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How to Get Bad Smells Out of Socks?

Having stinky socks is a common problem that most people have experienced at some point. While it may seem impossible to get rid of sock odors, there are several effective methods you can use to freshen up your smelly socks and keep them clean-smelling for longer.

Why Socks Get Smelly

Socks can develop unpleasant odors for a variety of reasons:

  • Sweat – Feet sweat throughout the day, especially if you wear shoes and socks for long periods of time. The sweat gets absorbed by the fabric and causes bacteria growth, which leads to bad smells.
  • Fungus – Athlete’s foot and other fungal infections thrive in the warm, moist environment inside socks and shoes. The fungus causes a distinctive foul odor.
  • Dead skin cells – Shedding skin builds up inside socks and also leads to increased bacteria growth.
  • Poor air circulation – Tight shoes and socks restrict airflow, creating the perfect conditions for odors to develop.
  • Infrequent washing – Not washing socks regularly allows smells to accumulate over time.

Cleaning Smelly Socks

To get rid of stench and odors in socks, the first step is giving them a thorough cleaning:

  • Machine wash socks in hot water – Use the hot water setting (or warm if socks are delicate) to help kill bacteria. Wash socks separately or with other activewear.
  • Use laundry detergent and borax – Detergent helps remove dirt and residue while borax is a natural antibacterial and deodorizer.
  • Add baking soda – Baking soda is highly effective at absorbing and neutralizing odors. Add 1⁄2 cup per load.
  • White vinegar rinse – Fill the fabric softener dispenser with white vinegar, which removes soap residue and further disinfects.
  • Air dry socks – Tumble drying can bake in odors. Hang socks outside in fresh air to dry.
  • Repeat washings – For strong odors, wash socks 2-3 times before drying to fully remove smells.

Preventing Smelly Sock Build-up

Once you’ve cleaned your socks, you can keep them fresher for longer by:

  • Rotating pairs of socks – Don’t wear the same pair two days in a row. Let them fully dry out before wearing again.
  • Changing socks mid-day – Bring an extra pair to change into if your feet get sweaty.
  • Wearing moisture-wicking socks – These are made from odor-resistant fabrics.
  • Using shoe powders and sprays – Apply antibacterial powders and deodorizing sprays inside shoes.
  • Removing shoes regularly – Take shoes and socks off whenever possible to air out feet.
  • Washing socks after each wear – For heavy sweaters, wash socks after a single wear.
  • Soaking in vinegar solution – Prior to washing, soak smelly socks in a vinegar and water solution to help kill bacteria.

Alternative Remedies for Smelly Socks

In addition to washing, there are some extra tricks you can use to remove stubborn sock odors:

  • Freeze smelly socks – Place in a plastic bag and freeze overnight. Freezing helps kill bacteria.
  • Sunlight – Lay socks flat in direct sunlight. The UV rays have a sanitizing effect.
  • Tea tree or eucalyptus oil – Soak socks in a diluted essential oil solution. Both have antibacterial properties.
  • Activated charcoal – Add charcoal bags to the wash to absorb odors. You can also stuff socks with charcoal.
  • White vinegar soak – For heavy odors, soak socks in a mixture of 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water before washing.
  • Lemon juice – Lemon juice removes odors and whitens socks. Add to wash or use as a pre-wash soak.
  • Borax soak – Dissolve 1⁄2 cup borax per gallon of water and soak socks overnight to deodorize.
  • Baking soda scrub – Make a paste with baking soda and water and rub it directly on smelly spots before washing.

With some diligence about washing and rotating your socks, as well as using odor removal remedies when smells occur, you can keep your feet and socks smelling clean. Be proactive, and you won’t have to worry about smelly sock syndrome again!