5 Disgusting Facts About Dressing Rooms, Plus How to Protect Yourself While Trying On Clothes

Many people dread the dressing room come swimsuit season, but as it turns out, there are also a number of other reasons to be wary when trying on clothes in your favorite store. Unfortunately, there are a lot of gross facts about dressing rooms. These common changing rooms see their fair share of strange encounters and not-so-sanitary interactions, and although they may make you cringe, knowing all of the gross facts about dressing rooms is certainly worth it the next time you want to check the fit of a great pair of jeans.

From rogue bacteria to contagious diseases and yes, even STDs, you might be horrified to know just what lurks inside of a common dressing room. Now, listen. This isn't to freak you out of ever shopping IRL again. Trying on clothes is important for getting a wardrobe you love, and returning things by mail is just plain annoying. If you’re careful, you can absolutely escape the fitting room relatively unscathed (and hopefully with a new outfit in hand).

Read on to find some of the most disgusting facts about trying on clothes in a dressing room -- and how to avoid them.

1. Most of the bacteria don’t live in the fitting room.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images

It may give you a bit of peace of mind to learn that the majority of the bacteria in a dressing room don’t live in the dressing room at all — but unfortunately, that’s because they live in the clothes that you’re trying on, according to a 2011 report by CNN. Skin cells and perspiration attach themselves to the inside of an article of clothing after every person who tries it on, so if possible, be sure to wear something underneath when you’re trying on a new outfit.

2. Bacteria can enter through open cuts or wounds.

Tim Boyle/Getty Images News/Getty Images

If you have a tiny paper cut or a knick on your leg from shaving, you’re much, much more susceptible to infection or disease when trying on clothes in a dressing room. Be sure to keep yourself protected by covering up with a sturdy bandage before you hit the mall.

3. Dressing rooms can spread STDs.

MAURICIO LIMA/AFP/Getty Images

If you try on swimsuit bottoms in a dressing room, be aware that your genitalia is touching the very same fabric as everyone else who tried on that particular suit — even if it still contains the protective plastic sticker. This can transmit fecal bacteria and viruses like herpes to your naked body. Experts at Fitness Magazine recommend wearing full-coverage underwear when trying on a swimsuit (no skimpy thongs!).

4. Shoes can transfer athlete’s foot.

Dan Kitwood/Getty Images News/Getty Images

When you try on a new pair of fall booties or sneakers at the sporting goods store, you’re actually opening yourself up to itchy, irritating athlete’s foot and gross plantar warts. The bacteria from other people’s skin cells can grow inside of the shoe, so be sure to wear thick socks when trying on shoes.

5. Bacteria can live on your clothing for up to six months.

TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

Once you leave the dressing room and decide to make a purchase, you're not completely in the clear until you wash your new clothing. Common bacteria, like the type that causes a stomach virus, can live on cotton clothing for a few days, while staph bacteria (or MRSA) can live in your new sundress for up to six months! Avoid illness by washing any clothing purchases immediately after hitting the mall.

Images: nicoletaionescu/Fotolia; Getty Images