Is it OK to wear new clothes without washing them? Unfortunately, most fashion items that you can buy today can endanger your health and well-being.
Many garments produced by the apparel and textile industry contain harmful chemicals that pollute the air, soil, and water sources and can damage your skin.
Many different fabrics used in the clothing you wear every day aren't healthy, safe, or eco-friendly. And a lot of production processes in garment manufacturing involve hazardous substances.
When buying new clothing, be careful about what you put on your skin. Many textile products can be highly dangerous and may lead to health issues.
Be sure to wash your new clothes before wearing them. It's important to stay healthy and safe and avoid many risks of harming your body and skin health.
To help you make mindful decisions as a well-informed consumer, here are some shocking dangers of wearing new clothes without washing them.
1. Toxic chemicals
The production of new clothes requires a lot of chemicals and raw materials, often made from non-renewable resources.
The fashion industry causes tremendous amounts of air, land, and water pollution due to the overutilization of hazardous chemicals.
New clothes can be highly dangerous to your skin, especially when they receive chemical treatments to make them make more flexible, soft, or water repellant.
The regular production of clothing requires vast amounts of resources, chemicals, water, and energy. It creates massive amounts of pollution, waste, and greenhouse gases every year.
The best way to avoid clothing toxicity is to choose sustainable and ethical clothes from brands that make consistent efforts to protect the environment and human health.
And don't wear new clothes without washing them. Thoroughly cleaning new fashion items you just bought helps remove a lot of toxic chemicals textile fibers have stored during production.
Pay particular attention to young children and baby clothing as they tend to have sensitive skin. Buying organic baby clothing is still one of the best things you can do as a parent.
2. Hazardous dyes
Most dyes used for clothing manufacturing, processing, and garment finishing are toxic. The fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world.
Toxic chemicals in dyes and fabric treatments poison the air, water, and soil. They are very damaging to ecosystems and human health. Dyes in clothing can also cause skin irritation.
Most chemicals used in garment manufacturing processes such as washing, bleaching, and dyeing are toxic. Textiles dyes often contain hazardous compounds that put the environment and your skin at risk.
Hazardous dyes used in garment manufacturing not only harm consumers' skin but also farmers and workers in garment-producing factories.
The textile processing, dyeing, and treatment of clothes use tons of water and chemicals. Manufacturers discharge millions of gallons of chemically infected water into waterways every year.
And a single fabric mill can use up to 200 tons of freshwater to dye a ton of fabric. Wastewater charged with harmful chemicals is often released untreated into nearby rivers, eventually spreading into the sea.
One of the best ways to prevent the overutilization of dangerous chemicals in dyes is to look for certification standards.
They guarantee sustainable production processes as well as high levels of safety both for human beings and the environment. Audits from third-party organizations confirm fibers' quality, safety, and eco-friendliness.
And make sure to wash the clothes you buy before wearing them. Doing so will remove a lot of the harmful substances that stick to clothing during manufacturing.
3. Textile treatments
The production of synthetic fabrics such as polyester, nylon, acrylic, polyethylene, polypropylene, elastane, and polyurethane often involves the use of harmful pollutants.
Most synthetic clothes contain plastics that transport chemicals and contaminate the human body and environment.
Many fabrics undergo harsh chemical treatments using urea resins or formaldehyde to bleach them, alter their properties, make them water repellant, wrinkle-free, or stain resistant.
Finishing treatments are often toxic and use multiple substances that deteriorate the health of your skin and body. Heavy chemicals are poisonous to humans and harmful to the environment.
They can cause burns, vomiting, diarrhea, drowsiness, reproductive disorders, cancer, and impaired nervous and immune system function.
It's especially important to wash workout clothing, activewear, athleisure, and sportswear. Since you will usually sweat in those clothes and open your pores, you risk facilitating skin absorption of chemicals in clothing.
4. Animal-based fibers
To prevent the putrefaction of animal-derived materials like fur, manufacturers use dangerous substances such as acids and bleaches up to unsafe levels.
Leather tanning is very destructive to the environment, ecosystems, and human health. The processing of animal-derived textiles like leather requires tons of harmful chemicals.
Tanning creates large quantities of chromium waste around the world. Chrome-tanning facilities need about 57,000 liters for every ton of hides and produce one ton of solid waste.
Wool is also one of the five most environmentally damaging fibers worldwide. Wool processing requires chemicals and is responsible for high human and eco-toxicity.
Harmful pesticides and insecticides are often used on sheep to keep them free of parasites. As a result, animal-based clothing can contain highly polluting and dangerous residual chemicals and cleaning agents.
To ensure a more ethical and eco-friendly future for the fashion industry, support sustainable and vegan clothing brands. Look for animal-free products that prevent animal cruelty and farming pollution.
And make sure to wash your clothes properly before wearing them. Wash away chemicals contained in conventional textiles to preserve your health and avoid complications.
5. Harmful pesticides and fertilizers
Conventional fiber farming such as regular cotton is very harmful. Cotton production is very chemical-intensive, wasteful, and highly polluting as it requires tons of water, pesticides, and fertilizers.
Cotton plantations can ruin biodiversity and soil fertility, threatening end-consumers' health and the lives of farmers, workers, and their families.
Toxic substances used in regular cotton production can irritate the skin and cause health disorders such as cell decay and chromosomal aberrations.
Thankfully, usage restrictions in Europe and the United-States restrict some hazardous chemicals used in cotton farming such as Glyphosate, Trifluralin, Diuron, and Parathion methyl.
However, in many East-Asian countries where most clothes are manufactured today, the agricultural use of hazardous chemicals continues.
The best way to prevent harmful chemicals from reaching your skin or the air you breathe is to buy and wear certified organic clothing. Choose clothes made of natural and safe fabrics such as organic cotton, linen, hemp, jute, and ramie.
You should also wash your new clothes before wearing them to remove a lot of toxic chemicals in conventional textile fibers such as regular cotton.
6. Bacteria, germs, and infections
It's very common to find viruses, bacteria, fungus, or germs in brand new and second-hand clothes. They come directly from the human body as we all have bacteria on the surface of our skin.
People who previously tried out new clothes in stores or wore them for a long time can leave plenty of bacteria and germs between textile fibers. And a lot of germs can survive on fabrics for quite some time.
Be sure to wash new and second-hand clothes you buy before wearing them. It's important to free them from bacteria, fungus, or germs that may still be there.
Washing clothes with cold water offers plenty of benefits such as increasing clothing longevity, saving time, money, and energy, and protecting the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Coldwater washing is also necessary for dark or bright colors that may bleed and delicate fabrics that require special attention.
However, it's crucial to run warm washing cycles at 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius) to clean any new or used clothing you buy before wearing it.
Hot or warm water is still useful for sanitizing, eliminating bacteria, removing germs and other organisms living in textiles, and cleaning heavily soiled clothes, towels, underwear, and white garments that show dirt.
About the Author: Alex Assoune
Alex Assoune (MS) is a global health and environmental advocate. He founded Panaprium to inspire others with conscious living, ethical, and sustainable fashion. Alex has worked in many countries to address social and environmental issues. He speaks three languages and holds two Master of Science degrees in Engineering from SIGMA and IFPEN schools.