Details of the Experiment!

For our first episode, we had a friend of the podcast test how dirty consignment clothing was versus new clothing. Below is more about her process and findings.

The Effect of the Used Versus New Status of Clothing on Amounts of Bacteria

Do Consignment Store Clothes Host More Bacteria Than New Clothing


by Amzie Brakeman

1)    Poured agar plates

2)    Bought clothing

a)     In person from stores, both new and consignment, off the rack so they could have  been tried on in both types of stores, controlled for material (athletic leggins, and cotton shirts).

3)    Swabbed clothing with swabbing sticks (wet swabbing sticks, rub back and forth on small area) (armpit area on shirts, crotch area on pants)

4)    Either

a)     Streaked: rubbed the swabbing stick all across the plate

b)    Poured: spun swabbing stick in LB liquid, shook LB liquid to evenly spread bacteria, poured liquid onto plates, final spread around plate

5)    Set in my house in place with even light for 10 days

6)    Took pictures throughout and final pictures of plates

7)    Counted colonies per plate 


-       See google sheet

-       Calculated the averages of the number of colonies from consignment streaked plates, consignment poured plates, all consignment plates, and the same for new plates

-       There were three outliers: two for the consignment poured plates, and three for the streaked new plate

-       Because pouring normally wields more colonies due to its effectiveness the new streaked plate colony appears to be much more of an outlier

-       Graphs

-        a graph with all the averages

-       a graph with the averages minus the new streaked plate outlier (which is also the shirt shipped to me and if not affected by contamination during lb plate pouring, swabbing or streaking, then could have picked up bacteria during shipping

-       A graph with the averages minus the new streaked plate outlier, also minus the two consignment poured plate outliers 


-       Consignment store clothing does appear to have more bacteria

-       I asked the consignment store owners if they have a process for cleaning clothes that get turned in and all of them said they expected the clothes to come washed and don’t have any additional processes

-       I went to boutique consignment stores so bigger places such as Goodwill, that take even less time to inspect clothes for visual dirt may have even more bacteria

-       Most bacterias are not harmful to humans and many of the objects we touch every day such as our phones have much more bacteria (ex. phones)

-       There is a reason we wear underwear →  this bacteria was grown on a substance meant to grow bacteria which generally like warm wet places (such as genital areas) so most likely the bacteria will not harm our skin or the areas that come in contact with it

-       Buying is used clothing is better for the environment and is still a safe way to shop, even though my results from this experiment support that consignment store clothing has more bacteria than new clothing. 

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Meredith Fineman