Should You Wash New Clothes Before Wearing Them?

Ransom Riggs

I rarely if ever wash new clothes before wearing them, even though dear old mom always told me I should. I figured that if it was new and right off the rack, what's the worst I could be coming into contact with? Whatever industrial cleaner the Gap uses on their new clothes? Some dust? Well, it turns out -- as usual -- that mom was right. Good Morning America recently asked a few "retail experts" for the skinny on new clothes and germs, and found some surprising (and gross) answers.

"The customer probably gets the wool pulled over their eyes. "¦ A lot of people just come home and if it has a tag attached, they think it's brand new and they wear it," Tori Patrick, a former retail saleswoman, said. "You really never know where it's been."

So to get a better idea of just where a random sampling of new clothes might have been, the show's producers bought shirts, blouses, pants and underwear from three popular national chain clothing stores, and handed them over to microbiologist and immunologist Dr. Philip Tierno at NYU for a closer study.

"On this black and tan blouse we found representation of respiratory secretions, skin flora, and some fecal flora," Tierno said. On a jacket, Tierno discovered evidence of feces, skin flora and respiratory secretions, especially in the armpit and "close to the buttocks," Tierno said. The biggest surprise came when Tierno tested a silk blouse. There, he said, he found vaginal organisms, yeast and more fecal germs. Tierno said a couple of the items had extremely high counts of germs, far above normal. "Some garments were grossly contaminated with many organisms "¦ indicating that either many people tried it or ... someone tried it on with heavy contamination," he said. "In a sense, you are touching somebody's arm pit or groin. So you want to be protected that's all. "You may not come down with anything and, most cases you don't, but it's potentially possible," he added.

Fecal and vaginal flora? Okay, I'll be washing all my new clothes from now on. How about the rest of you -- do you usually wash new clothes before wearing them?