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How to Brighten Your White Socks Without Using Bleach

Updated on August 29, 2016

White Socks Are So Hard to Keep White

Everyone loves the look of a crisp, clean, white pair of socks when matched with a pair of athletic shoes. The look is clean and all American. It can take a lot of work if you don't know how to maintain your socks.

Keeping socks their very brightest can be a challenge, especially if you are very active and tough on your socks. I know some people merely discard their socks when they start looking stained and dingy. It does not have to be that way.

My son was in baseball, and the biggest challenge for me was maintaining those socks as close to snow white pristine goodness as possible. Try telling a child in sports to be mindful about their socks. It just won't work!

Here are some tips to make sure that your socks stay their whitest and brightest before they even go into the washer.

  • Don't put bare feet into your shoes. No matter how clean you are and your feet are, feet pick up dust and dirt. You may not see it, but your feet are dirty. When you sweat, your feet become wet and further increase the problem by attracting even more dust and dirt to them. I did an experiment one summer for a college paper where I only wore socks with one pair of shoes, and only clean feet into another pair. At the end of the summer, the amount of dirt and filth that were in my pair of shoes with no socks was incredible!
  • Don't walk around your house in only your sock feet. Your socks, just like your feet will attract dust, dirt and debris. Socks will actually act like a dust mop and attract more dust and dirt to them. Add some sweat to the mix and you are damp mopping across hard floors and dragging away debris and dirt with you. Don't be a cleaner for the floor with your socks dirt weaves itself into the fiber and you will never get it out all the way..
  • When you are through wearing your socks, don't wad them up into a ball and let them sit in the laundry hamper. Pull them off, straighten them out and set them in the laundry hamper with the rest of the clothes.
  • Pre-treat stained areas of your socks when you take them off by using a stain pre-treatment that is designed to be on the clothing surface for several days. Check the label on the product to make sure.
  • Don't pull one sock over the other by stretching the elastic over the sock. It can break down the fiber, and weak spots are harder to get stains out of.
  • If a sock is badly dirtied, make use of a small pail and let it sit in pre-soak and detergent overnight before you pre-treat it again and wash it.


Cleaning Your White Socks Properly

Since you are caring for your white socks better now, they will be easier to care for. For this you will need the following items:

  • A bar of laundry soap
  • A toothbrush
  • A sink or basin
  • A laundry pre-treater
  • A clothesline and clothespins if possible

As you are sorting your clothes from the laundry, set your white socks aside.

When you have all of your white socks, gather them next to you by your sink or basin. Inspect each sock for levels of dirtiness. Those that are very dirty, scrub them with the toothbrush and the bar of laundry soap. Apply the soap by rubbing the bar of soap on the sock directly. Then scrub with the toothbrush. Some people have even told me that they have had remarkable results by using a vegetable brush or a nail brush, so for really tough stains, you may want to try that as well.

When you are done scrubbing, dampen the soap each time you get a new sock by dipping it in the basin which should be filled with warm water.

After you are done scrubbing your socks, spray any resistant areas with a laundry pre-treater and then rub them together and put them in the laundry. I also find that diluted dishwashing liquid does a good job here if you do not have a pre-treater.

When you are done, instead of the dryer, put all of your clothes on the line to dry where the sun will naturally bleach them out!

Extremely Dirty Sock Cleaning

I learned this from a friend of mine with children. When she has a batch of really dirty socks, she will put them in a completely sealed container filled with water enough to cover the socks, detergent, pre-treater and of course, the socks. She will then put that container on the floorboard of her car and let the motion of the car agitate the socks while she is out doing errands. She will even drive to work with these in the car, let them sit and soak all day and drive home. When she gets home, she will wash them in the washing machine and then evaluate if they need another "car ride". One set of socks was so badly stained that it took three car rides, but after a final wash, they were as bright and white as the day that she bought them.

Sock Life

Have you ever thrown socks out that were good but they were stained?

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Submit a Comment

  • RTalloni profile image


    5 years ago from the short journey

    Cleaning white socks this way is a tried and true method!


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