicals. Plus, washing the clothes will make them softer and more comfortable to wear. This also applies to bed linens and towels.
You can avoid some chemicals by shopping for organically produced clothing. But be sure to read labels because not all cotton and linen and wool clothing is created equal. Manufacturers apply chemicals to prevent mildew. Natural fibers are particularly vulnerable to mildew if exposed to moisture. Formaldehyde is often the chemical used to prevent mildew on clothes that have to be shipped from Asia to the United States. It has a very sharp odor that will remain until the garment is washed. One washing will not remove formaldehyde completely but you will reduce the resin significantly.
If you have a tag on the garment that reads "wash separately before wearing", beware of dye transfer and color bleeding. Washing should remove the excess dye but check the rinse water. If color remains in the water, it make take several washings to get rid of the excess dye so continue to wash separately.
Clothing from consignment or thrift stores should always be washed or dry-cleaned before wearing to prevent skin irritation.
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