Often, the first thing most of us do after a day of shopping is either hang our new purchases in the closet, or  — if we’re feeling particularly impatient — try them on in the comfort of our own bedroom. But, it turns out there’s an important extra step between buying new clothes, and actually wearing them that many people neglect. Experts say new clothes should always be sent through the washing machine — because, contrary to popular belief, even the cleanest-looking, freshly-packed materials aren’t really clean.

Walla Shihab, 6, tries on a donated blazer, with help from a volunteer at the Toronto Plaza Hotel in North York.

As Donald Belsito, a professor of dermatology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, told WSJ, new clothing often contains harmful chemicals that can cause rashes and itchiness. Despite the “made-in” label on many store-bought purchases, items are often stitched, dyed, and sent out from various countries, each with different chemical use laws. Clothes containing common ingredients such as azo-aniline dyes, or formaldehyde resin can cause skin irritation —  although, sending them through a wash can prevent this.

However, the ickiest clothing culprits come from the stores themselves. According to Belsito, dressing rooms are breeding grounds for bacteria, lice, and fungus. “I have seen cases of lice that were possibly transmitted from trying on in the store, and there are certain infectious diseases that can be passed on through clothing,” he tells WSJ. There’s no way to really track who’s tried on the clothes before you did, so rather than take the risk of a possible allergic reaction (or worse), Belsito recommends running the washing machine, twice. After all, waiting a couple extra hours before you slip on your new outfit is a small price to pay for health and hygiene.

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Often, the first thing most of us do after a day of shopping is either hang our new purchases in the closet, or  — if we’re feeling particularly impatient — try them on in the comfort of our own bedroom. But, it turns out there’s an important extra step...