What’s the first thing you do after unpacking your new clothes from the mall? Cut off the tags and put them away in the closet? Wear them straight away? Lay them out on a flat lay for your Instagram feed? All of the above?
As it turns out, your laundry basket should be the first destination for all your new clothes.
But why, you might ask? It’s not like you’ve gotten perspiration or stains on them yet, right?
Here’s the thing, no matter how crisp, bright, or perfect your new garment looks off the hanger, it’s far dirtier than it seems. For instance, if you bought your clothes at a shop, it’s likely that you weren’t the first person to try them on. When you think about how some people don’t even wash their underwear and how the merchandise can’t exactly be cleaned each time someone brings it to the changing rooms, it’s possible for you to get scabies, rashes, or even *gasp* lice from the latest spring-summer collection.
Ordered your clothes online? Sure, it’s possible that they’ve never been worn before, but remember that each piece of clothing passes through so many pairs of hands throughout the manufacturing process, and as we said in the previous paragraph, you can’t be too sure about their levels of personal hygiene.
Furthermore, all sorts of chemicals are added to clothing throughout the production process. Azo-aniline dyes, which are typically applied to synthetic textiles, can result in slightly inflamed, dry, and itchy patches of skin. Clothes that are packed for transportation to remote locations are also often treated with anti-fungal agents, which contain formaldehyde. Yep, that’s the same chemical they use to embalm dead bodies, apart from being a known carcinogen that can bring about eczema and respiratory irritation symptoms among living ones too.
Still confused? Here are some guidelines to help you out further:
1. Always, always pre-wash clothes that will be worn close to the skin.
These include underwear like lingerie, socks, and undershirts, as well as t-shirts, shorts, swimsuits, and dresses. Athletic wear should also be washed before they are worn as sweating opens up the pores and makes the skin more susceptible to absorbing any harmful chemicals from the fabric.
Ditto for baby clothes, as newborn skin can be highly sensitive.
2. Wrinkle-free, sweat-resistant, waterproof, whatever-proof clothing are treated with even more chemicals than usual.
Wash these as soon as you get home, preferably in the hottest water possible. (Check the tags beforehand to make sure.)
3. Secondhand clothes are less likely to have any harmful chemical residues, but you should still wash them prior to use.
There’s nothing wrong with buying clothes from flea markets or what we call “ukay-ukay” (secondhand clothing stores) in the Philippines, but do know that bacteria, parasites, and fungi from a variety of diseases can survive on clothing for extended periods of time.
Vintage finds could be cool and all, but if you’re not sure about where they’re actually from, best throw the garments in a warm dryer for 45 minutes before you actually wash them, just to kill off anything that shouldn’t be there.
4. Use safe, natural detergents whenever you can.
Harsh ones might deposit even more harmful chemicals onto your clothes.
5. Always read the laundry tags before washing.
You don’t want to shrink or damage the garments by mistake.
Clearly, these don’t apply to cases where you’re forced to buy new clothes because of an accident, such as when you spill something on your shirt or when your pants get stained while you’re on your period, but otherwise, it’s better to be safe than sorry, don’t you think?