From Dr. Mercola:
Raise your hand if you’re guilty of bringing home a new shirt or pair of pants from the store and wearing them, sans washing. It’s very common, maybe even typical, as many fabrics look pristine when they’re fresh off the rack.
You probably assume they’re clean or at least relatively so, but tests conducted by Philip Tierno, Ph.D. director of Microbiology and Immunology at New York University, at the behest of Good Morning America, uncovered some disturbing compounds lurking on clothing.
And this is only one reason to consider washing before wearing. Many clothing items are also contaminated with chemicals and dyes that may lead to irritation or other health issues.
Even insects (like lice) could potentially be transmitted on new clothes. If you’re currently not a washer-before-wearing type, you may change your mind by the end of this article.
Feces, Respiratory Secretions, Vaginal Organisms and More
Tierno tested pants, blouses, underwear, jackets and other clothing items purchased from chain clothing stores (including both high-end and low-end options). The tests revealed a number of unsavory compounds lurking on the “new” clothes, including:1
Respiratory secretions Skin flora Fecal flora Yeast
Perhaps not surprisingly, swimsuits, underwear and other intimate items were the most heavily contaminated. Tierno told ABC News:2
“Some garments were grossly contaminated with many organisms indicating that either many people tried it or … someone tried it on with heavy contamination
In a sense, you are touching somebody’s arm pit or groin. So you want to be protected that’s all You may not come down with anything and, most cases you don’t, but it’s potentially possible.”
What types of illnesses could you potentially get from trying on contaminated clothes? Organisms that cause hepatitis A, traveler’s diarrhea, MRSA, salmonella, norovirus, yeast infections and streptococcus are all fair game when it comes to clothing items tried on by multiple people.
Even lice and scabies could potentially be transmitted by trying on clothes. Is it likely? No. Possible? Yes, particularly if your immune system is not functioning up to par. Tierno told The Huffington Post:3
“The good thing is that most people have a very robust immune system, so they can usually fight off the small number of organisms they may get on their body The fact that you come into contact with one doesn’t mean you’re going to get sick.”
Chemical Contaminants: Another Reason to Wash New Clothes
Depending on what country your new clothes were manufactured in, they may contain multiple chemicals of concern. Among them are azo-aniline dyes, which may cause skin reactions ranging from mild to severe.
If you’re sensitive, such dyes may leave your skin red, itchy and dry, especially where the fabric rubs on your skin, such as at your waist, neck, armpits and thighs. The irritants can be mostly washed out, but it might take multiple washings to do so.
Formaldehyde resins are also used in clothing to cut down on wrinkling and