Should You Wash New Sheets (or Clothes) Before Using Them? We Asked an Expert

Time to put this laundry debate to rest.


Sarah Crowley

Housekeeping myths exist, but today we're providing clarification on a big one. Guess what? You don't necessarily need to wash your new sheets or clothes before their first use—but you probably should. We spoke with Nomi Dale Kleinman, chair of the textile/surface design department at the Fashion Institute of Technology, about what you should do with your most recent purchases.

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It's a Personal Choice

Before you get too excited, washing new clothes or sheets isn't a hard-and-fast rule, but it is suggested. "I always recommend it," says Kleinman.

"Textile products may have stray chemicals from the production process in addition to starches used to keep the clothes crisp while shipping, packaging, or hanging in the store." There are many steps fabrics go through before they make their way to you and even natural fibers can be exposed to potential irritants. "Natural fibers require scouring and cleaning before they become yarn, yarn spinning requires lubricants, sometimes resins are used for warp sizing, and starches can be used in the weaving process," she explains. "Yarn and fabric can require additional scouring using soap products, sodium hydroxide, or bleaching to properly accept color during dyeing or printing processes."

RELATED: How to Wash Silk Pillowcases and Sheets

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What Happens if You Skip Washing?

According to Kleinman, most people will be fine and won't notice any adverse reactions. But if you have sensitive skin, any chemical remnants may cause itching or skin irritation. The last thing you want, especially if you've just invested in a set of cooling sheets, is to wake up with itchy skin. Also, when you do wash clothes and sheets, she recommends using a detergent that's hypoallergenic and toxin-free (they're better for the environment, too).

For dyed garments, like jeans, there is some risk of the dye bleeding onto your blouse or furniture when you sit down. Washing new jeans before the first wear can help prevent this.

RELATED: How Often Should You Wash Your Jeans? Experts Weigh In

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Best Practices for Washing New Items

Always check the care tag on new clothing items—anything that says "Dry Clean Only" or very tailored items like custom suits shouldn't be washed or dried.

"If you want to extend the life of a product and reduce shrinkage, I suggest washing in cold water and drying on low or hang-drying clothes," Kleinman says. The heat from both the water temperature and dryer settings can fade, stretch, and shrink your favorite clothing.

RELATED: Hand Washing Do's and Don'ts

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The Final Verdict

The decision is truly dependent on how sensitive your skin is, but it's probably a good idea to wash new textiles before using them. Will the world end if you slip into a new camisole without running it through the washing machine? Probably not. One less thing to worry about!

RELATED: Your Top Laundry Questions, Answered

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Should you wash bedspreads before first use?

    While washing bedding before use is a personal choice, experts recommend washing bedding before use, and this includes bedspreads. It's an excellent way to eliminate dust, debris, and other allergens before the bedspread comes in contact with your body.

  • What happens if you don't wash your sheets or clothes before first use?

    Technically, nothing will happen. But remember that sheets are made in dusty factories and are touched by people and machines before being packaged and opened by you. That is on top of all the dyes and chemicals the sheets come in contact with during production. If this gives you the ick, give your sheets and linens a good wash before use.

  • Should you wash a jacket before first use?

    While it's not a hard and fast rule, experts do recommend washing all clothes before you wear them, and that includes jackets. Just be sure to read the label for washing instructions beforehand. If you cannot wash them at home consider sending to the dry cleaner for a good steam clean. Remember, this is a personal choice, so if you'd rather skip this step, it's up to you.

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