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We’ve shown you how to take care of your socks when they get a hole, but what about everyday ways to keep them happy and whole? The first thing to think of in proper sock care is how you wash them.
We list the washing instructions for our styles in the Fiber Content area on each product page. More often than not, how you wash a sock can be matched to one of three approaches: stockings, cotton socks and wool socks.
It’s a lot of information, so I’m posting it after the jump. There’s some great reference that will help keep your socks in their best state as long as possible. Everybody has their own methods, but these are some basics that most of us Dreamers follow for keeping our socks happy and healthy.
By “stockings” I mean high nylon content thigh highs and over the knees (though a lot of trouser socks could qualify too), like the Two-Tone Red Cuban Heels. Stockings, nylon tights, fishnet, or any of the more delicate styles need to be hand washed in warm or cool water and hung to dry. Hand washing is pretty simple. Use a mild detergent like Hosiery Mate and focus on more soiled areas, like the feet. You want to treat them carefully. Talking with other Dreamers, we use a couple of different approaches, depending on the delicacy of the stocking and how dirty it is.
For general washing, “kitty paws” and swishing in a bowl or sink of sudsy water is enough. Just gentle poking and mild agitation, in a gentle imitation of a washing machine.
For a little more washing, follow the same movements you do when washing your hands, but with the stocking between them.
If you’ve got a trouble spot, careful rubbing with thumbs helps you spot treat any stains.
Once the stockings are sudsed up, rinse in cool, clear water until all the soap is out. You can gently squeeze them to remove excess water, but don’t wring them.
Hanging up to dry is as easy as throwing the stockings over a towel or curtain rod, with a towel underneath to help soak up water.
Niq went over her basic washing process in the Sock Journal in 2005, using a hosiery bag. Thicker nylon styles can go in a hosiery bag in your washing machine on gentle cycles, but the thinnest style most of us Dreamers feel comfortable with washing this way are the Color Tights.
Cotton (and cotton blend) socks and tights:
Most socks are a cotton blend and their care is pretty easy. You’ll see, looking in the Fiber Content and on the label, that most cotton blend socks like to be washed in cool or warm water and then tumble dried on low. Tempurature-wise, “cold” or “cool” is 65 to 85F° or 30C° and “warm” is 105F° or 40C°. A lot of labels show a symbol for what kind of wash cycle you should use.
These are some common washing instruction symbols.
One of my favourite washing reference sites is Laundry Essentials. It’s a great way to reference just which thing means what.
Drying instruction symbols are pretty similar to washing symbols. One dot means cold, two dots mean warm, three mean hot. Two lines underneath the symbol mean gentle cycle. But a lot of us Dreamers don’t even tumble dry their socks (I do use the dryer, I will admit, but I wash all my clothes the same way: wash cold, tumble dry medium) and a lot of washing instructions don’t recommend it. Here are some symbols to keep an eye out for:
When you see the symbol for drip dry, it often is indicating that you shouldn’t wring excess water out of the sock as you can hurt some fibers pretty badly that way.
Gentle detergents, washing with like colours and not over-drying are more ways to keep your machine-washable socks in good condition longer. Cotton blends, acrylic and bamboo all are washed about the same way, but keep an eye on that Fiber Content and any tags, to make sure that you treat each sock as it would like to be treated. High cotton content socks, like those in our cotton category, with 70% or higher cotton content, do need to avoid hot temperatures, because they’ll shrink up and the fibers will wear out much more quickly.
Wool socks are wonderful, but depending on their blend and what kind of animal fiber they’re made from, they need to be treated specially. What happens when you don’t wash wool carefully? It felts and shrinks and becomes not much use to anyone. I haven’t done it to socks yet, but this sweater used to be an adult’s XXL.
Because wool care has so many variables and I don’t want to totally overwhelm you, I’ll share just the basics for now and focus on wool care in another post, with the help of Zaf, the Dreamer who tends our Tumblr and has more wool socks than anyone I know. One thing to keep in mind is that, unless they’re very dirty, wool socks can go several wears between washes.
Most of the wool styles we carry recommend machine washing cold, on the gentle cycle and lying flat to dry. For the best care you’d want to hand wash them, but with as little rubbing or friction as possible, using a detergent or wash that doesn’t create a lot of bubbles, so the fibers don’t felt. Remember, it’s lather and heat plus friction that makes things felt up. So use the same, gentle “kitty paws” and swish techniques from hand washing nylons for wool.
To speed up drying you don’t want to wring the excess water out of your socks, you want to press it. Lay your socks flat on a towel and roll it up tightly.
Unroll your towel and move the socks to a fresh towel, gently pressing them back into their proper shape. Leave them in a warm, dry place, remembering to turn them over once they start getting dry, so they dry evenly. I also try to remember to flip the towel (or refold it), so that they’re not just sitting on a damp thing.
There is the wonderful “superwash wool” that you’ll find in styles like those from MP. Superwash wool has been treated in a way that inhibits wool fibers’ felting tendencies, so products made from it can go through the wash and, in theory, even be tumble dried. Even so, for most styles that are made from superwash wool, like the MP Wide Stripe Cotton-Lined Wool Tights whose label suggests washing warm or hot, we still recommend washing inside out in cool water and hanging to dry. It’s better to be cautious with styles you love!
Lots of information! But if you want to keep your socks and stockings looking their best and extend their life, careful and thoughtful care is key. And you can extend this information to any of your clothing with similar fiber content. Because I’m sure you buy clothes to match your socks like a lot of us Dreamers do, and if your clothes wear out before your socks do, how will you match perfectly?
8 soxy thoughts:
There’s another option for drying wool socks, sock blockers (http://www.knitpicks.com/accessories/Sock_Blockers__DKPSockBlockers.html)
(this one is sold at knitpicks but you can get other places too.)
Knitters often use them to display socks, but they’re good for shaping socks and can be hung up to dry.
@Cgirl, smart! That’s much easier than blocking them out on a towel!
Wool socks for general consumption are made out of superwash wool, which has been treated to prevent, or at least reduce the chance of, felting.
I handknit socks and own an antique circular sock knitting machine (and STILL order from y’all) and just pay attention to the content of the socks. Even 100% wool, if it’s superwash wool, can be laundered with your other delicates. I throw them in the front loader with similar colors, and use a nice wool soap that I use for all of my knitted things.
I generally pick them out and let them air dry, while everything else goes in the dryer (mostly because it’s the abrasion that kills most socks).
@Christy – Actually, most of our wool socks are not superwash (we get plenty of feedback from customers who have accidentally shrunk and/or felted their socks).
I knit too, and while I generally take better care of the socks I knit, there are certain coveted/expensive styles that I’d be a bit heartbroken over shrinking. Usually I’m lazy so I machine wash most of my socks on cold, and even tumble dry some of the ones that aren’t as precious to me. It just doesn’t work for everything. The friction of the washer alone can definitely wear your socks out faster, and can pull threads to the outside of socks with more complicated patterns where the yarn wasn’t carried over in back.
I say better safe than sorry!
I thought I put my normal disclaimer of ‘usually’, but apparently not. USUALLY things are made to be easy-care and wool in socks is generally superwash (like smartwool socks), but if you buy something and want to keep things looking good, you should definitely read the washing instructions on the label. 🙂
And you can never go wrong with a gentle handwash.
The link to the blog post on how to fix a whole in your sock appears to be broken. 🙁 Is there somewhere else this is posted?
@Spike, it looks like a typo, we’ve fixed it but the link is right here too: http://blog.sockdreams.com/2011/03/18/diy-darn-it/
You can use the search field in the upper left of any page in the journal area to find posts talking about what you’re looking for. It goes waaaaaaay back, there’s some fun old stuff in there. 🙂
One of mine nee high socks are srenck and the other one normal