Geek On The Hill

The Importance of Proper Sock Care and Maintenance

Socks are an important part of our daily lives that can affect our attitude, outlook, mood, and work performance. A worn, damaged, or improperly-maintained sock can make your foot miserable; and when your feet are miserable, your whole body is miserable. It’s not at all an exaggeration to say that buying good socks and maintaining them properly is an important piece in the puzzle of how to lead a happy, healthy, productive life.

Unfortunately, far too many people don’t seem to care about proper sock maintenance. That’s a shame. Your socks work very hard for you, and they deserve the best care you can give them.

Think about it. First of all, your socks have to work next to a foot all day, wicking away its sweat and bacteria and choking on its shed skin cells. And as if that weren’t bad enough, socks get stepped on hundreds or thousands of times each day. How would you like to be repeatedly stepped on all day? Think about that the next time you’re tempted to neglect proper sock maintenance.

Sock maintenance begins with buying good socks. I prefer Gold Toe Socks myself. I doubt there are better socks anywhere. They’re comfortable, they last a long time, and they do a fine job of wicking away the sweat. I doubt I’ll ever wear any other socks. If they ever stop making Gold Toe socks, I’ll probably wind up buying sandals and going sockless. Once you’ve worn Gold Toe socks, no other socks will do.

In addition to buying good socks, you also need to buy enough socks. Personally, I like buying 30 pairs at a time. There are 30 days in a month, give or take; so by buying 30 pairs, I only have to wash socks one day a month, barring some unusual event like having to wade across a river or stepping in dog shit that necessitates a mid-day sock change. If that happens, you just wash them a day earlier. It’s not a big deal. Unless you make a habit of wading across rivers or stepping in dog shit, you’ll get caught up in February.

Speaking of washing socks, it’s not as simple as you may think to do it properly. First of all, socks should always be washed in hot water in order to sanitize them and remove the funk. Secondly, never use chlorine bleach. Yeah, I know, your mother always used chlorine bleach to wash your white socks. But chlorine bleach causes socks to wear out faster. It’s also not very good for septic tanks or the environment. But I digress.

In order to maximize your socks’ useful life, you should wash them in a quality laundry detergent and OxiClean. I like the “Versatile” OxiClean because it’s, well, versatile. In addition to getting my white clothes white and my colored clothes bright, it cleans pretty much everything. Did your drunken uncle spill wine on your carpet? OxiClean will take care of it. Did your kid get carsick and puke on your upholstery? Break out the OxiClean. Is the grout between your bathroom tiles black and mildewed? OxiClean will get it white as snow.

This post, however, is about socks, so here’s how to incorporate OxiClean into your sock maintenance regimen. First, start filling your washer tub with hot water, and then add a full dose of OxiClean while it’s filling, along with whatever detergent you’re using. Let the powder dissolve completely and the tub partly fill, and then start carefully placing the socks in the tub.

Now mind you, I know that purists will say that you have to let the tub fill completely before you start putting the socks in, and I respect their right to hold to that traditionalist position. But I have found that you really don’t have to wait until the tub is completely full. If you start carefully putting the socks in when the tub is about one-third to one-half full, they’ll kind of float on the surface. Then when the agitator starts, they’ll be pulled under the water.

Here’s a video to show you what I mean:



Once your socks are washed and dried, you just need to fold them and put them in the dresser drawer. Note that I said “fold,” not draw them inside-out into each other into a ball. That’s sock abuse! It stretches them out and severely shortens their useful life.

To maximize your socks’ useful life, you should pair them, carefully fold them once midway between the toe and the cuff, and neatly stack them in the drawer. Not only does this preserve the socks and prevent the cuff and elastic from stretching, but it makes for much more efficient use of storage space than the old-fashioned (and abusive) technique of drawing them into each other and making a ball out of them.


A stack of neatly folded white socks in a dresser drawer


Finally, let’s not forget about sock rotation. Believe it or not, there are people who never rotate their socks. That’s a big mistake. Rotating your socks helps them to wear more evenly, just like rotating the tires on your car. Now, if you always wash all your socks at the same time, then you really don’t need to worry about this. But if there usually are still socks remaining in the dresser drawer when you wash the rest your socks, you should make sure that you put the freshly-washed and dried socks under the ones that were still in the drawer, this way the ones that were in the drawer will be on top and will get worn first.

Improper sock rotation can cause uneven wear, which in turn can cause other problems — some of them potentially serious. For example, let’s say that you wind up with a pair of socks in which one sock is much more worn-out than the other. When socks wear out, they get thin, right? Well, by wearing two socks of uneven thickness, you’re putting yourself out of balance. You’ll be walking lopsided all day.

Yes, your brain and vestibular system will compensate, so you probably won’t realize that you’re walking around like Quasimodo. But all that constant calculation to correct for your uneven sock thickness and keep you from walking lopsided can cause headache, fatigue, and back problems.

Luckily, we can avoid those problems by practicing proper sock rotation. If we do it religiously, our socks will always be the same thickness, and we won’t be walking around lopsided all day.

The other advantage to sock rotation is that it causes all the socks to wear out at about the same time, this way you can buy 30 new pairs and start all over. That’s really the way to go, in my opinion. First of all, if you have 30 pairs of socks and rotate them properly, they’ll probably last at least two years (provided you don’t use chlorine bleach). Secondly, when you replace your socks all at once, you can buy identical ones. That way you never have to worry about sorting socks. They’ll all be the same!

I hope you’ve enjoyed and learned something from this post. In return for all the hard work our socks do for us, they deserve the best care we can give them. Please feel free to share your sock-maintenance experiences, good or bad, in the Comments section below.