Like most girls I LOVE putting on new clothes. There is something about a new dress or top that makes you feel extra special the first few times you put it on.

You can guarantee that once I buy something new it will be the basis for my outfit the next morning.

If you are one of my daughters then waiting until the morning to wear a new dress is too long. And old clothes must be discarded IMMEDIATELY in exchange for the new ones. Then comes the request for Mum or Dad to take photos of them in said outfit. One must also practice twirls to see how the skirt swishes. Not to forget the time spent admiring themselves in front of the mirror. GIRLS!

This is a photo of my youngest daughter Georgia who got a lovely new dress for her birthday from my sister. She was well chuffed with her new dress and wanted it put on straight away.

But were you aware of all the hidden chemicals lurking in the fabric of that new dress? Neither was I until recently. And these chemicals can cause many health issues that we suffer from.

So what is in our new clothes?

Formaldehyde is one of the most common chemicals found in new clothes. They add it to fabric to make it wrinkle resistant. Yet, Formaldehyde can cause skin irritation. As well as rashes, eye irritation and respiratory symptoms. It has also been listed as a possible carcinogen.

And it doesn’t stop there. Chemicals are added to fabric to colour and prevent both mould and moisture build up. They are also added to make the clothes water proof and flame retardant.

The health implications from this are huge. They include cancers, hormone disruption and allergic reactions. As well as eczema, asthma and mutagenic changes (mutating cells). This is because we are absorbing the chemicals through our skin as soon as we put our clothes on. Or are inhaling the gas released from the fabric. Many of the chemicals found in new clothes are also toxic to the environment. The chemicals enter the waterways through the washing cycle.

So what can we do about it?

Well, you could become a naturalist. But if that is not an option, I have some great tips for you.

Traditionally the advice has been to wash clothing at least twice before you wear it. But, from my research, I have found that this will not fully remove the chemicals from the clothes. I also have issue with washing all those chemicals down the drain for the fish to deal with.

So here’s what I do:

Fill a bucket with the hottest water that is safe for your fabric.
Add 1/4 C milk powder to the water and stir to dissolve.
Soak your new clothes in this mixture for 2-4 hrs.
Rinse the clothes under cold, fresh water. Make sure you empty the bucket on the lawn and not down the drain!
Place the clothes in the washing machine.
Add half of the usual amount of detergent and add in 1 cup of Baking Soda to the wash.
Just before the rinse cycle, add 1 cup of white vinegar to the rinse compartment.
Hang outside to dry.

I know this recipe sounds weird. But when I was researching ways to clean the chemicals out of clothing, this recipe kept coming up. So this is what I now do. And this is what works best for our family.

Luckily for Georgia I had already pre-treated her dress and hidden it away until her birthday. So no waiting was required and she could try it on, and twirl in front of the mirror immediately.

Have you experienced any reactions to chemicals from new clothes? Or do you have any other ideas on how to minimise chemicals from the clothes we wear? If so I’d love to hear from you. Please leave me a comment below, or email me at Sarah@thegreenhouse.co.nz.