Why a dermatologist says you should always wash new clothes before wearing them

When you fall in love with a new outfit, you probably want to show it off straight away. But a dermatologist is warning people to have a little patience.

Dr Faheem Latheef advises everyone to give garments a wash before wearing them for the first time. He says the biggest risk comes from in-store purchases which are often tried on or returned and could be covered in bacteria, viruses or fungi. Even for those that have never been touched, clothing dyes or chemical irritants could be an issue.

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According to a study by appliance brand Beko, 70% of Brits said they are still buying clothes from stores but 44% said they don’t wash items before wearing them for the first time.

More worryingly, 22% said they have worn an item and then returned it, ready for someone else to buy.

Of course, the germs left behind could be harmless or might die before the garment is touched by another customer, but there are some that might make you unwell or cause skin problems.

‘Due to the effect of the pandemic people have become increasingly conscious of the risks posed by germs in the environment,’ Dr Latheef said. ‘However, one consideration that is often neglected is the possibility of germs being spread through items of clothing.

‘Although mostly harmless, germs can easily spread if items of clothing are used by more than one person. The main microorganisms we are likely to be exposed to are bacteria, viruses, and fungus (including yeast and mould!).’

The study highlights bacteria like staphylococcus (staph), which can cause infection and is more likely to impact those with eczema and cause flare-ups and fungi that can cause skin rashes and itching.

Although it has been shown that Coronavirus is unable to survive on fabric for more than a couple of hours, other viruses like Norovirus can stay on contaminated clothing.

Verrucae or warts are also caused by a virus, often HPV virus, that can spread through shared contact, however, this is more unlikely.

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Other things that might cause issues for your skin include clothing dyes and chemical irritants, which are sometimes left behind on new items.

The dyes can bleed out of the clothing as you sweat and sometimes cause staining or an allergic reaction, while chemicals can cause contact dermatitis or itchy painful rashes.

These can all be killed by washing clothes at temperatures above 56 degrees.

Dr Latheef added: ‘Although normal washing of clothes will reduce the risk of germs being transmitted, in certain situations clothes may need to be washed at higher-than-normal temperatures. I would also recommend washing all, new dark clothing and bed linens at least twice before use and avoiding fabrics that fade.’