It’s one of the most common cries from the laundry “why is there always an odd sock?” Is there really a sock thief in the washing machine? Is there a way to finally outsmart this laundry creature with a fetish for breaking up perfect pairs?
Silly things can often be the most perplexing and also the most frustrating, however, if we take a little time in preparation prior to the wash and also gain some cooperation from the rest of the family, then hopefully you will finally have your revenge on the wee little sock beastie.
First, gather your supplies and have them at the ready in the laundry. Now, I’ll give you a few methods to have a go at – there is sure to be one that’ll work for you. You will also need a reminder sign in the laundry that says Pair the socks before the wash! Make this as fun or as serious as you wish, be creative.
Method 1: Safety pins – I suggest you get the big nappy pins for this job, less fiddly. One pin can be used to pin pairs together at either the toe or cuff of the socks. (My favourite and quickest method, also because if you pin at the toes, you can leave them joined when pegging them to the line, peg both up by one cuff, without being bunched together, allowing air to circulate through them and you can take them off the line still paired together – dry!).
Method 2: Elastic bands or covered hair bands – Again I suggest you use the big strong ones. You don’t want little fiddly ones that will snap easily. One elastic band can be used to group your sock pair together. I usually go for the cuff area to ensure that the foot area of the sock gets a good clean and airing. (Second favourite method, and no pins to hurt little fingers).
Method 3: Laundry marker pens – This is best for lighter coloured socks rather than your navy blue or black variety. Label the socks inside the cuff of the sock. Go for the first letter of the owner of the sock followed by a number for the pair. E.g. Angela’s 3 pairs would be labeled: Pair 1 = A1 (This would be put on both socks in one pair) Pair 2 = A2, A3 etc. If you have 2 people with the same letter, then maybe go for a symbol like a star, each pair would be pairs *1, *2, *3 etc. (Not my favourite method, a bit time intensive and socks are still split up in the wash, however useful if you have many family members socks to keep track of). You could try ironing on label tape labels, but my experience is that they tend to fall off over several washes. If you’re going to iron labels on (especially for school socks), iron them onto the inside of the sole of the sock around the instep area.
Method 4: Commercial sock clasps: A little hard to track these guys down at times, but they do exist. To better explain what I’m talking about check out these Sock Pro Sock Clips available online at the Container Store. In Australia I’ve only ever seen them in various guises at thrift shops; some supermarkets; and in other specialist stores on organizing. Thing is, they work on the same principle as the elastic bands, and they still bunch up the sock while it is in the wash. Another type you may want to check out are Wizzpeg Sock Holders, they’re a slightly different concept, but when you purchase these you are also helping support Vision Australia, a really good cause.
Recently I’ve also seen a new product advertised on telly from No Odd Socks which is a variation on the netted lingerie bag, although it is partitioned into small zipped off sections to house each pair of socks while they’re in the wash. The whole bag can then be hung on the line direct from the wash.
Identifying Identical Socks & Assigning Them:
At the end of the day, the best way to keep the socks together at the end of the wash, is to pair them before the wash. What method you choose to pair the socks is up to you. I’ve known some clients who will only buy 2 or 3 colours of socks. White, black and grey and in the same brand and style. When there is only one or two in a household sure, this can make life a bit easier, but it’s not so easy when you have a few children in the house all wearing the same school regulation socks in different sizes. For this I suggest a little basket in the laundry with a label for each person (or a photo) and get them to put ‘their’ socks in ‘their’ basket. For kids who are old enough to pair their socks themselves, also put their supplies in the baskets to help them do the job. And don’t forget to reward them for doing so … sticker on the chore chart, whatever you decide … just train them early!
When it comes to ‘assigning a method‘ to help you sort your socks per family member, this can be as easily fixed as simple colour coding. Assign each member of the family a colour. For example Angela’s sock sorters will all be red. So I could just choose all the red clasps; or use red nail polish to put a dot on a bunch of safety pins; or sock clasps; or tie a piece of red string or ribbon (not too long or they’ll cause tangling problems in the wash) to each safety pin or sock clasp. If I wanted to use elastic bands I might opt to buy the fabric colour ones in the correct colour. If using a mesh bag sorter, then maybe I’d choose from using a washable fabric marker in the right colour to write my name on the top, or I could sew a cute applique or red ribbon, or even a simple cross in red cotton on the top of the bag.
As for where socks actually do go once inside the washing machine? The usual bet is the ½ inch gap beneath the agitator in the centre of the machine, where they can easily slide under and around the centre support. Let me know if you find them there!
In the meantime have a giggle at this cute video.