Socks get a lot of wear and tear stuffed in shoes all day. Not only do they get dirty, but socks are prone to accumulating bacteria, fungi, and odors over time. For foot health and hygiene, it’s important to fully disinfect socks on a regular basis. Read on to learn techniques for effectively washing and disinfecting socks both at home and at a laundromat.
Why it’s Important to Disinfect Socks
Let’s first review the key reasons for properly disinfecting sock laundry:
Thorough disinfection removes bacteria that cause stubborn sock odors from sweat and foot soils.
Stop Athlete’s Foot
Fungi like athlete’s foot thrive in the warm, damp environment inside shoes and socks. Hot water washing stops propagation.
Disinfection keeps you from re-exposing your feet to the same germs when re-wearing dirty socks.
Improve Foot Hygiene
Reducing microbes on feet and in hosiery improves overall foot health and cleanliness.
Fresh Socks Feel Better
Disinfected, clean socks simply feel better next to your skin rather than irritating, dirty socks.
Stop Germ Spread
Preventing transfer of viruses, fungi and microbes to other people or surfaces by containing them in properly cleaned socks.
Sanitizing socks has both personal hygiene and public health benefits.
How to Disinfect Socks at Home
Follow these steps to fully disinfect socks in home washing machines:
Wash in Hot Water
Set the washing machine to the highest possible temperature safe for the sock material, at least 130°F. Heat kills pathogens.
Add 1⁄2 cup of chlorine bleach in the wash cycle to kill bacteria and whiten fibers. Check labels to confirm bleaching is OK.
Choose a long, vigorous wash cycle to give detergent and bleach time to thoroughly permeate the sock fibers.
Dry on High Heat
Machine dry socks on the highest heat setting your dryer allows. Maintaining heat continues disinfection.
Use Disinfectant Detergent
Look for antibacterial laundry detergent containing bleach alternatives or quaternary ammonium salts to amp up disinfecting.
Skip the Fabric Softener
Avoid using fabric softener which leaves a coating that can harbor germs over time.
With some simple adjustments, home washing can effectively sanitize socks.
Disinfecting Socks at a Laundromat
Public laundromats also allow you to properly disinfect sock laundry:
Select Hot Water
Choose a high temperature wash setting – most commercial machines reach 150°F+ for proper disinfection.
Add Your Own Bleach
Purchase liquid chlorine bleach from a vending machine and add it at the prescribed amount for the washer capacity.
Buy Sanitizing Detergent
Many laundromats sell commercial grade antibacterial and fungal detergents in their vending machines. Or bring your own.
Dry on Highest Heat
Commercial dryers reach temperatures up to 170°F. Choose the highest heat setting available.
Increase Dry Time
Insert coins to extend drying duration since socks may contain moisture in the toe areas.
Use Ozone Sanitizing Cycle
Some industrial laundromat machines offer ozone sanitizing cycles which effectively destroy microbes.
Public laundromats provide high heat professional equipment for sock disinfection.
How Often Should You Disinfect Socks?
Aim for the following sock laundering frequency:
Athletic socks – After every wear
Work socks – 1-2 times per week
Casual everyday socks – Weekly
Fuzzy slipper socks – Biweekly
Formal dress socks – After a few wears unless heavily sweated in
Ideally, having multiple sock pairs allows rotating to give each ample drying time between wears.
Match laundering frequency to the sock function and wear habits.
Maximizing Disinfection While Washing
Follow these tips for the most effective at-home sock sanitization:
Wash socks separately – avoids cross-contamination with other laundry items
Pre-soak heavily soiled socks – loosens dirt and bacteria before washing
Use a sock washing bag – provides constant agitation for thorough cleaning
Add borax or baking soda – natural boosters remove odors and inhibit bacterial growth
Increase rinse cycles – prevents any residual detergent films which attract dirt over time
Inspect gaskets and drums – clean washing machines prevent internal mold and mildew odors
Fine tune your sock washing routine for maximum disinfecting power.
Alternative Sock Disinfection Methods
If unable to machine wash socks, these methods also sanitize:
Immersing socks in just-boiled 212°F water for 10 minutes effectively kills pathogens. Works well for odor treatment.
UV sanitizing devices like Sterishoe transmit powerful UV light to destroy fungi, viruses and bacteria.
Soaking socks in a 50/50 dilution of vinegar and water for an hour disinfects without machine washing.
Spritzing socks with isopropyl alcohol or tea tree oil solutions reduces microbes between washings.
Applying undiluted 3% hydrogen peroxide to stinky socks destroys odor causing bacteria through oxidation.
Freezing socks below 32°F overnight before washing helps destroy fungi and bacteria.
Alternative disinfection methods help sanitize socks between machine washes.
Preventing Recontamination After Disinfection
Once socks are washed, take these steps to avoid reintroduction of germs:
Change into freshly laundered socks daily
Air out shoes fully before wearing again
Disinfect shoe insoles – spray with rubbing alcohol or Lysol
Alternate pairs of shoes – allows them to dry out before re-wearing
Avoid sharing socks with other people
Store in clean, breathable hampers – not piles
Keep sock drawers clean – wipe out regularly with disinfectant
Proper sock handling prevents recontamination after washing.
Sock Laundering FAQs
Here are answers to common questions about sock disinfection:
How do you get the smell out of sock?
Wash in hot water with bleach alternative and antibacterial detergent. Soak in vinegar and water. Air dry thoroughly before re-wearing.
Can you put socks in the dryer?
Yes. Ensure socks are 100% dry to avoid microbial growth. Use high heat, long duration, and dryer balls for maximum air circulation.
Do you wash new socks before wearing?
It’s generally recommended to wash new socks before wearing to remove sizing, dye excess, and other manufacturing residues.
Why do socks smell so bad?
Heat and sweat create a prime environment for rapid bacteria overgrowth. Fungi like athlete’s foot also thrive leading to stench.
How do you disinfect socks without washing them?
Methods like boiling, UV light, vinegar baths, hydrogen peroxide, and freezing can disinfect between full wash cycles.
Should white socks be bleached?
Yes, chlorine bleach disinfects and whitens white socks. Use sparingly and rinse thoroughly. Do not bleach colored socks.
Give your feet a fresh start each day with fully disinfected socks. Don’t settle for dirty, smelly socks harboring microbes. Banish odor, prevent disease transmission, and promote healthy feet and footwear with these sanitizing laundry methods. Say goodbye to end-of-day sock stench for good!