Sock Purge: Getting rid of mismatched socks

Hate matching up sock pairs while folding laundry? One way to save you time is to have all socks of the exact same color and style.

Every so often (when most of your socks are worn out), throw away all of your white sports socks and replace them with six pairs of new, identical white sports socks. Be sure to alternate the style or brand between purges so if an old sock accidentally doesn’t get purged, you can identify it when it tries to sneak back in to your drawer. All of your socks will have the same amount of wear, they all will match, and it will save you time during folding.

If you’re a man who works in an office, do the same with black and brown dress socks. Three styles are faster to sort than 18 pairs of different styles.

For your children with similar sized feet, you could buy a dozen pairs of the same sock and split them between the kids. Alternatively, you could buy each child a different brand/style/color of sock. For example, your daughter could have white socks, and your son could have white and grey socks.

Our family has subscribed to this process for many years and we love the simplicity it brings to our laundry days.


This post was originally published in May 2007.

20 Comments for “Sock Purge: Getting rid of mismatched socks”

  1. posted by Jennifer on

    I like this. At first, I thought it seemed wasteful – but really, it’s not – I’ve tried to “save money in the long run” by buying nicer socks, just to have them fall apart anyway. I could buy those bags of inexpensive socks twice a year and be done with the hassle.

    I think I’ll buy an extra bag for my stepdaughter, and have her leave them at her mom’s house, and have her not pack socks when she goes for visitation – thus cutting down on the “lost sock syndrome” so prevalent in two households.

  2. posted by Ryan on

    This would only make too much sense to do.

  3. posted by Sidney on

    I safety pin my socks together before I put them in the hamper. Occasionaly the weave quality degrades at the pin insertion point, but that happens much less frequently than does the laundry monster eating a sock…

  4. posted by Martha on

    It is much easier, in my book, to buy sock sorters. These are little clips you use to attach two socks together. After you take the socks off, you put them in the clip, you wash them that way, they dry that way, and you put them in the drawer that way. They stay sorted! I haven’t had any unmatched socks since buying sock sorters years ago. In the interests of simplicity, they’re easy because they save time sorting, time shopping for new socks every six months, and money replacing socks that might be perfectly fine. You can get them online from the Vermont Country Store and elsewhere. (I am not an agent of the Vermont Country Store in any way!)

  5. posted by Erin on

    Sidney — I tried safety pinning my socks together when I was in college, but that only worked for about two weeks. It was too many steps in the process for me. If everyone in your house can do it, great. If not, the sock purge is an awesome alternative. I love it.

  6. posted by Seattlejo on

    I’ve just broken away from the idea of matching socks exactly. I match them thematically.
    Somedays its two pink socks, somedays its two socks with monkeys.

  7. posted by cbbrowne on

    I daresay I’ve picked up a half-dozen pairs of the pictured “Champion” white+grey sport socks several times over the last couple years. In today’s “casual” offices, they’re perfectly acceptable, and yes, indeed, it’s not so much of a disaster when one goes astray, as eventually a “mate” will disappear, too.

  8. posted by charlene on

    So does this mean 6 pair is a good number of socks to have? I’ve been trying to figure out what is the optimal number of items I should have. How many T-shirts is enough or how many bras? I’ve recently got into the habit of always buying 3 pairs when I find a pair of pants that I like.

  9. posted by Erin on

    Charlene — I have an upcoming post that talks about female and male wardrobe basics. Stay tuned, it answers some of your questions!

  10. posted by jgodsey on

    hey. that was my secret! I order up a dozen pairs every couple of years from OneHanesPlace. (which has those Champion socks)

  11. posted by Kit on

    The idea of periodically throwing out socks en masse sounds appallingly wasteful to me, though I grant that if you have only six pairs (less than a week’s worth?!) you must be wearing and washing them often, and perhaps they do get worn out.

    Another way to keep socks paired in the wash without safety-pin damage is to put them together and then turn down about an inch of the cuff on one sock, enfolding the top of the other sock as well.

    This post and the recent laundry routine post have made me think about different approaches to “uncluttering.” The laundry post advocated having fewer clothes, and this post suggests getting by on less than a week’s worth of socks. To me this seems like chaining oneself to the washing machine. What if that routine gets disrupted? What do you wear then? And do you regularly run less-than-full loads? I prefer the efficiencies of scale in having a good number of multiples of clothing items, especially the basics like socks, undies, and jeans. (Of course, I don’t do anyone’s laundry but my own, so I don’t accumulate a load as fast as if there were multiple contributors.) I’d rather run a couple of full loads once in a while than feel like I have to keep up a constant pace on a laundry treadmill–or feel like if one pair of socks gets wet, for example, I can’t put on a clean pair because there’s not enough elasticity in my weekly clean-sock quota. I guess you could say I’ve chosen to “unclutter” my time rather than my dresser drawers. I might approach this differently if I lived in a place with severely limited clothes-storage space . . .

  12. posted by Kit on

    Erm, sorry, I didn’t realize how long-winded my previous comment was getting.

    I just want to add that although we differ on the philosophy of efficiencies of scale vs. efficiencies of storage, I give a big thumbs-up to the core concept of trying never to own socks that could be mistaken for pairs but aren’t pairs. That is smart.

  13. posted by Mlle. Mitchell on

    this is exactly how I am since I cant be bothered with mitchmatched socks! I’m glad others recognize the genius of this method!

  14. posted by Adam Snider on

    Six pairs of socks is too few for me. I hate clutter, but I hate doing laundry more. If I can get through ten days without doing laundry, instead of six or seven, I’m all for having a couple of extra pairs of socks in the drawer.

    Having said that, I think this is a fairly good idea, overall, but I don’t wear out my socks that quickly, so I’d feel like I was being wasteful to throw them out every six months.

  15. posted by Tom on

    hahaha sock clips you are nuts

    just use permanent marker and mark them as pairs, 1L and 1R (this actually makes them last longer too, at least for me, my toe slant is large and when I used to put them on both feet they’d stretch out for both toes and not last as long or be as comfortable as it would bunch up)

    I have socks that are over 2 years old but still fit and are only barely worn out (i am currently replacing them, but I think 2 years is pretty good reuse value)

  16. posted by Sestos on

    I need to start doing this; intstead of buying pairs of underarmor socks, which I normally lose a few and get two more covered in mud which never comes out. Just buy cheap socks and replace them more often.

  17. posted by Adam on

    I make use of this practice too, discarding socks en masse and starting over. But can I just add that instead of throwing out the used socks, donate them to Goodwill or the Salvation Army? Unless they are totally worn out, someone can put them to good use.

  18. posted by Winston on

    Tried sock sorters but they were unreliable and took too long to thread socks through them, plus they bunched up and sometimes looked weird. Clips and pins took too long.

    So, I bought a tagging gun (uses plastic barbs to attach price tags to clothes, etc) off ebay for $7 and I attach my socks together before I throw them in the hamper. Only takes a sec. Saves me hours of matching. Everyone thinks I’m crazy but it was totally worth it.

  19. posted by Michele on

    Having worked in a facility that serves homeless people, I can tell you sock donations in any condition are always needed and always appreciated. White socks that are in too poor a condition to donate make great cleaning rags when cut open to make a flat piece.

  20. posted by Liz on

    They make greak dust rags, even kept whole. Your whole hand stays clean, and you can feel that you’ve reached everything.

    Myself, however, I cannot stand boring socks. However, at the age of 13 I decided that life was too short to ever have anything but non-matching fun socks. So I purchase fun, silly socks, but all are ankle length (this way, my workplace doesn’t notice my “lack-of-professionalism” – just looks like I’m not wearing any) and *I* know about the hilariously adorable kitty on one foot and the really pretty stripes on the other.

    It makes my work day a little less boring, like I have my own very special secret.

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