Do you Wash and Wear?

Wow! I had a feeling when I embarked on this subject that I would be a bit surprised, but never did I consider how horrified I would be…

The subject: Washing your clothes directly after purchase.

As I have previously confessed, I’m a teensy bit of a germ-a-phobe. I’m one of those people who washes her hands constantly, keeps a pump bottle of antibacterial hand-sanitizer in her car, tries not to touch bathroom door handles, and well, the list goes on and on… (ok, so a bit more than a teensy germ-a-phobe, I admit). I thought I had considered everything which may be germ-infested which could leave me at risk of germ invasion. Not so.

I suppose I blocked the arena of freshly purchased clothes because they usually look so clean and crisp. Well, I’ve opened Pandoras’ box now and it turns out Pandora is a bit of a dirty girl. Never again will I purchase an article of clothing and wear it without washing it first.

In my reading, I discovered that retail sales people witnessed a multitude of scary things emerging from the clothing boxes as they unpacked new items; bugs a-plenty, rodent excrement, and yes, even whole dead rodents! I read that some items are treated with chemicals to prevent mould developing during transit from point of origin until we slip that garment on next to our bare, clean, germ- and chemical- absorbent skin.

Then there is the fact that the clothes are very likely handled by an abundance of people as well: fabric manufacturers, seamstresses, packers, customs inspectors and shop people. How do we know these people wash their hands after going to the bathroom? And of course these garments may be tried on by numerous people – or even returned to the clothing store after wearing. Let’s be honest, it must happen a lot – before we end up with them in our own closets. There is no way of knowing if any of these people would be clean and washed when they went shopping and tried on that same hip pair of jeans we just bought!

In addition when you consider the unsafe conditions that factory employees must work in in countries such as Bangladesh, Cambodia and Honduras (which is a whole other subject), where a lot of clothing going into the North American market is produced, it’s not a huge leap to suppose that cleanliness is not top of mind for factory managers – or its clients. These are hot countries as well with plenty of labour perspiration, I would bet. Do you think that many of these facilities would be kept clean? I wouldn’t think it would be a top priority for managers who are under pressure to meet unrealistic output targets.

In fact, a couple of years ago Good Morning America did a story about how clean – or dirty – new clothes are, collecting samples from several unnamed popular retailers. Enlisting the help of a microbiologist, they discovered that there were all kinds of human bacteria on brand new clothing including “respiratory secretions, skin flora, and some fecal flora”, as well as “vaginal organisms”! The microbiologist said some articles of clothing were “grossly contaminated”. And what’s interesting is that the cleanliness factor of the clothing didn’t change if purchased at a high-end or a low-end retailer. My skin is officially crawling!

So, with all this new information in my hygienic little brain, I’m thinking about that new top I just bought and hung straight up in my closet all ready to wear…

What do you do right after you buy new clothes? Are you a buy-it-and-wear-it type or a germ-a-phobe like me?