How to Clean Dirty, Smelly Socks

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A pair of socks is a ubiquitous accessory to clothing that people use. Along with that, it is also the most frequently washed piece of cloth every single day. In this article, you will learn the steps on how to clean socks.

Therefore, people need to understand the proper process of cleaning the socks. If you buy some Italian socks, you need to invest time and effort to learn the appropriate cleaning methods.

Also, you need to trim your toenails and launder the socks frequently to maintain their look for a long time. Most people preferably use wool and cotton socks that are washable in the machine. The silk and cashmere socks are washable only by hands.

How to Clean Socks

It is evident that every one of you is somehow aware of how to clean socks. But, if you are checking out this article, then you are probably not doing it right. It means that your washing technique might be spoiling the texture of socks and is damaging the fiber.

Pair of socks hanging with a clip

It is a common scenario, and you need to improvise your methods to ensure that this doesn’t happen so often.

Do not worry, as you have landed on the right page to get an idea of professional cleaning of the socks. Follow these methods and steps to clean your socks in such a way that they last long.

The 3 methods on how to clean socks are the following:

  • Cleaning Wool and Cotton Socks in Machine
  • Cleaning White Socks With Vinegar for Reviving the Whiteness
  • Cleaning Socks by Hand-Washing

Method 1: Cleaning Wool and Cotton Socks in Machine

The majority of people wear cotton or wool socks. Here are the steps that you should follow in order to clean them:

Step 1: Separating the Dress Socks

  1. It would help if you separated the socks while you intend to wash them and preserve their colors.
  2. Avoid mixing them with your other laundry. It is to ensure that your socks do not accumulate a large amount of lint over them.
  3. The Italian socks do not lint themselves, as they draw lint from plusher items such as bath towels or sports socks.
  4. So, keep in mind to wash these socks separately and wash the other type of socks in a different machine cycle.

Step 2: Turn the Socks Inside-Out and Organize Them Into Pairs

  1. You need to turn them inside-out and then keep them in pairs in a basket.
  2. Take out all the socks that are not in pair, or the sports socks, from the lot.
  3. Turning the socks inside-out plays a vital role in ensuring am lower lint accumulation. If you mistakenly leave usual socks or some other laundry with the Italian socks, the side of the socks might accumulate lint that will be impossible to remove. Therefore, turning them inside-out is worth the time spent.
Laundry washing machine in a room

Step 3: Wash the Socks in the Machine

  1. Load the Italian dress socks into the washing machine.
  2. It is better if you have a front-loading washing machine. But, you can use the top-load machines as well.
  3. Irrespective of the type of machine, it is preferable for you to set the gentle cycle.
  4. You need to add light detergent to the machine and fill it with cold water. 
  5. Go for the detergent that protects the integrity of wool and cotton fibers. 
  6. It will ensure that your socks do not fuzz out after the wash.
  7. If your socks are too dirty, you need to soak the socks in cold water before starting the cycle.

Step 4: Take the Socks From the Machine and Turn Them Right-Side-out

  1. After the laundry is over, you need to take out the socks from the machine.
  2. Now, turn them right-side-out again.
  3. You should be gentle while you are doing this step because you have to avoid any kind of unnecessary stretching.
  4. For turning them right-side-out, you should feed the sock through itself and then pull it out straight.

Step 5: Hang Them for Drying

  1. After you have washed the socks, it is time for you to hang them at a place to dry.
  2. Do not use a dryer for this purpose. It is because the dryer’s high heat will break the elastic of the top band over the socks. It will also stretch & weaken the cotton fibers.
  3. If you have a drying rack, then it is well and good. You can place the socks over there. But if you don’t have it, you can also hang them over the cloth drying ropes.
  4. After they are dry, you can fold them in pairs and store them in separate socks drawers. Folding them is more accessible in comparison to rolling and storing the socks.
Bunch of socks hanging on clip

Method 2: Cleaning White Socks With Vinegar for Reviving the Whiteness

White socks tend to look filthy when are submerged with dirt and dust. And, without appropriate cleaning, white socks can’t regain their color. Ultimately, you will have to throw away the pair of white socks.

Therefore, to avoid such wastage situations, here are steps to use vinegar for cleaning your white socks efficiently:

  1. You need hot water in a large container such as a bucket or a tub.
  2. Now, add all your dirty socks onto it.
  3. Now, mix one cup of white vinegar into the boiling water.
  4. Let the socks soak in that vinegar and water solution overnight.
  5. The next day, you will see the color of the water turned brown, as all the dirt from socks has been eradicated.
  6. Take out the socks, flush the water and fill the container again with clean water.
  7. Now wash out the vinegar solution from the socks by scrubbing them with your hands. The leftover remnants of dirt will also be removed with this process.
  8. Hang them to dry over the drying racks or ropes.

Method 3: Cleaning Socks by Hand-Washing

Hand-washing is preferable for not just silk and cashmere socks but also for other fragile fabrics. It is to ensure that the robust mechanism of machine washing doesn’t deteriorate the fabrics of these tender socks. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. You need first to sort your socks into different piles. The piles should be of colored socks and white socks, separately.
  2. You will be washing them separately to ensure that colored socks do not leave their colors upon the white socks.
  3. Separate the athletic socks and Italian dress socks into different piles. You cannot wash them together, as they might damage one another.
  4. You can also buy commercial stain removers for eradicating any kind of stains from the socks. For grass stains, you can prefer using vinegar to get them off. It is an ideal home remedy for the purpose!
  5. Fill your bathroom sink with cold and soapy water. Avoid using warm water for this purpose.
  6. Pour mild laundry detergent onto the water in the sink. You can also use dishwashing liquid as an alternative to laundry detergent.
  7. If you are washing a heavy load of socks, you can wash them in a bathtub instead of a sink.
  8. Now, flip the socks inside-out to clean them thoroughly. The inside part needs more proficient cleaning to eliminate odor-causing bacteria.
  9. Now swish the socks into the water and detergent solution. Scrub it with your hands to loosen all the dirt & dust over them.
  10. Do not scrub or twist the fabric during the cleaning process, as it might damage or stretch the socks.
  11. Let the socks soak in that same solution for around 5 minutes. If the water is already dirty with the swirling of the socks, then drain the water and fill it again to prepare the solution. Soak the socks and let them settle for 10 to 30 minutes.
  12. Rinse the socks with clean water and then flip the socks right-side-out.
  13. Roll the socks in a towel to press out the water and then hang them out to dry.

Check out this YouTube video to get a clear idea of a subtle method of cleaning the socks without the need for scrubbing them.

Pair of pink socks with printed bananas

Frequently Asked Questions

Do My Smelly Feet Have Anything to Do With My Socks?

Yes, the socks varieties do result in making your feet sweat more profusely. Human feet have more sweat glands than any part of the body. Some type of socks might be the root cause of your smelly feet.

If you intend to know the reasons that explain how socks contribute to smelly feet, then refer to this article right away!

Why Do My Socks Wear Out, Even if I Clean Them on a Periodic Schedule?

Overwashing is also a prime reason for which socks wear out. Apart from that, if you have purchased the wrong-sized socks for your feet, they won’t last for long.

If the depth and heel angle are not adequate as per your feet, then the socks won’t last for a long time, even with proper maintenance. So, to know more about the same, check out this informative resource!


Put an end to your incorrect approach for cleaning the socks. There is no need to waste socks due to poor maintenance. Instead, preserve them with the correct cleaning approaches. Learn the methods and master the technique right away!

It is advisable to go through the above steps before commencing with the cleaning process.

Allen Michael is the Founder and Editor of Home Viable, a website that he started to provide readers with tips on home efficiency and automation. He draws on his engineering background combined with his family-of-four experiences for his articles.