Thursday, January 21, 2016

On Washing Socks

In the opening chapter of Georgette Heyer's "The Quiet Gentleman", one of the main characters, Miss Morville, occupies herself knitting a sock while the family sits in a draughty hall awaiting the arrival of the new Earl. "What do you think of, Miss Morville, while your hands are so busy? Or must we not seek to know?" she is asked. Her typically prosaic answer: "I was wondering whether I should not, after all, make the foot a little longer. When they are washed at home, you know, they don't shrink; but it is sadly different at Cambridge! I should think the washerwomen there ought to be ashamed of themselves!"

We're in the heart of wool socks season. I read somewhere that there was a study showing that people fell asleep faster wearing wool socks to bed in winter, and I know it holds true for me. So socks by day, socks by night, and before you know it, there's a stack of socks in the laundry pile. We put a good deal of effort into making them,
Brookline Socks

so they deserve a little TLC when it comes to their care. And socks need different care from sweaters.Socks work hard and are exposed to a lot more sweat and dirt. No-rinse wool wash products aren't enough. There are lots of good ways to wash socks. I'm lucky enough to have an old-fashioned top-loading washing machine. Here's what I do:

1. Set the water level at low (this is sufficient water for a half-dozen to a dozen pairs of socks), and the temp at warm. Load the water.
2. Rub a bar of Sunlight pure soap (no detergent content),

in the water to release some soap. Mmm, I LOVE the slight lemon fragrance.
3. Submerge the socks, gently squeezing out any air bubbles. Allow to soak for 20 minutes or longer. Make sure the machine is set so that there is no agitation. If you have an older model machine, you don't need to do anything special, but if you have a newer machine with an electronic timer, you will need to turn off the machine completely during soaking.
4. Now, spin the socks dry.
5. Take the socks out of the machine and re-fill with warm water, adding a "glug" of white vinegar to the rinse water. Allow to soak with no agitation again.
6. Repeat step 4.
7. Hang or lay out the socks to dry. You can use sock hangers, or lay them on a towel, or hang them on a drying rack. The spin cycle gets out so much moisture that our socks dry in under 12 hours.
The result? Soft, clean smelling socks you can hardly wait to stick on your chilled feet before heading out for a walk.

That's right, the lake is still open--quite a change from a year ago, when the international ice sailing competition was happening on our stretch of lakefront.


  1. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrr . . . It LOOKS soooo cold in the photos!!! I have a little top-loading portable washer that you wheel to the sink & connect to the tap. Wonderful for socks & woolies. No agitator at all, just soaks, swishes the water & spins dry. Then I hang my socks by the toes with clothespins on hangers to dry like magic.

    1. Is there a brand name? Sounds great!

  2. What a great and timely post! Love the photos too!

  3. It's an old GE automatic mini-washer. You should've seen my face the day I dropped my hand knit, wool, work sweater in for the first time. Worked like a charm.

  4. Yhao brand socks are so special that I have ordered many times! I sell them well in my store, many yoga lovers are satisfied with the non-slip yoga socks which can keep them stable no matter what activity they are performing.