If you are only washing your new household items after the first time you use them, you might be missing a crucial first step. Often, the cleaning process should commence as soon as the packaging or tag is removed. Even if they look clean, clothes bought off the rack have been touched, tried on, and hauled around factories before you plunked down your credit card to buy them. Pots and pans may have been sitting on a shelf for who knows how long and touched by hundreds of fingers before you bring them into your kitchen.
Protecting yourself from exposure to factory carcinogens, not to mention other people’s sweaty fingers, takes just a little effort, and allow you to enjoy your new items without thinking of anything unsavoury that may have happened to them in the past.
Always wash new clothes before wearing them
Even though it’s fun to wear a new outfit right away, you should resist the urge until after laundry day. Besides the dozens of people who potentially tried the clothes on before you purchased them — and even if you buy online, where try-ons are admittedly less likely — clothes must travel from factory to warehouse to store, potentially picking up germs along the way.
But even if you aren’t worried about potential pathogens, there could be unknown skin irritants lingering in the cloth fibres. As clothing manufacturing expert Lana Hogue told Elle Magazine, “Most of the chemicals used in dyeing fabric and putting those finishes on yarns that allow them to be processed through spinning equipment are known skin irritants.” This is why it’s especially important to pre-launder intimates like underwear — bringing those chemicals into close proximity with the skin — and especially the mucous membranes — can potentially lead to problems.
There are many ways to disinfect your clothes — you can toss some white vinegar and mouthwash in your next load of laundry, for example — to guarantee a germ-free first wear, but a standard wash is probably enough to get them ready to wear. And all of this applies to bedsheets too — if you’ll be sleeping on them all night, you’ll want to make sure they are free of chemicals from the factory.
Wash towels to make sure they’ll actually get you dry
For all of the reasons above, you’ll also want to wash your new towels, but you should also do so in order to make sure they will actually get you dry after a shower. As we’ve previously noted, washing towels before use will remove any residue from the manufacturing process — including special coatings formulated to make them look attractive on the shelf that might impede them doing their jobs and actually absorbing water.
Wash new pots pans and silverware before cooking
It’s pretty self-explanatory why silverware, pots, pans, and other kitchen supplies should be washed before first use, but it doesn’t hurt to reiterate it. There is no way of telling how many hands have touched that mixing bowl before putting it back on the shelf, so you’ll want to make sure any germs from strangers’ hands are gone before eating or drinking from the cookware. As North Carolina State University food safety extension specialist Ben Chapman, Ph.D. notes in an interview with Kitchn, not doing so is “really, really low risk [but] there might be some plastic or other materials that are placed in appliances, like plastic sheeting, or dust from warehouse” that could, if nothing else, affect the flavour of your food.
Additionally, Silverware Headquarters’ flatware website explains manufacturers apply, “a thin layer of oil or protective coating has been applied to the utensils so that they don’t get scratched or damaged during transit.” To prevent anyone from ingesting this coating (or what sticks to it along the way) hand wash your cookware and utensils with dish soap and water or throw them in the dishwasher before use. The same goes for reusable water bottles, canteens, and pitchers.
Pre-wash baby toys
If you are a new parent, you’ve probably been doing this all along, but it’s a best practice to wash your kids’ toys regularly. While the a baby’s immune system is still developing, you want to do what you can to keep harmful bacteria out of their mouth. No need to wash with harsh chemicals; a quick wipe down with warm water and a little soap will go a long way to kill any germs on plastic.