All About Washing New Clothes

Washing new clothes before wearing them for the first time is an important step that many people overlook. However, pre-washing your new garments can help them last longer, retain their shape and colors, and avoid potential skin irritation. Here is a comprehensive guide to everything you need to know about washing new clothes.

Why You Should Wash New Clothes Before Wearing

There are several reasons why it’s advisable to launder new garments before wearing them:

Remove Manufacturing Residues

During the manufacturing process, new clothing can pick up various residues like chemicals, starches, dye excess, and finishing agents. Pre-washing helps eliminate these substances that can sometimes trigger skin sensitivities. Washing before use protects your skin from irritation.

Shrink Fabrics

Some fabrics like cotton, linen, and wool tend to shrink when washed. Pre-shrinking new garments before wearing allows them to maintain their size and shape over time. This prevents disappointments like Ill-fitting clothes after running them through the laundry.

Soften Stiffness

Brand new clothes often feel quite stiff and rough. Laundering helps soften the material and make them more comfortable against your skin. This is especially important for items like jeans, linen shirts, and bedsheets.

Stop Colors From Bleeding/Fading

Certain dyes used in clothing manufacture are unstable and tend to bleed or fade with washing. Pre-washing sets the dyes and prevents any bleeding. This helps maintain the rich colors of new garments for longer.

Remove Excess Dye

Some new dark-colored garments tend to leak a lot of dye the first time they are laundered. This can discolor other clothes washed together. Pre-wash dark items separately to remove excess loosening dye.

Freshen Up

Factories and warehouses where clothes are stored can have odd smells that get transferred to the fabric. A quick wash freshens up your new garments and prevents any mustiness.

Check for Flaws

It’s not uncommon for some flaws to pass quality control checks. Pre-washing gives you an opportunity to spot any tears, missing buttons, or concealed stains before cutting any tags. You can then decide to exchange or return the item.

Washing before wearing extends the lifespan of any new garment you purchase. The small upfront time investment saves you from bigger headaches down the road.

How to Wash New Clothes For the First Time

Follow these steps when preparing new garments for their initial wash:

Inspect Care Labels

The first step is checking care instructions which are typically found along the inside seams. Labels provide guidance on issues like washing temperatures, machine vs hand wash, bleaching allowance, and drying directions. Follow the recommendations to avoid damage.

Wash Separately

Brand new colored garments, especially darks, should be laundered separately from the rest of your clothes. Use an empty load to give them ample space to swish and rinse properly. This prevents any bleeding dye from discoloring other pieces in the wash.

Pretreat Stains

Inspect for concealed hard to remove stains that evaded quality assurance. Spot treat them with a pre-wash stain remover before throwing them in the machine. This boosts your chances of completely getting rid of any stains.

Use Mild Detergent

Harsh soaps can degrade delicate new fabrics. Opt for a gentle, hypoallergenic liquid detergent or wash pods that provide a thorough clean without unnecessary additives. Stay clear of powder detergents which can leave sticky residues.

Wash on a Gentle Cycle

Use the gentle or delicate cycle which provides thorough agitation for cleaning while minimizing abrasion damage to the fabric. Soaking in cool water also helps maintain the shape and appearance of new clothes.

Skip the Dryer

Line dry new garments in the fresh air or lay them flat to maintain the dimensional stability of the fabric. Tumble drying can cause excessive heat shrinkage. However, follow care label instructions for pieces that require machine drying.

Use Color Catchers

Tossing in a few color catcher sheets will absorb any residual loose dye while also helping to trap lint and pilling from new fabrics. This helps protect the rest of your laundry.

Repeat Wash If Needed

Inspect after washing to see if any dye bled or if stains remain. Re-wash problematic garments using odorless mineral spirits for persistent stains before wearing or returning them.

With some simple prep, you can make new clothes look and feel their absolute best while also prolonging their lifespan.

Best Practices for Washing Common New Clothes

Specific garment types may require additional precautions or steps when laundering them for the first time before wear.

New Jeans

  • Wash inside-out on a cold, gentle cycle with mild detergent.
  • Use an extra rinse cycle to eliminate any residual indigo dye.
  • Line dry or tumble dry on low heat to prevent excessive shrinkage.

New Cotton Sweaters

  • Hand wash in lukewarm water with a wool-friendly detergent to prevent shrinkage.
  • Roll in a towel to absorb moisture and lay flat to dry to maintain the shape.
  • Stretch back into shape while still damp.

New White Shirts/Sheets

  • Wash separately with bleach-safe detergent and 1⁄2 cup bleach to remove warehouse yellowing.
  • Wash in warm or hot water to maximize stain removal.
  • Use an extra rinse cycle to eliminate any bleach residues.

New Linen Pieces

  • Soak in cold water for 30 minutes before washing to pre-shrink fibers.
  • Use a low-sudsing detergent and wash on a gentle setting.
  • Tumble dry on low immediately after washing to control shrinkage.

New Wool Sweaters

  • Hand wash with mild, wool-appropriate detergent in lukewarm water. No agitation.
  • Roll in a towel and dry flat to maintain the shape and texture of the knit.
  • Steam while dry to freshen up and ease any wrinkles.

New Swimsuits

  • Rinse inside out under cold running water before washing to remove any loose dye.
  • Use a mesh bag on a gentle cycle with mild detergent. No softeners.
  • Allow to drip dry on a plastic hanger or laying flat.

New Dress Shirts

  • Machine wash hot with non-chlorine bleach and stain pretreatment if necessary.
  • Use the highest spin setting when machine washing to remove the most moisture.
  • Immediately hang up after washing to prevent wrinkling or iron while still slightly damp.

Helpful Laundry Products for Washing New Clothes

Having the right laundry products on hand helps ensure your new pieces get the best care from their first wash and beyond:

  • Color catcher sheets – Absorb loose dyes in the wash to prevent fading and bleeding onto other clothes.
  • Lint remover brush – Helps remove fuzz, pilling, and lint from new fabric surfaces before washing.
  • Mesh laundry bags – Provides gentle protection for delicates like lingerie, swimwear, and hosiery in the wash.
  • Non-chlorine bleach – Removes stains and brightens whites while being gentle on colors.
  • Odorless mineral spirits – Helps hand pre-treat stubborn oil and grease stains.
  • Wool laundry detergent – Extra gentle on cashmere, lambswool, and fine knit fabrics.
  • White vinegar – Helps set dyes, removes odors, and acts as a natural fabric softener during washing.
  • Dryer balls – Prevents static and wrinkles while softening fabrics and speeding up drying time.

Signs You Should Pre-Wash New Clothes Before Wearing

Watch out for these issues that indicate new garments should be laundered before you debut them:

  • Visible grease stains along seams or edges
    -Strong chemical odors emanating from the fabric
    -Misshapen areas or twisting seams
    -Bleeding dye when you splash water on the fabric
    -Irritation, redness, or itching when you try on the garment
    -Significant shrinkage after an initial at home wash
    -Stiff, scratchy, or harsh fabric feel
    -Whitish factory starches or finishes coating the fabric
    -Yellowish discoloration, especially on whites and linens

Any of these flaws means pre-washing is recommended. Check new clothes carefully and use your best judgment.

What If You Don’t Pre-Wash a New Garment Before Wearing?

You don’t have to pre-wash all new garments. But skipping this step does come with some risks:

  • Colors bleeding and ruining other laundry can still happen.
  • Ill-fitting clothes after shrinkage remain a possibility.
  • Odors and chemicals depositing on other garments in the wash.
  • Greater likelihood of skin irritation or allergic reactions.
  • Fabric damage like snags and tears during first wash.
  • Voided warranties if care directions are not followed.

Evaluate your comfort level with these potential outcomes. Pre-washing really does help maximize longevity and prevent disasters.

Can You Remove Tags and Still Return New Unwashed Clothes?

Most retailers allow unworn garments to be returned, even without tags attached. However, some stores mandate tags remain present for returns or exchanges. Check your retailer’s policies.

Returning washed clothing is less common. But so long as they are in salable condition, some retailers may allow returns within a few days even if laundered.

If washing before deciding to keep an item of clothing, save any tags and original packaging to aid in returning or exchanging the garment if desired.

Should You Wash New Clothes by Hand or Machine?

Follow the care instructions provided on the garment’s tag for the best washing method. But here are some general tips:

Machine Wash Appropriate Fabrics

Most everyday clothes like shirts, pants, socks, undergarments, and towels can be safely machine washed on a gentle cycle. Turn garments inside out first. Use a mesh bag for delicates.

Hand Wash Delicates

Intricate fabrics like silks, satins, lace, sequins, woolens, and very loose knits do best with hand washing to prevent snags, distortion, and damage. Use cool water and gently squeeze suds through the fabric.

Dry Clean Only When Specified

Fabrics noted “Dry Clean Only” on the label must go to the professionals. This includes tailored wools, leather, suede, modal, rayon, polyester blends, and most suits and dresses. Don’t machine wash these at home.

Check the sewn-in tags first, but generally stick to machine washing everyday cottons, linens, denim, and athleticwear. Upgrade to hand washing for delicates and anything expensive or irreplaceable.

Dos and Don’ts For Washing New Clothes

Follow these top dos and don’ts when prepping new garments:


  • Inspect for stains first and pretreat if needed.
  • Wash darks and whites separately.
  • Use a gentle wash cycle and cold water.
  • Wash delicates in a mesh bag.
  • Line dry or lay flat after washing.
  • Repeat wash if excess dye bleeds through.


  • Wash non-colorfast prints and darks with lighter clothes.
  • Use hot water or harsh detergents designated for heavily soiled loads.
  • Overload the machine to cram in too many pieces.
  • Over-dry garments using high heat or extended drying times.
  • Wash something noted “Dry Clean Only” at home.

FAQs About Preparing New Clothes for Wear

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about washing new garments:

Should you wash new clothes before wearing them?

Yes, pre-washing new garments helps remove excess dye, shrink fabrics, eliminate odors, and prevent skin irritation. It’s recommended to wash most new clothing items before wearing for the first time.

Does washing new jeans shrink them?

Like most cotton fabrics, new denim may experience some shrinking when washed. To minimize this, turn them inside out, wash on cold, and line dry or tumble dry on low heat.

Should you wash new sheets before using?

Yes, wash new bedding like sheets and pillowcases on hot with detergent and bleach to sanitize and brighten before use. This removes any chemical residues from manufacturing and storage.

Can new clothes dye other laundry?

Absolutely. New darker garments often contain loose and unstable dyes that can bleed onto lighter fabrics in the wash. Always wash dark new clothes separately before mixing them in with the rest of your laundry.

Should new clothes be washed in hot or cold water?

Check the care label and wash most new clothes in cold water on a delicate or gentle cycle. Hot water can cause fading and shrinkage. However, whites and linens do benefit from washing in hot to remove stains and discoloration.

Will washing remove sizing from new clothes?

Yes, sizing is a temporary factory starch or finish used in manufacturing. Washing with detergent will remove sizing and soften stiff new garments before wear.

Do you wash silk before wearing?

Silk is a very delicate fabric that requires hand washing before wearing to prevent damage and shrinkage. Use a gentle laundry soap, cool water, and let silk air dry laying flat. Never wash silk at temperatures above lukewarm.

Should new clothes be washed separately?

It’s best to wash brand new garments in their own load the first time to prevent any potential dye transfer. After the initial wash, clothing can be mixed in with the rest of your laundry using color sorting best practices.

Key Takeaways on Preparing New Clothes for Wear

  • Always check clothing labels for washing guidance before cleaning new garments at home.
  • Wash separately from other clothes at first to prevent any fading or bleeding.
  • Use a gentle cycle, mild detergent, and coolest recommended water temperature.
  • Line dry or lay flat; avoid hot tumble drying on first wash.
  • Repeat laundering if needed to fully remove stains, chemicals, or odors.
  • Proper pre-washing makes new clothes look their best while extending their lifespan.
  • Both your skin and your clothing will benefit from taking the time to wash new garments before that first wear.

So don’t be tempted to don new clothes straight off the rack! Follow these tips on pre-washing to protect your latest fashion finds and make them last. With the proper prep, your new clothes will feel fresh and ready to become favorites in your wardrobe.