How to Keep Your Socks White

by Ruth Nix ; Updated July 18, 2017

Before treating white socks for stains, evaluate whether they seem salvagable, or if it would be simpler (and perhaps cheaper) to buy a new pair.

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White socks are especially prone to stains and discoloration. Unlike white shirts and even pants, socks' constant contact with sweat, the insides of deteriorating shoes, dirty floors, mud, and all other matter of materials people walk on without shoes, cause them to lose their true whiteness and brightness with ease. However, some of these effects can be reversed and the clean look of white socks restored with a simple care routine.

Soak the white socks for five minutes in a large glass mixing bowl or bucket containing 1/4 cup of regular bleach diluted with 1 gallon of cool water.

Lay the socks out in a large dishpan to prevent the spillage of pre-treatment products. Wearing latex kitchen gloves, apply a small amount of a thickened bleach product with relatively low active hypochlorite levels, like Clorox® Ultimate Care Bleach, and move around the socks as needed making sure to saturate individual stains. If you like, you can stack the socks as you treat them in order to save space.

Transfer the pre-treated socks from the pan, directly to the washing machine. Wash the socks in full loads, with like colors, using 3/4 cup regular bleach added to hot water.

Rinse the dishpan and gloves thoroughly.


  • If you'd like to stay away from harsh chemicals like bleach, you can instead try bringing water to a boil in a saucepan and bathe stained white socks with a few slices of lemon, which act as natural bleaching agents, until the water cools. You can also try adding a small amount of dishwasher detergent to wash loads containing white socks.

    Try drying wet white socks by pinning them to a clothesline in the sun. While some stains can actually set into fabrics when dried in machine dryers, the sun acts as a natural bleaching agent.

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About the Author

Ruth Nix began her career teaching a variety of writing classes at the University of Florida. She also worked as a columnist and editorial fellow for "Esquire" magazine. In 2012, Nix was featured in the annual "Best New Poets" anthology and received the Calvin A. VanderWerf Award for excellence in teaching from the University of Florida.