Ways to put lonely socks to good (uncluttered) use

The Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, Canada, is a self-described “unique and charming” museum that displays well over 10,000 shoes and hosts podcasts about “one fantastic shoe” every month. And, shoes aren’t the only thing on display. The museum also held an art exhibit featuring socks and the history of their humble beginnings.

The curious thing about socks is that they often lose their mates and become a source of clutter. Unlike those featured at the Bata, the ones in your home can end up under your bed and in between the sofa cushions. They are also often relegated to the dark recesses of shopping bags when Justin Case comes for a visit.

“I’ll keep this sock, just in case its mate turns up.”

Does that sound familiar? When we misplace an item from a matching set, we tend to hang on to them for a while, especially when the items cannot be used without each other (such as a gadget and its power cord). We probably keep lonely socks because we still see some value in them, even though they are now orphaned and we may not want them anymore. Fortunately, there are uncluttered alternatives to keeping mateless socks:

  1. Wear them! This may not seem as obvious (or maybe it’s so obvious that it’s often overlooked), but you can still wear them. You can make a pair using another lonely sock and wear them around the house.
  2. Use them as padding in your packages. Clean socks can be used inside packages to protect the items that you’re mailing. This is a good way to keep the contents of your package safe, but you should let the recipient know that the socks can be discarded.
  3. Use them to protect holiday decorations. You can store some of your holiday decorations (like ornaments) inside the socks before packing them away.
  4. Dust with them. I’m not a fan of dusting, so this is my least favorite option, but you can add mateless socks to your cleaning supplies. Just be sure to keep a specific number of sock dusters so that you don’t end up cramming more and more of them in with your supplies.
  5. Use them in craft projects. This is perhaps the most fun way to repurpose socks (especially for children). From sock puppets to doll accessories, get creative and make something new. Looking for inspiration? Check out the book The Lonely Sock Club: One Sock, Tons of Cool Projects!.
  6. Make a pet toy. If you have pets, you can make a cool tug-of-war toy for them. Have a look at this tutorial from Real Simple on how to make one. If you have a cat, you can stuff a little cat nip inside it, close it up, and watch your cat go nuts. You may also want to check with your local animal shelter to find out if they have a need for them.

The next time you end up with orphaned socks, be sure that they don’t overstay their welcome and turn into another source of clutter. You can use one of the suggestions above to breathe new life into them, but remember that it really is okay to let them go if you have no use for them.

29 Comments for “Ways to put lonely socks to good (uncluttered) use”

  1. posted by Debra on

    If you are a runner and they are tube socks, they also make very cheap and disposable arm warmers. Just chop off the foot and put them on before the race starts. Then once you’re warmed up, toss them in a trash can.

  2. posted by Jenny on

    I’ve switched mostly from paper towels to rags, but some messes are too gross (like anything that comes out of my cats) or greasy to want to use a rag on then wash. I keep old socks around for this, and then throw them away. It gives them one more use before they hit the trash.

    To make unmatched socks less of a problem, buy many of the same type. Then they all match with each other so if you lose one from each pair, their mates will match with each other. I do this, and most of my old socks are thrown away because they get holes in them, not because they are unmatched.

  3. posted by writing all the time on

    You can stuff lonely socks into things to help them hold their shape, too. Straw or felt hats, for example. Just make sure the socks are dry.

    A sock taped secured over an injured paw with vet wrap can sometimes keep your cat or dog from licking a wound.

    Speed dusting? Pull a sock on either hand, lightly dampened or spritzed with a cleaner, and go over upper door jams, window sills, etc.

    Put some cedar shavings in an old sock, tie in a knot, and toss in with your winter wooly clothes. Refresh yearly. You can get a small package of shavings at pet stores.

  4. Avatar of

    posted by monica on

    Oh, how I dislike socks. When the kids were little I would roll up the socks in pairs when going to the laundry. Now, they never remember to do this. I make them pair up the clean laundry but we still end up with a bunch of “loners”. I do keep them because I know the mate is around, it usually comes in the next load and so forth.

    Whenever possible, I avoid the kids wearing socks. We live in sunny southern california, so thankfully, we can wear sandals and flats bear-legged almost year round. Although, I must say, with toddlers around here, we have a similar problem with shoes! :)

  5. posted by Dorothy on

    Deb, you must be new around here!

    The true Unclutterer doesn’t have “pairs” of socks. She buys all the same socks so any one of them can pair with any other.

    I actually do this: I have black socks and white socks, all the same brand. When I wash them I just put them in my drawer. When I need a clean pair, I just pick two of the same color, and I’m done.

  6. posted by Dusty @ Wine Logic on

    You can also use them to cover your drivers when playing golf!

  7. posted by Kerrie on

    Dorothy, I do the exact same thing! Life (or finding 2 matching socks early in the morning at least) is so much easier that way!

  8. posted by Naomi on

    sock bun for hair

  9. posted by steph on

    Good post! I have found 2 additional uses. Put rice inside, tie it up, microwave and use on sore spots. Also, use as a cover for a hot curling iron when packing or putting it away. Old knee hi or trouser socks can also be used to hold onions or potatoes.

  10. posted by Shadlyn Wolfe on

    Sock buns! I recently had to learn to wear my hair up for a job, and these are the best thing ever!

    The tutorial I learned from is here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EIzoqMh1mfI

  11. posted by Patty@homemakersdaily.com on

    Great ideas. I never thought to use them for anything. I always just toss them. I’ll have to re-think that especially since I have a dog who would probably love to play tug-a-war. I’ve been cheating her!!!

  12. posted by Karla on

    different socks is the new normal for teenagers. even if they have matched pairs they don’t wear them at the same time.

  13. posted by Melissa on

    I’m an elementary school teacher…I use socks as erasers for mini-whiteboards that kids write on for math and spelling. Bonus- you can story the dry erase markers in the sock!

  14. posted by Allison on

    I use lonely socks to polish shoes, then throw them away once they’re covered in shoe polish.

  15. posted by halley on

    I’ll keep a few for bike grease rags, etc.

    My fav is when I lived in boston they had bronzed a bunch of lost gloves and mittens so when you rode up the escalator from the T (subway) it looked like they were tumbling down the center hand rail.

  16. posted by Tasmanian on

    We filled some with rice and used them as little bean bags for the kids to toss into buckets on an “I’m bored” afternoon.

  17. posted by Nancy C. on

    I’ve recently discovered that they can be re used as dryer balls. Knot the toe of one, then wrap and fold over until you have a good sized ball. Reprise and save money.

  18. posted by purpleBee on

    How about making a multicoloured sock monkey from a few lonely socks?

  19. posted by Anne on

    My younger daughter has for some years worn carefully selected mismatched socks with all her outfits. She favors kneesocks or regular socks in bright patterns or with interesting images.

    When a kneesock gets a hole in it, I tie a knot over the hole (usually at the heel), fill the sock with catnip, tie it off at the cuff, and give it to the cats.

    You could also use the worn or odd socks to make art dolls or soft toys.

  20. posted by Mardra on

    That was very sweet of you to post this today, exactly when I needed it.

  21. posted by Diane on

    Because we still have several kids at home, I keep our unmatched socks in a decorative hat box with a cover in the living room near where we sort the laundry. So, they are always there ready to be matched, but they are out of sight when the laundry is “done.” But, yeah, I do think some socks have been in there for years, and sometimes I go through and repurpose or discard socks that are obviously outgrown by the kids.

  22. posted by Oiofc on

    2 more uses: stuff uncooked long grain rice into a long tube sock, tie off the end, nuke up to 2 minutes for an instant heating pad. You can “flavor” with cinnamin or other spices if wanted. 2- stuff tube sock with lots of loose batting & use as a neck brace when the top part of your recliner has squished so much that it doesn’t support your head/neck any longer. I also use one as a neck pillow on long car rides. For show, just make a pretty “pillow case” for it!

  23. posted by ratwoman on

    I keep them in a box too – every time I fold laundry, I take that box and rematch them – the lonely ones are curled up by one – I throw them at my pets or my husband when I’m too lazy to get up and they do something they shouldn’t do – the pets also like to play with them *lol* when there are socks that are really lonely (most of the time the partner shows up with the next load of laundry) I use them to clean my car, bike, ashtray or shoes and toss them away afterwards.

  24. posted by lady brett on

    Once we’re sure the mate is really gone, we cut the toes off of sock to be used as rags – that keeps them from reappearing in the sock pile every time you do laundry.
    I’ve also found that if you “fillet” them open, men’s ankle socks are the exact size of the replaceable mop pads for our knock-off swiffer.

  25. posted by TomL on

    I use socks to store microphones.

  26. posted by Meghan K on

    I made a little holder for my cell phone and a flash light that hangs on the bed frame so I can find both in an emergency. I just cut the ankle part of the sock in a way that it is smaller and can be tied around the bed frame.

  27. posted by Beth on

    I keep an old boutique Kleenex box under the bathroom sink, stuffed full of orphaned or holey socks.
    I don’t like to use disposable paper products, but most bathroom cleaning is really gross and I don’t like to reuse anything that’s touched a toilet. So whenever I need to clean in there, I just grab one of the socks from the “pop up dispenser,” use it and toss it after. At least it’s gotten one more use!

  28. posted by WilliamB on

    In addition to all the ideas above, you can make a “draft dodger” from socks sewn together: sew the socks together to make a tube as long as the door- or windowsill, stuffing the tube w/ beans, rice, fabric scraps, or more socks.

  29. posted by Julie on

    I use the loners and very worn socks for dusting and miscellaneous cleaning. I also have used them to make drawer sachets. I stuff dried lemon verbena or lavender down in the toe end and then tie a knot in the other end. I toss them in my suitcase when I travel as well.

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