If you suffer from perpetually stinky feet and socks, you know how embarrassing and unpleasant it can be. No matter how often you wash them, some socks seem to retain that stubborn foot odor. Fortunately, with the right techniques, you can get even the smelliest socks fresh and clean again.
The Causes of Stinky Sock Syndrome
Before learning how to remove stench from socks, it helps to understand what causes it. Sweat itself does not smell, but when your feet sweat, it creates the perfect environment for bacteria to multiply. These bacteria feed on dead skin cells and sweat, producing pungent waste products in the process. Inside a warm, dark sock, the bacteria and smelly feet gases have nowhere to go.
Certain people produce more sweat and skin cells, making them prone to increased bacteria and odor. Wearing unbreathable shoes and socks only exacerbates the issue. Fungal infections like athlete’s foot can also contribute to unbearable smelly feet in socks due to increased skin peeling.
Once deep into the fabric, eradicating the bacteria and neutralizing the odor they produce becomes tricky. But with a concerted, multipronged effort, you can get even the smelliest socks fresh again.
Wash Thoroughly With Baking Soda
Add half a cup of baking soda along with regular detergent to your sock wash. The baking soda helps absorb and counteract foul odors more effectively than detergent alone. Wash your socks in the hottest water recommended for the fabric, as heat helps kill bacteria and break down odor molecules faster.
White vinegar is another great odor eliminator you can add to the wash. The acetic acid neutralizes alkaline sweat residues, killing bacteria in the process. For best results, add both baking soda and vinegar together in one wash cycle. They work synergistically to dissolve and counteract all types of organic smells.
Air Dry Thoroughly
After washing stinky socks, it’s crucial to allow them sufficient time to air dry fully before wearing them again. Any moisture left trapped in fabric fibers creates the perfect damp habitat for odor-causing bacteria regeneration. If wearing damp socks, you’ll notice the smell returns full force very quickly.
Hang or lay socks out flat in a warm, breezy environment instead of bunching them together. Direct sunlight also naturally deodorizes and disinfects as the UV rays kill bacteria. Rotate between multiple pairs of socks, allowing each to dry completely before re-wearing.
Disinfect With White Vinegar or Vodka Soaks
For socks requiring extra remediation, try soaking them in a solution of one part white vinegar or vodka diluted in four parts cool water. These clear fluids help dissolve residues trapped deep in the fabric, sanitizing and deodorizing from the inside out.
First run socks through a normal wash cycle to cleanse away surface dirt. Then soak for 30 minutes up to a few hours depending on the severity of the smell. Rinse thoroughly afterwards and allow to fully dry before wearing again. The vinegar or vodka soak can be safely repeated as often as needed.
Apply Antifungal Treatments
If athlete’s foot or another fungal infection is the underlying cause of your smelly sock woes, treat the infection properly while also cleaning your socks. Over-the-counter antifungal powders and sprays applied directly onto feet and inside shoes can treat fungus and prevent it from spreading into socks.
When washing footwear and socks, add antifungal soaps, tea tree oils, or other antimicrobial ingredients into the wash to kill spores and residual bacteria. Maintaining clean, dry feet and socks prevents fungi from taking hold again. Disinfecting footwear with UV light boxes also helps destroy fungi and other microbes.
Replace Old Socks Frequently
With certain well-worn socks, the bacteria and sweat residue may be too deeply engrained no matter what you try. Fabric absorbs odors over time, especially with blended materials like polyester that cling to smells at a microscopic level.
To avoid maintaining a crusty sock collection, simply replace your oldest pairs every few months. Opt for socks made of natural fibers like cotton and wool that allow ventilation and breathability. The stinkiest socks filled with holes are better off just being discarded in favor of fresh alternatives.
Prevention is Better Than Cure
Implementing preventative foot hygiene habits keeps stinky sock syndrome firmly at bay:
- Change socks at least daily, or more often if your feet tend to sweat excessively throughout the day
- Wear moisture wicking socks to avoid dampness
- Allow shoes to dry fully between wears to prevent bacterial buildup inside
- Apply foot powder or spray antiperspirant before putting socks on
No one wants to be “that person” with noticeably smelly feet. By thoroughly washing and drying your socks, using odor fighting ingredients, treating underlying fungi, and replacing worn pairs regularly, you can keep your feet and socks fresh every day. Practicing preventative foot hygiene daily ensures you won’t have to worry about stinky socks again.