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5 Things to Wash Before Using

5 Things to Wash Before Using

Allie Firestone | DivineCaroline

November 09, 2010

Some people throw everything in the washer immediately after they buy it. Others (ahem … me) prefer to live on the wild side. So who’s right? Is washing new pieces right away always necessary? Or does it vary by item—sheets versus towels, underwear versus T-shirts?

I brought up the topic to one friend while sheet shopping for her new apartment. “I never wash new sheets because I like that crispy, fresh feel they have,” she said. I immediately felt better.

I did a little research to get the official verdict on some everyday items, and from ick factors to chemical sensitivity, there are reasons aplenty for making good use of your washer and drier.

Sheets and Towels

My mom always washes sheets right after buying them. Me? Can’t say I always (and by always, I mean ever) do. I wondered what sort of harm I’d been subjecting myself to.

Turns out, that new smell and crisp texture that my friend is such a fan of is intentionally created by manufacturers—with a mixture of scary-sounding chemicals like formaldehyde and urea resin. Manufacturers refer to the application process of these chemicals as “finishing” the fabric because they protect it from stains, wrinkles, and germs living in factories and supply rooms. The chemicals are applied to sheets and towels with heat, but can be mostly washed out with a few cycles and some fresh-smelling fabric softener.

When it comes to towels, there’s an additional reason to give them a spin through the wash-and-dry cycle. Doing so not only removes excess dyes, but also the natural oils that can hinder their absorption powers. It also opens up cotton fibers, allowing them to soak up more liquid, according to Calphalon.


The more I researched, the more I started thinking maybe I’m a little dirtier than most. Since I never wash clothing before wearing (even when the tag tells me to), I asked around to see how abnormal my habits actually are. One FabSugar poll (with over one thousand respondents) found that 16 percent of us always throw new clothes in the washer and that 42 percent of us usually do—depending on the type of clothing and where it came from. That’s a healthy majority. Are they onto something?

“I used to work at a popular clothing store and watched so many strange people try stuff on, it got me in the habit of washing everything,” says Leslie Mares, a fashion blogger. “I especially make it a point if the item’s vintage or from a particularly busy and not-so-clean store.”

Next: Lingerie and Bathing Suits →

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