I bought new mittens for my kid for the coming winter holiday. They should be waterproof or at least water-resistant.

Normally when i buy clothing, i wash it before wearing. The fabric may not have been washed at all between dying and sewing, meaning it could leach dye. Or the clothes could have been treated with chemicals to keep out mold and moths during storage and transport.

Especially for child-mittens, the leaching of chemicals is a problem: they are worn on sweating naked skin and once they are off i'm certain my kid will have his fingers in his mouth. Be it while eating a snack or just to pick his nose.

However, water-repellent or water proof clothing will become less waterproof when washed.

So, should i wash these mittens? What to experienced outdoor people do?

  • 3
    A minimal approach is to soak them in cold water for a half an hour or so, use a dry towel to squeeze out as much water as possible, and air dry. Or use hot water, or hot water plus soap, then rinse. The key is to skip machine drying them, which breaks down the waterproofing with no added cleaning benefit.
    – csk
    Commented Feb 11, 2020 at 17:59
  • 1
    I wonder if this question should be made a little more general (and useful) to include "clothing worm next to the skin" rather than just "mittens"?
    – Martin F
    Commented Mar 7, 2020 at 22:36
  • @MartinF and perhaps with the added qualifier of "waterproofed" Commented Mar 12, 2020 at 15:09

2 Answers 2


Commonly cited reasons for washing new clothes, especially those worn next to the skin, are

  • to remove some of the chemicals added (for whatever reason) to the material by the manufacturer -- chemicals that your skin may have an adverse reaction to
  • to remove some of the pathogens that have been deposited on the garment by sick folk trying on the item in the store

Sources: Wash.com: wash-before-you-wear, TheSpruce.com: wash-new-clothes-before-wearing, Time.com: wash-new-clothes

That being said, how many of us actually wash new clothes before wearing them? How many of us, or our children, are actually sensitive enough for this to be a concern? If we're the worrying type, should we even venture into the great outdoors?

  • 1
    I'm in the weird intersection of "sensitive enough for this to be a concern" and "ventur[ing] into the great outdoors", so I always wash clothes beforehand, and always use the same laundry detergent which has been previously verified not to irritate my skin. I don't get the same skin issues outdoors as I get from some industrial chemicals. Commented Mar 12, 2020 at 15:11

Following @csk advice, I washed the mittens in luke-warm water with a little bit of soap and then dried on a rack.

I was worried that washing might remove the waterproofing but that was silly: the mittens were soaked through on the first day of actual use and on all the days after that. So even if i had not washed them prior to use, they would have become soaked on the first day anyway (this winter was very warm, with snow thawing daily).

But they did keep dry for a while each day, and performed better that older gloves.

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