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Can You Wash Smelly Socks With Vinegar?

It’s inevitable that socks will develop an unpleasant odor over time, especially if you’re active or have sweaty feet. The bacteria on your feet thrive in your socks’ damp, dark environment, producing smelly compounds. Tossing funky socks in the wash usually gets rid of some odor, but not all of it. The smell often comes back after just a few wears.

Vinegar is an inexpensive, versatile household item that can banish stubborn sock smells for good. With its high acidity, vinegar kills odor-causing bacteria and breaks down the compounds that produce nasty aromas. It’s gentle enough that you can soak or wash your socks with vinegar regularly without damaging the fabric. Follow these tips for using vinegar to eliminate sock odor and keep your feet fresh.

Check Sock Material First

Before treating smelly socks with vinegar, check the care label to make sure they won’t be damaged. Vinegar is safe for cotton, nylon, polyester and other rugged fabrics, but may harm delicate materials like silk or wool. If in doubt, spot test vinegar on a small, hidden area before soaking the whole sock.

Make a Vinegar Sock Soak

The most effective method is to soak socks in undiluted white distilled vinegar for several hours. This gives the acetic acid plenty of time to work its anti-bacterial, deodorizing magic.

Fill a tub, bucket or sink with enough cool vinegar to submerge the socks. For a single pair of knee-high socks, you’ll need at least two cups. Use more vinegar for multiple pairs. Add the sock(s) and press down to remove air bubbles. Let them soak for at least two hours, or overnight if the odor is strong.

Agitate gently and drain the vinegar solution. Rinse the socks thoroughly in cool water – no detergent yet. Fill the container again and soak for another 30-60 minutes in fresh vinegar. The double soak ensures odor-causing bacteria are eliminated.

Wash as Usual

After the vinegar soak, wash socks in the washing machine as usual with your regular detergent and laundry settings. Vinegar dissolves and rinses away fully, leaving behind no scent. The socks will smell freshly laundered.

You can combine the soak and wash by adding 2 cups vinegar to a full wash cycle, but soaking first provides more targeted odor removal.

Maintain Fresh Smell

To prevent future odor issues, add 1⁄2 cup vinegar to each load of sock laundry. The vinegar smell dissipates when dry, but its anti-bacterial properties remain to deter the bacteria that cause smells. White distilled vinegar is inexpensive enough to use as a laundry booster regularly.

You can also spray the inside of shoes with full-strength vinegar after wear. This kills bacteria where they originate and keeps feet and socks fresher between washes. Let shoes air dry completely before wearing again.

Troubleshooting Tips

If vinegar fails to eliminate all sock odor, the source could be:

  • Not enough soak time – Try an 8-12 hour soak
  • Not enough vinegar – Fully submerge in vinegar; use a larger container if needed
  • Old, damaged socks – Vinegar can’t fix worn fabric; holes and thinning allow odor to persist
  • Very heavy sweating – Switch to moisture-wicking athletic socks and use extra anti-bacterial precautions

With its non-toxic cleaning power, vinegar is the perfect eco-friendly solution for scrubbing away even the smelliest sock odors. With a simple soak and wash, you can banish frustrating foot funk and step out each day with fresh, clean socks.