My friends in retail have told me stories about taking back merchandise that was used and having the back room people steam the items and put them back on the floor with new tags. It is more common then you think and this was in very high end retail stores...... I wash everything first.
Wow, old thread, but still relevant given that everyone buys new bed linens. I always wash before use. Textiles are commonly sent via ship, and the journey can take a very long time. They are often coated with or at least packaged with pesticides and fungicides to prevent contamination before reaching retail, and some of those chemicals are nasty.
yes! got a new quilt from anthropologie and straight it went into the washer. Clothing, kitchen goods, it all gets washed first. As has mentioned before don't know where its been or who touched it before. How many times have you seen someone leave a restroom w/out washing their hands and then proceed to shop in the mall? Now imagine them looking at sheets clothing or imagine them coming out of the company restroom of a manufacturing store.
Plus as has been mentioned how things are prepared to make them look good needs to be washed off.