What Really Happens To Your Body When You Don't Wash New Clothes Before Wearing Them

Going to the store and picking up something new to wear is always exciting. Whether you're purchasing something nice for an upcoming wedding you're attending or going on an annual shopping spree, coming back home with your brand new fits can fill your heart with joy. 

But perhaps you've wondered on more than one occasion how sanitary or safe it is to try on clothes in the dressing room, let alone bring said garments back home and wear them without running them through a wash cycle. According to the experts, your fears might be well-founded. There are a few things that can happen to your body if you put on something brand new from the store without washing it. 

For starters, the main concern is with clothing-related chemicals and dyes. As explained by professor of environmental sciences and engineering at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Gillings School of Global Public Health, Glenn Morrison (via Better Homes & Gardens), "Some dyes are not chemically bound to the fibers, meaning that they can migrate to the skin and cause dye-specific irritation or dermatitis." So that new pair of leggings you got from H&M? They might be on the list of clothing items you didn't know were bad for your health if you haven't cleaned them before wearing them. 

Unwashed new clothes could carry germs

Remember finding a loosely hung beige spaghetti-strap top on the hanger at the store and wondering who else may have worn it before you? You might not be completely far off when worrying about something like this. 

Germs and other irritants from someone who may have previously worn or handled the item of clothing is a real concern, according to medical director of the Dermatology Clinic at Vanderbilt Health One Hundred Oaks, Dr. Jami L. Miller (per Southern Living). "A few studies have been done looking at bacteria and viruses lingering on clothes after they have been tried on — fecal bacteria and nasal viruses were commonly found. Lice, scabies, and even bed bugs can also live on clothing for a few days," explained the dermatologist. Be especially careful with tight clothing, sportswear, underwear, and clothing items that aren't sealed.  

Even if the person who tried it on before you was exceptionally clean, any fragrances or chemicals (from perfume, lotions, or body wash, etc.) on their body could be left behind on the clothes and irritate our skin, lungs, and eyes, added founder of Branch Basics and environmental and healthy home consultant, Marilee Nelson to the New York Post. According to Nelson, even tools that stores use to create ambiance — like candles and scents — can become potential irritations to your body if they've somehow found their way onto the new clothes on the racks. It's not just the immediate handlers you should be concerned about either, as a customer. 

The entire production process of clothes is a concern when it comes to bodily irritants

You may think that ordering new clothes online would mitigate half of your problems, but think again. 

Professor of Textile Sciences at NC State University, Karen K. Leonas told Southern Living that a new item of clothing travels via many processes before it actually makes it to the store (or home), and at each of these junctures, it is open to contaminants from different machines and people. From mold in ships to bacteria and fungi from hands, everything is a concern. As clinical professor of microbiology and pathology at New York University's Grossman School of Medicine, Philip Tierno explained to Self, "Clothes are riddled with various types of organisms from the time of their production to the time of their sale." 

On the bright side, however, simply remembering to wash your new garments before wearing them can eliminate most, if not all of these problems. While synthetic dyes might be more stubborn, with other concerns like germs and irritants, throwing your new clothes in the washing machine with a gentle yet effective washing detergent will do the trick. By being mindful of this hygiene mistake you didn't know you were making, you can revel in the joy of wearing something new without any concern that you're harming your body.