How to wash socks? (Hand Wash & Machine Wash)

Soak your socks in a container filled with water and distilled vinegar to remove the odor. Next, rinse them thoroughly and load them into the washing machine. Then, put the right detergent in the washer’s detergent tray and set it to run on a delicate cycle with warm water settings.

If you are loading them with a mixed load of laundry, then simply insert the socks into a laundry bag and then place them in the washtub. 

Additionally, you can add half a cup of baking soda to the cycle to get rid of the remaining foul smell.

Lastly, hang the socks to air dry naturally and make sure they are completely dry before storing them.

Note: Always store your socks in a ventilated space or drawer after drying.

Key Takeaways

  • Soaking socks in a bowl of vinegar not only helps to get rid of germs but also prevents bad odor.
  • Read the care label before washing your socks in the washer.
  • Not all types of socks may be machine-washable.
  • Since socks are worn for longer periods, they tend to gather sweat, grime, and dead skin cells. Therefore, making them more prone to odor-causing bacterial growth.
  • It is very important to air them out along with your shoes after every wear and then wash them regularly.
  • Regular washing of your shoes will prevent socks from getting dirty more often.

At the end of a typical laundry day, just as you’re about to put away your socks, you remember that a few of them still need to be washed.

You just can’t throw them in the washing machine with the rest of your clothes and simply hope for the best.

In this article, you will learn how to wash dirty socks with some tips to prevent them from getting dirty in the first place.

Let’s dive right into it.

What are socks made of?

There are a variety of materials that can be used to make socks, but the most commonly used material is cotton.

The other materials used to make socks include wool, nylon, polyester, or a combination of two or more materials.

Apart from the materials used to make these pairs, socks are available in various types.

The most commons are ankle socks, crew socks, knee-high socks, and toe socks.

Each type of sock is designed to be worn in different situations and with different types of footwear.

  • Ankle socks are the most common type of sock and are typically worn with casual shoes like sneakers or loafers. 
  • Crew socks are a bit taller than ankle socks and are often worn with dressier shoes like oxfords or loafers.
  • Knee-high socks extend up to the knee and are often worn with skirts or shorts.
  • Toe socks have individual compartments for each toe and are typically worn with athletic shoes.

No matter what materials are used to make them or the purpose of wearing them, you will have to clean them regularly.

This will help to reduce sweat and dirt buildup and prevent them from smelling bad.

Why do socks smell bad?

There are a few reasons why socks can smell bad. 

  • Socks are often made of materials that absorb sweat and bacteria. Sometimes, we walk off our shoes but wear socks, and this is when specks of dirt on the surface attract them. The dirt then combines with the body oil and sweat, causing bacterial growth.
  • Moreover, socks are often worn for long periods of time, which offers bacteria more time to grow.
  • Lastly, they are often worn with shoes, which can be a breeding ground for bacteria. Hence, always ensure to air out your shoes along with the socks after every wear to help prevent the growth of bacteria.

To prevent your socks from smelling bad, you should wash them regularly. Also, make sure to air out your shoes and socks after wearing them.

How often should you wash socks?

It is generally recommended that you wash your socks after wearing them a couple of times. However, if you have particularly sweaty feet, you may want to wash them more often or after every use.

Do not leave the socks untreated for long; they can harbor bacteria and fungi.

Your socks will start releasing a foul smell due to such buildup.

Furthermore, bacteria and fungi can lead to foot problems.

How to wash socks?

Dirty and stinky socks should be pretreated by using the soaking process before washing by hand or using a washing machine. Let us look into the ways of washing them with ease.

You can include all types of socks to wash by hand as it is the best way to treat these tiny and delicate garments.

For socks made of cotton, wool, or another natural fiber, you can wash them in your machine using cold water and a gentle cycle.

What do you need to wash socks?

You won’t need robotics to deal with your dirty socks, as washing your socks is the simplest of tasks.

  • For machine washing, you can use your regular washer and dryer for machine drying. 
  • You will need a mild detergent.
  • Distilled vinegar, baking soda, or laundry odor-removing solution to remove the musty smell will do the trick (optional).
  • For hand washing, you will need a container such as a sink or a bowl.
  • Air-drying them naturally is the best way to dry your socks. You can air-dry your socks on a clothesline or drying rack. Additionally, you can use pegs to secure them while they air-dry.

Instructions to Hand-wash your socks

Step 1: Start by sorting your socks

You’ll want to separate the heavily soiled or stained socks from the rest.

Step 2: Soaking for pretreatment

  • Fill a sink or basin with cold or warm water and some mild detergent to it.
  • This is the time to also include half a cup of distilled vinegar or baking soda.
  • Next, mix the solution well.
  • Place the socks into the container and let them soak for about 15 to 20 minutes, depending on their condition.

Note: If your socks have any stubborn stains, you can treat them with a stain remover before washing them as normal.

Step 3: Gentle Agitation

At regular intervals, gently agitate the socks in the water at least two to three times to loosen any dirt or grime.

Now, let the socks soak for another 10-15 minutes and leave them idle. 

Step 4: Scrubbing

To remove excess dirt, scrub the pair of socks against each other.

Turn the socks inside out and do the same.

Step 5: Rinse and dry

Next, rinse them thoroughly with clean water and give them a gentle scrub against each other.

Step 6: Wring out excess water

Once they’re rinsed thoroughly, wring out excess water and hang them to air dry naturally on a clothesline or a drying rack.

How to wash socks in the washing machine?

For machine washing your socks, you can follow the below steps.

  • Start by soaking your socks in a vinegar solution (Vinegar diluted in a bowl of warm water). This will help to get rid of stains as well as a foul odors.
  • Next, pour some mild detergent into your washer’s detergent tray.
  • Put the socks in the washer.
  • If you are adding them with different loads, then make sure to place them in a mesh laundry bag.
  • Additionally, you can also add a half cup of baking soda or distilled vinegar to the cycle to help remove the odors.
  • Set the washer to delicate cycle settings and select the water temperature as warm.
  • Now start the wash cycle and let the washer complete the washing process.
  • Once you are done washing the socks in a washing machine, take it out and either run a spin cycle to get rid of excess water or wring them gently.

How do you dry your socks?

So, there are three ways to manually dry the socks.

  • Hanging the socks
  • Using a hairdryer
  • Laying them flat on a towel
  • Machine Drying

Hang your socks up to dry

The best way to dry your socks is by hanging them up on a clothesline or drying rack.

This will not only allow them to air out but also ensure that they will dry evenly.

Use a hairdryer on low heat

If you don’t have access to a clothesline or drying rack, you can use a hairdryer on low heat to dry your socks.

Just make sure you don’t hold the dryer too close, as this could damage the fabric.

Lay them flat on a towel

Another option for drying socks is to lay them flat on a towel and let them air dry that way.

This can take longer than other methods, but it is still an effective approach.

Machine Drying

Not all socks are made the same. Therefore, depending on the material of the fabric it may or may not qualify for machine drying.

It’s important that you read the care label before machine drying your socks.

So, if your socks qualify for machine drying, follow the below steps.

  • Place your socks in a dryer-suitable laundry bag and then put them into the dryer.
  • Alternatively, you can use a cotton pillowcase or cover as a laundry bag for the socks.
  • Set the dryer to delicate tumble and the lowest heat settings in order to dry your socks.
  • Let the dryer complete the drying cycle.

Once the cycle completes, simply check if the socks have dried evenly, or you may need to air dry them naturally before storing them.

Whichever method you choose, just make sure your socks are completely dry before putting them away.

Useful tips to maintain your socks

Here are some quick tips to ensure that your socks last longer.

Give a gap

Don’t wear the same pair of socks two days in a row.

This gives them a chance to air out and prevents bacteria from building up.

For best results, turn them inside out after every use.


Store socks in a breathable container, like a mesh bag or pillowcase.


Keep them away from other smelly items like shoes or dirty laundry.

Regular washing

Washing your socks after every wear not only helps to remove dirt and odors but also maintains hygiene.

Keep multiple pairs

If you need to wear socks regularly, then make sure you own multiple pairs of socks.

Wash a Pile

When washing many pairs of socks, do it in a single load, but keep them separate from other clothing items.

Final Thoughts

If you leave your pair of socks untreated for a long time after use, then it’s quite obvious that sweat, dirt, and body oil together will make your socks look dirty and smell bad.

Washing the socks in a machine using the right wash cycle and settings will ensure that they come out clean and tidy.

With that said, it’s important to note that, depending on the fabric type, your socks may shrink a bit post-wash (especially the woolen socks).

Lastly, do not use any ordinary detergent or harsh chemical-based solutions. Instead, you can use a sanitizing solution like Dettol or Lysol to disinfect your socks.

Manish Singh is an expert in electrical engineering with a Diploma in the field. With over 12 years of experience, he specializes in repairing music systems, washing machines, dryers, and other laundry-related appliances. His in-depth knowledge in electrical repairs and decent knowledge about garment care makes him a trusted authority in the field of appliance repair and laundry related topics. If you have any questions or need assistance with your appliances, you can reach out to Manish through email: manish.singh (at)