Where do missing socks go?

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Where do all the missing socks go?

Your sock is traveling through another dimension — a dimension not only of cotton and polyester, but of laundry detergent. A journey into a wondrous machine whose boundaries are beyond that of imagination. That’s the fabric selector dial up ahead. Your sock’s next stop: The Twilight Zone.

… or so it would seem.

A modern-day mystery

The dilemma of disappearing socks is nothing new. If they had worn such footwear, presumably even the ancient Romans would have lost some socks in their urine-based laundering facilities.

As it is, the mystery of the missing socks has been the subject of several books, inspired a spoof site called LOSS — Laundered and Orphaned Sock Society — from appliance manufacturer GE (now offline), spawned the marginally more serious Bureau of Missing Socks website, and was even the subject of one of Jerry Seinfeld’s stand-up routines.

The possibilities

Where do all the missing socks go? Sadly, the answers we discovered were far less interesting than we hoped — namely, we could find no proof that house elves or magic were in any way involved.

Through diligent research and experimentation, here are what we think are the more likely explanations for this phenomena:

  1. The pair never made it into the washing machine together in the first place, and the errant sock is hiding in the toy basket or behind some furniture.
  2. A sock got swept into the little space(s) around the washing machine’s agitator.
  3. The little guy might be hiding in the gap between the tub and drum (usually near the top of a front-loading machine).
  4. Small items in the laundry can slip between the tub and the drum, work their way down, and get sucked into the drain pump — and either stop there, or go out with the rest of the wastewater.
  5. Socks can sometimes get sucked into the dryer filter or vent ducting.
  6. Both with and without the help of static cling, socks like to hide in other articles of clothing (particularly pant legs) and in linens (especially the corners of fitted sheets, pillowcases and duvet covers).
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In the case of numbers 2, 3, 4 & 5 above, you might want to see our article, “How can I find out how to fix my appliances?

Company policy
The appliance manufacturers don’t specifically back up any of these theories, but their instruction manuals do offer a few brief tips to help avoid situations that could be dangerous (or even fatal) to your hosiery. Some of their advice:
  • LG: “When unloading the washer, check under the door seal for small items, like socks and undergarments.”
  • Maytag: “Wash small items such as infant socks in mesh garment bags.”
  • GE Appliances: “Try also to sort items according to size. For example, do not dry a sheet with socks or other small items.”
  • Maytag: “When unloading garments, occasionally check under the colored seal/below rim at the front of the tub for small items.”
  • Samsung: “To prevent object from getting stuck in your washing machine… Put your socks and smaller items in before larger clothing items towards the back of the drum.”
Missing socks? Take action

With all the above in mind, here are a few things you can do right here and now to keep your socks coupled — and some other options.

Bag: Invest in one or more mesh garment/lingerie bags, and use them when washing of your socks and other small launderable items.

Label: Either go the classy route with iron-on nametags or sew-on labels, or just spend a buck and get a laundry marker. (Write initials or designate a specific symbol for each member of the family.)

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Streamline: Buy lots and lots of the exact same socks. If you need to be able to differentiate ownership, choose bulk packs of socks with colors, logos and/or designs specific to that size. (Some socks, such as the Hanes Toddler Boys Non-Skid Crew Socks, have the size printed right on the bottom of each sock to simplify sorting.)

Just say no: Don’t wash your socks. This can mean buying a new pair to wear each day… or something else.

Connect: Hold the pairs together throughout the whole washing/drying cycle with some sock keepers, such as SockPro or Sock Cop Clips – or as Consumer Reports suggests, just roll your sock cuffs together before putting them in the hamper.

Reunite: Organize your odd socks so when their mates reappear, you can match them back up again. Here’s one way to do it!

Get crafty: When all else fails and you still have mismatched socks lying around, create something crafty out of them! (For more ideas, check out how to make a sock monkey and even an Olaf-style sock snowman.)

Ignore it: Just wear mismatched socks. It’s trendy, anyhow — several companies even deliberately make mismatched socks: SockSwap, LittleMissMatched and Soulmate Socks, to name a few.

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