Why you should wash any new clothes you buy

by Jack Smith

There is nothing like the feeling of putting on a new shirt or a new pair of shoes. That clean crisp comfortable feeling is something we all enjoy. Paolo Nutini loves new shoes so much that he wrote a song about it. Yet what many of us don’t realize is that when we buy a new item of clothing there are potentially harmful chemicals and allergens at play.

Many people who buy new clothes will find a red rash on their skin after a few days. The rash is an immune system allergic reaction due to the dye used on the clothing. It is particularly common in synthetic work-out clothes. If you experience this rash it is usually nothing to worry about but it can last for a number of weeks. If enough of this dye was in contact with an open wound then it could give you a permanent allergy. Those in the know advise shoppers to always wash the clothes they buy before wearing them to lower the chances of a reaction.

While clothes on a rack look fantastic, clean, and fresh, we don’t know where they have been or how they got there. First of all, we have no idea how many people tried on that same outfit. The next time you go into a shop take notice of some of the levels of hygiene of your fellow shoppers and that may be cause alone for you to start washing your new items. Even if no one has ever tried on the item you are buying before you are still at risk.

When you pick up a new jumper and it says 100% cotton you may think that is all that you are buying but there are no regulations in place that ask the clothing manufacturer to list what the clothes have been treated with. Manufacturers often put stain repellants, softness boosters, anti-wrinkle treatments, and more on their clothes that require a wide range of chemicals. In one study 31 clothing samples were tested and 29 tested positive for quinoline a chemical that has been linked to potentially causing cancer. When companies waterproof clothing they often use fluorosurfactants. Despite their widespread usage, there is little or no research confirming their safety. This takes us back to the early days of Teflon when frying pans were fitted with a nonstick coating that was proved to make people ill. We should be very careful about what chemicals we are in contact with every day. Washing your clothes when you buy them will lower the chemical content as it will wash off any excess chemicals that were used as part of the manufacturing process.

Overtime other chemicals that were part of the clothes themselves may start to leak out as the clothing deteriorates. Today there is no legislation in place that forces companies to list the chemicals used in the manufacturing and treatment process but that may change. The world is starting to realize how dangerous these untested chemicals are and know that large companies are not always out for their best interest. 

There are two lessons here. Lesson one is that you really should wash your clothes straight away whenever you buy something. The second is that where possible try and buy local to support businesses in your area and because you will be able to ask and know more about the process that was used to make your clothes. There is an increasing trend towards environmentally friendly production methods and these methods are still not being used by large companies. Shop smart and shop local especially during tough economic times.

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