“Don’t throw out that odd sock. It can be used around the house! the_burtons/Getty Images
We’ve all lost a sock doing laundry. The problem is so common, and so vexing, that in 2017 appliance powerhouse Samsung commissioned a study to determine what’s going on inside all of our washers and dryers. The survey, conducted among Brits, found they lose an average of 1.3 socks per month, or more than 15 per year. That works out to more than 1,200 lost socks per lifetime, assuming a life expectancy of 81.
Why are so many socks going AWOL? It’s not because Britain is home to a plethora of sock-eating washers and dryers. Instead, the study found it’s due to a variety of reasons, including socks falling behind or under furniture, being separated from their partners on wash day, and/or being paired with the wrong mates.
While the problem of socks going astray is likely here to stay, don’t despair. There are dozens of creative reuses for solo socks. Here are nine of them.
1. Dust Cloth Extraordinaire
Your socks should fit over your hands, so put one on when it’s time to clean the house. In addition to using it to dust the furniture, socks are especially suited to wiping baseboards, shutters, blind slats, ceiling fans and even houseplants. In the garage, use single socks to clean and polish your car inside and out. When you’re finished cleaning your house or vehicle, remove the sock from your hand by pulling it off inside-out, so the mess stays off your hand.
2. Wipe a Dog’s Paws and Toys
If your dog comes back from a walk wet or dirty, slip a sock on your hand and wipe off her paws and any other affected areas. You may also wish to put a sock on your hand when you’re tossing a ball, Frisbee or other toy that may be returned to you full of slobber.
3. Rejuvenate Dry Skin
Do you have a problem with dry and cracked skin on your hands or feet? One of the best ways to heal your skin is to cover the affected area with an appropriate moisturizer or petroleum jelly before you retire for the evening, then cover with a sock. The sock will keep the lotion or salve from getting all over your bedding, plus help your skin better absorb the moisturizing agent. (If both feet need moisturizing, just use two odd socks.)
4. Roll Out Knotted Muscles
One of the more annoying things in life is having a tight muscle in an area you can’t quite reach, like the middle of your back. When that happens, place a tennis ball into a long sock, knotting the end. Find a hard surface like a wall or door, then toss the sock over your shoulder and position the ball over the knot in your back. Press against the ball as you move it all over the knotted area to roll out that muscle.
5. Bust Bad Smells
Fill a stray sock with cat litter, knot the end, and place it in your tent before rolling it up for the season. This will keep mustiness at bay. You can also put coffee grounds or baking soda in leftover socks, knot them, and stick into your shoes for an overnight deodorizing. One more odor-buster: Place potpourri or lavender into a sock, secure the end, then place in a dresser drawer, gym bag or closet — any place where you’d like a fresh scent.
6. Create Kids’ Toys
Sock puppets have been around for centuries, although they haven’t always been crafted from stray socks. Take those strays (longer socks work best) and add whatever embellishments you’d like, such as eyes, hair and glasses, to make your own puppet. You can also make stuffed animals from socks; check out craft sites for ideas.
“Sock puppets are a well-known use for single socks, but it’s not the only toy you can make with them.Brand X Pictures/Getty Images
7. Prevent Drafts
If your home has a drafty door or window, take a sock (long ones and tube socks work best) and fill with popcorn kernels or dried beans, plus stuffing; e.g., quilt batting or polyester fiberfill. Sew the open end closed, then place against the bottom of your drafty door or window. The popcorn or beans will weigh down the sock so it stays in place, while the stuffing will block the wind from getting through any cracks or crevasses.
8. Make Dryer Balls
Typically made of compressed wool, plastic or rubber, dryer balls bounce between your clothing and sheets to prevent them from clumping together. They also combat static and wrinkles, soften clothes and fluff them out. But dryer balls can be pricy. To make your own, fold up one sock into a small ball, then place it on top of another sock. Then, roll the first sock up into the second, pulling the cuff over it all to make a larger ball. A slightly easier way to make a dryer ball is to drop a tennis ball into an old sock and secure the top. If you prefer store-bought dryer balls, you can still use a leftover sock to clean the dryer balls monthly. Simply place the balls in a few socks, tie the tops and toss into the wash.
9. Organize Wrapping Paper
Take a sock with a cuff several inches tall and cut off the cuff. Slip the sock cuff over a roll of wrapping paper to keep it tidy and in place.
Now That’s Surprising
A U.K. psychologist and statistician teamed up to create an equation to determine how many socks you’re likely to lose every month, based on your typical laundry size, attention span and other things. To discover your sock-loss figure, fill out the fields in their Lost Socks Calculator. You can lessen your chances of having orphaned socks by pinning the pair together with a safety pin or putting them all in a mesh bag before washing.