How to Launder Socks
The secret to making high-quality socks last years is proper care. By keeping your toenails trim and, most importantly, laundering them correctly, you can keep your socks looking great for years. When you invest in the best Italian socks, you really must pay attention to their care. A little attention to these details will make a huge difference in how your socks look over the years.
This guide is designed to walk you through the steps to properly launder cotton and wool socks. Cashmere and silk socks should be washed by hand.
- Separate your socks
- Turn inside-out and organize into pairs
- Wash in cold water, gentle cycle, with light detergent
- Turn right-side out
- Hang Dry
- Fold and put away
Step 1: Separate your socks
Two of the most common reasons socks end up being thrown away are (1) they accumulate too much white lint and (2) one of the two socks is lost. In order to keep the colors of your dress socks vibrant, they need to be washed separately.
Washing your dress socks separately from other laundry prevents them from accumulating lint. High-quality Italian dress socks will not lint themselves. They are knitted using only the highest-quality yarns. Lint comes from lower-quality, “plusher” items such as sport socks and bath towels. Separating your dress socks from these items will ensure that they do not come out covered in white lint and looking faded.
Step 2: Turn inside-out and organize into pairs
Organizing your dress socks into pairs before you launder them is just another safeguard against missing socks. There is nothing more annoying than discovering that one sock has gone missing…
I keep a separate laundry bin for my socks to avoid them being washed with other items. Here you can see that I have separated out a single black sock and a pair of white sport socks (which would shed lint on the entire was of dress socks if included).
Another important safeguard against the accumulation of lint is washing your socks inside-out. It takes a little additional time to turn all the socks inside-out before washing and right-side-out after, but it is the best way to ensure that your socks never accumulate impossible-to-remove white lint and continue to look vibrant.
When you wash your socks inside-out, if anything were included in the load that produces lint, the inside of the sock would be what accumulates the lint, not the outside. So, when you turn the sock right-side-out, it would be lint-free.
Step 3: Wash in cold water, gentle cycle, with light detergent
Next, load your dress-sock-only load into the washing machine. A front-loading washing machine is preferred, but, regardless, wash your socks in the gentle cycle with cold water and light detergent.
I use The Laundress Darks Detergent, which is a specially-formulated enzyme-based detergent that prevents any fading. Because it does utilizes enzyme detergents and not petroleum-based solvents, it also helps protect the integrity of cotton fibers. This prevents socks from beginning to “fuzz.” Alternatively, you could also use The Laundress Delicates Detergent.
Depending on how soiled the socks are (I normally wear my socks several times before washing in order to further extend their lifetime), I will allow the socks to soak in the cold water for 30 minutes prior to starting the cycle.
Step 4: Turn right-side out
After the laundry cycle is complete, remove the socks and begin to turn them right-side out. It is important to do this gently, not causing any unnecessary stretching. As you can see from the below pictures, I carefully feed the sock back through itself and pull straight.
I also use this as an opportunity to re-organize the socks into matching pairs.
Step 5: Hang Dry
Allowing your dress socks to hang dry is perhaps one of the most important steps of the process. The high heat of a dryer causes the elastic in the top band to break down and stretch and can also weaken the cotton fibers.
I purchased a cheap drying rack from Amazon for less than $25 that I use for my socks and underwear (basically anything with elastic)
Step 6: Fold and put away
I keep my socks folded in a separate sock drawer. I find that it’s easier to fold than it is to roll, but it’s really inconsequential.
The quick and easy
If you are short on time, then at a minimum (1) wash your dress socks separately in cold water on a delicate cycle and (2) hang dry. These two things will make the biggest difference in the long-term care of your socks.
With a little bit of extra attention, you can easily extend the life of your luxury Italian socks to years. By following these steps, you’ll keep your favorite socks looking great for years.
Most men, sadly, are reluctant to invest in $30+ socks because improper laundering causes them to rarely last longer than six months. However, fine Italian socks are such a pleasure to wear and can dramatically increase the comfort of shoes. For more, read my thesis on quality Italian socks.