Wash before wear?
March 25, 2016 5:12 AM   Subscribe

Settle a debate between me and my wife. She insists EVERY new article of clothing must be washed before wearing. T-Shirts. Underwear. Socks. All washed first. Even bed-sheets and towels (a not-yet-used comforter started this debate.) I say brand new out of package is as clean as can be. Who's right?
posted by arniec to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (70 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm with your wife, because there could still be stuff left over from the production and packaging process. But I'm sure that nothing dire is going to happen to you if you wear or use things before you wash them.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:17 AM on March 25, 2016 [12 favorites]


Sheets and underwear, yes. Most other things, I don't bother.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:18 AM on March 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


I wash 90% of the time. Factories are dirty places--maybe not with stuff you can see on the clothes, but outgassing plastics and all sorts of other fun things related to treatments of fabrics. I usually wash for this reason, particularly things that are going right next to my body (underwear, T-shirts, etc.). I don't wash coats or outerwear. I could go either way on the comforter.

Some people have sensitivities to such residues, and always wash, everything.
posted by chiefthe at 5:19 AM on March 25, 2016 [13 favorites]




nthing chiefthe. I'm sensitive to the chemicals in the fabrics. The smell of new fabrics gets to me too.
posted by rw at 5:24 AM on March 25, 2016


"One expert, Donald Belsito, a professor of dermatology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York with a specialty in contact dermatitis, explains how lice can linger in fabric and why washing before wearing—maybe even more than once—should be mandatory."
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:24 AM on March 25, 2016 [7 favorites]


Many clothing things, even brand new, had sizing applied (at least in the past). I don't know about today, but as a kid who got eczema from having someone look cross-eyed at me, everything got washed before it got worn, and still does, except in direst travel emergency.

Also, if you're buying things from stores, who's to say they haven't been tried-on by someone? Someone who perhaps doesn't have the best hygiene?
posted by DaveP at 5:24 AM on March 25, 2016 [5 favorites]


Your wife. Easily.

All those things you mention come from factory to factory in trucks, trains, shipping containers. They've been handled by machines and by other people's hands.

Not only that, but many fabrics have 'sizing' which is a waxy substance on fabrics to keep them straight during the manufacturing process as well as to give them a crisp look in the store.

So...EW! Of course you wash EVERYTHING!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:24 AM on March 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


I don't wash anything new except maybe unpackaged underwear, and sometimes not even that. I'm relatively lazy and not a germophobe, but I'm also a microbiologist. A door handle is probably 500x more contaminated than a new article of clothing. Just wash your hands frequently and the rest is gravy, unless you have particularly sensitive skin.
posted by emd3737 at 5:30 AM on March 25, 2016 [76 favorites]


I fall on your side here, but I've heard from plenty of people on your wife's side. I don't think there's a clear answer though, as different people have different conceptions of what cleanliness means in relation to their own comfort level, and that seems to be really fundamental to the person and not change much. (For example, I am completely unmoved by those scare articles about how many billions of bacteria are found on mobile phones or whatever; my attitude is that that's why millions of years of evolution gave me an immune system, so I wash my hands and get on with my life.) I've never suffered any ill effects at all from wearing clothing right off the rack, but that won't convince someone like your wife who just feels more comfortable washing them first. Or, if she has sensitivities like those chiefthe describes, but you don't mention that in your post so I'm guessing this is just a preference thing for her.

Some people are fine washing their hands in a public restroom and then touching the door handle with their bare hands, others insist on using a paper towel and executing that maneuver where the door is flung open and they throw the paper towel away quickly and exit before the door closes. I think it's the same difference in mindset. (There are also those people who don't wash their hands at all, but, let's not talk about them...)
posted by Kosh at 5:31 AM on March 25, 2016 [11 favorites]


Despite my comment above, is this really an argument worth winning? If you wife likes things washed and she's willing to wash them, no harm done.
posted by emd3737 at 5:32 AM on March 25, 2016 [23 favorites]


A door handle is probably 500x more contaminated than a new article of clothing.

Yes but does it contain urea formaldehyde resins used to prevent mildew (that's in the link I posted)?
posted by warriorqueen at 5:36 AM on March 25, 2016 [12 favorites]


I wash everything before wearing, not because of germs (seriously?) but because unwashed new clothes have a smell and feel that I don't like. Maybe it is the sizing, or something from the manufacturing of the fabric? My wife thinks I'm crazy and doesn't wash anything before the first wear, and it's one of those minor quirky things we disagree on without particularly caring. I do insist that we wash sheets and pillowcases before the first use, and beyond that I don't give it any thought.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:38 AM on March 25, 2016 [6 favorites]


Everything gets washed. I don't know who touched it when it was manufactured and I don't know what adults or children potentially got germs, snot, or sweat on it at the store.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 5:42 AM on March 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


On the question, is everything as clean as it can be, it might or might not. On the question of whether that matters, only to sensitive skin/minds. On whether you should tell her that she is wrong when the whole thing is matter of subjective opinion, then maybe you should ask yourself what your goal and expected outcome is.

I never wash anything until its been worn.
posted by b33j at 5:45 AM on March 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


Wash! I had a blazing red skin reaction to some ski-type pajamas I wore without washing them.
posted by Carol Anne at 5:46 AM on March 25, 2016


People will come up with a lot of arguments in favor of their position, but ultimately everyone has their own personal cleanliness taboos and will only rarely have their mind changed by facts.

See also:
* shoes on/off in the house;
* toilet paper vs. rinse;
* sitting on public toilet seats with/without an intervening layer of tissue;
* rinsing dishes vs. drying them off straight out of soapy water

The "gross" line is different for everyone, and ultimately it's very personal and though we can back it up with facts, and a particularly evocative fact may even change your mind (generally in the direction of "this is more gross than I thought!"), it doesn't matter. Be comfortable, so long as it doesn't interfere with your daily activities.
posted by mskyle at 5:46 AM on March 25, 2016 [11 favorites]


A door handle is probably 500x more contaminated than a new article of clothing.

With mostly local, non-exotic contaminants. And a subset of chemicals you're mostly used to.

Also, "germophobes" kept your ancestors alive during a time when the religious writers felt it necessary to spell out kitchen cleanliness rules. Believing in things you can't see is what separates us from animals.

(Figuratively. Cats, for example, clearly believe in things they can't see, also. But then, they're pretty clean too!)
posted by amtho at 5:47 AM on March 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


She's right, there are chemicals from the manufacturer on them. I don't always wash my own clothes before wearing them first, but I do always wash my daughter's.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:51 AM on March 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


I believe your wife is technically correct, yet I almost never bother because I'm lazy. Still alive. Shrug.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:54 AM on March 25, 2016 [30 favorites]


Your wife is correct.

The only thing you don't wash before wearing it is a tuxedo.
posted by Sphinx at 5:54 AM on March 25, 2016


I wash underwear, t shirts, bedding, and towels always before wearing them. T shirts and sheets in particular because they always seem so stiff from whatever starchy chemical they have to keep them looking nice in the package. Towels and underwear primarily because of the amount of skin contact.

Jeans and sweaters don't get washed, because I'm lazy, basically, but I definitely wouldn't assume that they're clean. As mentioned above, they probably have trace amounts of chemicals from manufacturers and or from people trying them on in store. Still, I don't wash a lot of my new clothes, and I probably wouldn't bother with a comforter either.

Then again, I can't remember the last time I washed any of my jeans, so ymmv depending on your hygiene standards. To be fair, I've never had any kind of reaction to my non-washed new clothes, so I'm not too concerned. If you do have any sort of sensitivities to chemicals/allergens, then definitely wash new clothes before wearing them.
posted by litera scripta manet at 5:57 AM on March 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yes, you should wash things before wearing. Not only do you wash out any processing chemicals, but some garments fit much differently after they've been through the wash.

Do I personally wash new clothes before I wear them? Nope. Has this caused problems for me? Not that I'm aware of. But your wife is right in principle. It's not germaphobic or obsessive to pre-wash everything, it's good practice.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:58 AM on March 25, 2016 [5 favorites]


what is the harm in washing one more time other than having you or your wife win or lose an argument?
posted by Postroad at 5:59 AM on March 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


I wash towels first because it improves absorbency. It has literally never occurred to me to wash anything else before use unless it's from a charity shop. Never had a reaction, never died of chemicalknickeritis. The worry about germs and chemicals is mind blowing to me. But this is clearly a "No YOU crazy" scenario so if your wife wants to wash things first who cares?
posted by billiebee at 6:04 AM on March 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


Absolutely wash. I used to work for a screenprinting company. The production area was not air-conditioned, and in the summer, it got super-hot because of the dryers. Naturally, the press operators, dryer-catchers, runners, packers, and whoever else would be sweating their asses off. Do you think they throw your shirts in the washer before shipping them to you? I was OCD before I worked there, so I always washed anyway, but seeing that made me realize that clothing is not exactly made or stored in sanitary conditions. Why wouldn't you wash?
posted by kevinbelt at 6:11 AM on March 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


My wife is gloating. (The argument was more principle debate, not like shouting. We're both laughing).

But she wins and gets to wash a brand new comforter today.

Thank you all!
posted by arniec at 6:12 AM on March 25, 2016 [33 favorites]


I wash new clothes if they're for my husband or my son (both eczema-prone), but I don't bother sometimes if it's for me. I also sit on public toilet seats with no seat liner.
posted by WowLookStars at 6:12 AM on March 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


My dad used to work in a clothing factory when he was younger...

...he told us to ALWAYS YOU ABSOLUTELY MUST wash new clothes before wearing. I think he's seen some things.

Then again, in moments of clothing need I have worn new clothes without washing--my skin is not that sensitive and if I absolutely need the clothing I care more that it passes the smell test. I would never even dream of wearing new underwear without washing first, though.
posted by sprezzy at 6:26 AM on March 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


I usually wash and dry shirts and pants before I wear them, in order to see how they will fit in case they shrink. Socks, I don't bother. Ditto for sheets.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:31 AM on March 25, 2016


i am allergic to fabric softener and sizing, so everything gets washed as soon as it comes in the house.
posted by yesster at 6:32 AM on March 25, 2016


I do wash all wearable/sleepable/towel-able items before use. Not so much because of manufacturing residue, and I never even thought of germs . I mostly do it because some items seem to have a dye residue on them, that will bleed or wipe off on surfaces without a good pre-wash.
posted by Coatlicue at 6:55 AM on March 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


If you have a washer / dryer in your house, washing before wearing is a viable option. If you have to trek to the laundromat, as I do, it is not.

So far, no lice.
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:58 AM on March 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


I've seen chemical burn like reactions on an acquaintance who didn't wash an online purchase t shirt before wearing. We are guessing something spilled on it during shipping from China. Clothes in shops are often tried on numerous times before selling, how comfortable do you feel about other people's bathing habits.
posted by wwax at 7:08 AM on March 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


She's right. Always there can be some formaldehyde, collor and other chemicals on unwashed clothing. They can cause certain allergic reactions.
posted by korpe4r at 7:08 AM on March 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


I was on your side until I started working in consumer goods supply chain. We make, store and sell apparel. We are meticulous and WAY above industries requirements (because of our price point) and we're made in the US from US materials ... and I'd still suggest washing.

It's not clean.
posted by French Fry at 7:47 AM on March 25, 2016 [7 favorites]


Cleanliness is not the issue. Days of itchy hive hell are the issue.
posted by yesster at 7:59 AM on March 25, 2016 [8 favorites]


I also wash the clothes that I make all by myself, for myself, before wearing. I know exactly where they've been, and I know they'll look, feel, and smell nicer after they've been washed.
posted by asperity at 8:00 AM on March 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm relatively lazy and not a germophobe, but I'm also a microbiologist.

This is basically me (I know microbiologists, but am not one). I do laundry in another building so anything that doesn't absolutely need to be washed doesn't get washed. And I don't get hives and do not have sensitive skin. And would wear the same clothes every day forever if I could get away with it. So, I know you and your wife have resolved this (since the answer was "it depends" anyhow and the idea of "clean" is relative so it's a risk assessment question really) but just wanted to give you a high five that I am more on your side of the number line on this one. I don't even wash stuff I get from the thrift store because I know they washed it before they hung it up (by law).
posted by jessamyn at 8:04 AM on March 25, 2016 [6 favorites]


I'm in my 50s and have never washed one item of clothing or bedding before using it. Nor did my mother. Sounds like something the laundry detergent people came up with ;-) Seems like a waste of water, soap, and energy to me, but on the other hand, if your wife wants to, it seems a small thing in the scope of life. (Yes, I read the comments about chemicals, above, but since most of us apply all sorts of chemicals to our faces, underarms, hair, body skin, etc., not to mention what we eat that's not organic, made with GMOS, full of preservatives, etc., it's not persuasive to me when it comes to clothes and sheets).
posted by mmw at 8:22 AM on March 25, 2016


I wash nothing before I wear it. I have very sensitive skin and I'm even a little germaphobey, but I'm also a clotheshorse and a shopaholic, and I've been doing this my whole life, and I've made it to the ripe age of 38 with no problems.
posted by pazazygeek at 8:23 AM on March 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


Specific to your situation, I have in the past purchased a comforter from Macy's, used it for a couple of nights, then decided to return it. I confess that I did not wash it before returning it. I also confess that I didn't wash my other bedding, myself, my spouse, or my dogs before using it. Maybe they have a policy of not reshelving such items but I returned it in its original packaging and it looked brand new, so . . .
posted by HotToddy at 8:56 AM on March 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm with showbiz_liz - pre-washing is probably the right thing to do but I just never actually do it, and have never had any bad reactions to anything. (I suppose some day I probably will, and on that day I will regret all my previous life choices, but for now I do not.)

I'm Queen of Laundry in our house and am 95% sure I've never seen my partner chuck anything new in the laundry before wearing it, either. Thank goodness for assortative mating apparently finding me a partner at my approximate Slob Level, because if pre-washing all new things were the norm in our house, I would be abdicating my Queen of Laundry throne right quick and he'd find himself with a new chore.
posted by Stacey at 9:02 AM on March 25, 2016 [5 favorites]


I never wash new stuff. As a slob, I appreciate the stain resistance that unwashed fabric has. Once the cloth has been washed, the fibers are looser and more absorbent. Stainy liquids that would roll right off a new unwashed t-shirt will immediately soak in to a washed one.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 9:38 AM on March 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


Wash everything first!!!!
Fabric is treated with all sorts of grossness which can wreak havoc on sensitive skin.
posted by absences at 9:45 AM on March 25, 2016


I know someone who spends time in clothing factories. They wash everything before wearing. One note, there aren't separate factories for "nice" clothes vs. cheap crap. Everything is made in Dickensian factories. The difference is quality of fabric, design, and care, but the factories themselves are the same, so don't think that more expensive items are immune.
posted by wnissen at 9:57 AM on March 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


I never wash anything before wearing. I mean, I guess I would if it was from a second-hand store, but for new clothes I just wear 'em if they're in a state to be worn (ie, not a folded shirt with pins, since those will have creases).

And as long as we're on the subject:

* shoes on/off in the house: On. Going shoeless in someone else's home is weird.
* toilet paper vs. rinse: TP, because I'm an American and that's how I was raised.
* sitting on public toilet seats with/without an intervening layer of tissue: With, but as a dude I rarely have to sit.
* rinsing dishes vs. drying them off straight out of soapy water: Wait. There are people who don't rinse their dishes? Weird.
posted by uberchet at 10:12 AM on March 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


I also wash everything before -- Mother Moonlight and Grandmother Moonlight worked in companies that made clothes and fabrics. There were rats, the place was dusty and filthy.

uberchet, the not rinsing your dishes is a hot debate in the UK. Maybe every 1/3 people that I've met don't wash their dishes. Refrigerating eggs is another hot topic.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 10:36 AM on March 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


I never wash new clothes before wearing nor do any of my family members. Should we? Maybe, but I have always taken the attitude that if I am not afraid to try the clothes on in the store, I should not be afraid to wear them, assuming they are not secondhand or bathing suits.

I have lived too many years with my laundry facilities in a distant location to worry about another small addition to the cloud of chemicals I already live with on a daily basis. (Full disclaimer: I also do not wash my sheets and towels nearly as often as I should.)

Also, women's clothing is often ludicrously flimsy in construction, so the fewer times I can put my clothing through the rigors of laundry, the longer it will last, and to me, that is an important consideration.
posted by Diagonalize at 11:04 AM on March 25, 2016 [4 favorites]


I can totally see how you could be skeeved out by wearing new things unwashed. I'm not, so I don't bother, but I can see it.

We have a dishwasher, so shit gets rinsed, but when I didn't have one not-rinsing meant the plates kept a weird sticky film of soap. I don't get how this isn't offputting.

"Maybe every 1/3 people that I've met don't wash their dishes."

Don't *wash* or don't *rinse*?
posted by uberchet at 11:05 AM on March 25, 2016


I'm not too bothered by the idea of germs etc, but I wash anything new that's going to touch skin.

My sense is there are more and weirder chemical treatments being applied to clothes now than in the past... whatever cheap sizing or fabric treatment to make them look crisp, plus mildewcide, pesticide, etc for shipping, and much of this stuff is coming from places with little regulation or enforcement. Washing things once before wearing is a pretty manageable trade-off to me.

For something like a blanket that's not necessarily going to touch skin, more of a toss-up, but at the same time: once you put it on the bed, how often will it get washed? Maybe just as well to wash it once up front. Plus, anything that's in your bed is something you're exposed to for hours every day, so again, probably worth washing if it's easily washable.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:37 AM on March 25, 2016 [4 favorites]


I have worked in the housewares returns department of a very well-known retailer. You DO NOT want to use anything made of cloth before it's been washed. Except maybe curtains, and even those you need to check very carefully before you hang them up. You really need to trust me on this, your wife is so right.
posted by raisingsand at 11:40 AM on March 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


Raisingsand - check them for what?
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:40 PM on March 25, 2016


wow. I have gone 48 years without ever washing new clothes. I had no idea this was a thing. so yeah, I guess if you have sensitive skin issues, but otherwise its never caused me a moments grief.
posted by supermedusa at 1:10 PM on March 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


I am having full body shudders reading these comments. It had never occurred to me that there were people who didn't wash everything before wearing or using it until I happened to go shopping with a friend who bought sheets and went home, took them out of the package and put them straight on the bed. Merely looking at those sheets practically gave me hives, I can't imagine what sleeping on them would have done.
posted by crankylex at 1:50 PM on March 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


Since having a kid I'm on Team Wash First because of the chemicals in fabric processing.

Before then I was a total heathen but I know better now.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 2:05 PM on March 25, 2016


One word: bedbugs.
posted by AlexiaSky at 2:17 PM on March 25, 2016


One word: bedbugs.
posted by AlexiaSky at 2:17 PM on March 25 [+] [!]


Great point. Suppose the comforter in my comment above had been used for a few days on a bedbug-infested bed?
posted by HotToddy at 4:13 PM on March 25, 2016


After unfolding a new towel to find the inside coated with rodent feces and squashed beetles, I am now more determined than ever to wash everything (everything that can be washed, that is) before I use it.
posted by Stonkle at 9:53 PM on March 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Have you ever tried drying off with a new towel that hasn't been washed?J

You've probably been saved by this hell from your wife keeping up with washing new things.

Go buy a towel -- chose a color that is dramatically different from your skin color. Pick a time when you aren't in a hurry to be anywhere. Shower. Dry off with new towel. Thank your wife for being so kind and considerate to think to wash new towel when they were purchased in the past so that this never happened to you until now.
posted by yohko at 10:47 PM on March 25, 2016 [4 favorites]


Check them for any type of "foreign matter", use your imagination! I usually take curtains outside and shake them off since you really can't wash most of those fabrics. Everything else goes through the laundry process first.
posted by raisingsand at 7:04 AM on March 26, 2016


Oh boy... as I've gotten older, my skin freaks out at more and more things. And my four kids went through more "random hives that we never did figure out what caused them" plus enough "found" causes, including pretty much every laundry soap except All Free and Clear, that if it comes in this house, and it's fabric, it goes in the wash.
posted by stormyteal at 10:39 AM on March 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


Almost all fabric items shipped from overseas take a long time to get to their destination country. They frequently travel in cargo containers on large cargo ships. They are treated with anti-mildew/anti-mold chemicals so that they don't get ruined during their long voyage or other long storage periods. Sometimes even locally sourced fabrics receive these treatments if they're being stored.

Do you want these mold-inhibiting chemicals on your skin? That's something you'll have to decide. If I had children, I would probably try to limit their exposure. If you're not allergic to the anti-mold treatments, it may not be a big problem for you. I'm not, but I have a really keen sense of smell and I can typically smell when fabric has been treated with this stuff. It's generally a really unpleasant smell, so I feel compelled to wash them to get rid of the funk.

Also, always wash towels, not just because of the anti-mold treatments, but because they're completely covered in extra fibers left over from the manufacturing process. As someone who has worked in retail and has had to unbox many a towel, you can both see and feel all the floating towel fluff. Unwashed towels are really terrible at being absorbent and you'll just be rubbing those fibers all over yourself instead of actually getting dry (as yohko alludes to).
posted by i feel possessed at 12:19 PM on March 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


I pre-wash anything that might touch a mucous membrane. Dishes, underwear, swimsuits, towels, sunglasses, handkerchiefs, dishcloths (because they touch dishes), and bedsheets (but not comforters or pillows because I put a sheet cover on them). Earrings or mouth-guard type items I dip in alcohol or mouthwash. I don't care about pre-washing non-intimate clothing though, and I prefer it to be store-crisp the first time I wear it so it feels special.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 11:12 PM on March 26, 2016


In a twist of logic, I never wash brand new items but always wash thrift store ones. I assume other people's houses are gross, and that item has already been washed before. But brand new clothes--you get that One True Wear the first time, and all subsequent wears are inferior. Washing clothes can result in lots of weird problems like running colors, loose threads, wrinkles, etc. I am 33 and still alive, and I even have pretty sensitive skin and this has never resulted in trouble for me. YET.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 2:35 PM on March 27, 2016


Assume everything you buy has been bought previously by the dirtiest nastiest person alive, worn or used for 24 hours, then returned in the original packaging, and then sold to you.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:02 AM on March 29, 2016


I believe your wife is technically correct, yet I almost never bother because I'm lazy. Still alive. Shrug.

The dead can't spare a fiver and are thus under-represented on mefi.
posted by srboisvert at 3:08 PM on March 31, 2016 [2 favorites]


Tell your wife, that you can just wear everything directly.
posted by Martinvermeer at 1:57 PM on April 1, 2016


Brominated flame retardants are often sprayed on some clothing, iiuc, and those are neurotoxins.
posted by freyley at 1:32 PM on April 6, 2016


Hi, I used to work in the sportswear industry (screen printing, mainly T-shirts) and I'd see the insides of a lot of places that made or processed fabric, clothes or related goods when picking up or delivering contract or subcontract work.

And they're all mostly fucking filthy. I mean, they're often appallingly filthy. Like, if they made food it would be a national scandal and outrage kind of filthy.

You really should wash new clothes if you can no matter how unworn or brand new they were.

I'm not just talking about chemicals, I'm talking about workplace conditions. Some of the most appalling bathrooms I've ever seen anywhere were in textile/clothing industry businesses. Worse than that old garage and service yard down the street, worse than that outhouse at the junkyard, worse than a Bonaroo honeypot.

Break/meal areas are often right on the factory floor, too, co-mingled with production areas, and these were usually pretty gross, too.

Which usually led to a high incidence of rodents in warehouses, because there's just so many places they can live and lots of free, fluffy bedding in the form of threads, dust and fabric scraps.

And there is absolutely no incentive for modern sweat shops to do anything other than churn out large volumes of cheap clothes processed mostly by unskilled manual labor. There is a financial incentive for cleanroom and IS0 9001 practices in larger companies, but I've only seen pictures of those kinds of places.

But there's no regulatory body or OSHA or anything that even sets guidelines or suggestions on how clean your clothing/fabric industry sweatshop needs to be to stay in business.

Washing your hands before returning to work isn't really a thing in a sweatshop, unless you have like BBQ sauce or blood all over them and it'll ruin the goods.

But chemicals are also a major problem.

Chemicals, dyes, inks, glues, tapes, inks, foils, films and plastics and more.

MEK is pretty common as an adhesive for things like shoes or hats to weld synthetics or boost adhesives.

In screen printing we used a lot of 3M Formula 77 spray/web adhesive on the printing pallets to keep the shirts adhered to the pallets during the printing process.

The inks we used involved different systems, but the main ones were plastisol inks (plasticizer-solvent), waterbase (which was a slightly caustic pigment base containing urea and pigments) or discharge based ink systems that used a combination of heavy bleaches and caustic urea based pigment to bleach and dye fabric in one imprint.

Other chemicals we used were acetones (to blast ink smudges or mistakes out of t-shirt fabric to reclaim print errors into deliverable t-shirts) and stuff like E6000 fabric adhesive (which is amazingly toxic) to attach embellishments.

We did not wash the shirts before sending them out. That is not a thing that happens in the commercial clothing industry.

We didn't even have any kind of washing machine in the building at all and we had a couple of months where we did a million T-shirts that month.

The only laundering we ever did was when we sometimes over-dyed or processed shirts in bulk through a contractor who owned giant, house-sized industrial dying/washing machines, and this is not even remotely the same thing as actually laundering a garment. At best they got a rinse in water that may or may not be recycled to take the excess dye off.

Even when I was working in the screen printing industry I was always hesitant about putting on a newly printed shirt without washing it because the Formula 77 spray was always vaguely sticky and irritating at best, but could give me a rash if I wore it too long or if had a heavy residue from a fresh application of the stuff on the pallet.

Plus freshly printed shirts usually felt and stank like fresh plastic.

Given the choice I'd pick a new, unprinted shirt over the printed one if I needed a clean shirt in a hurry.

Of all of these options, I'd much rather pull a clean t-shirt out of my clean laundry. It was always less itchy and stinky.

Look, I'm kind of a filthy hobo. I'm not squeamish or a germaphobe by any stretch of a fevered imagination. Sure, I've bought new pants and worn them right out of the store.

But I would have rather washed them, and if you have easy access to a laundry machine and you're buying anything commercially produced (especially overseas) that isn't some kind of bespoke, organic hippie industry item made out of hand spun llama yarn or free range hemp - you really should probably wash it before wearing it.
posted by loquacious at 6:48 PM on April 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


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