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How to hand wash socks

Most of my winter socks are ones that I’ve knit myself. Many of them require hand-washing. It’s not hard… I’ll show you how. But first, let’s tackle some basic sock care questions and I’ll give you a little advice.

Sock Care FAQs

Do I really have to hand wash my socks? Check the label of the yarn you used. If the yarn says ‘hand wash only’, then… well, you need to wash your socks by hand. If your socks are made with machine washable yarn, then it’s up to you (read below for one reason you may opt to hand wash socks that are fit for the machine).

What happens if I put socks in the machine that should be washed by hand? They will felt, meaning that they will shrink and not be nice, lovely socks anymore.

tutorial on hand washing socks

How do you remember which socks need hand washing? The truth is, every once in a while, you won’t remember. Big oopsie. That’s why I recommend treating all of your socks as needing hand washing (see below).

Do I need a sock blocker? A sock blocker is a device that will shape your socks as they’re drying to look nice and pretty. I own one from Knit Picks, and use it for socks that I’m going to photograph for the blog. I don’t ever block socks just so they look nice in my sock drawer. I say skip it, unless you’re doing a photo shoot.

Separate your socks!

I’m going to give you my personal advice. Put all of your hand-knit socks in a separate basket from your clothes when dirty. And pretend that all of your socks need to be hand washed.

hand knitted socks

Why? If you don’t, one of two things is bound to happen:

  • Someone in your family will spontaneously do some laundry… and not know that they should pick out the socks for hand washing. This turns a wonderfully thoughtful gesture into ruined socks.
  • You will think that a particular pair of socks was knitted with hand washable yarn… and throw it in the machine. This will also result in ruined socks.

So don’t risk it. Make a habit of making a separate pile for hand-knit socks, and wash them by hand when you’re down to only one clean pair left.

How to hand wash socks

Hand washing gets such a bad rap… and I’m not sure why! It’s not that hard.

Gather your socks. Fill your sink with lukewarm water.

hand washing wool socks

Pour some Wool-wash (Eucalan is lovely and contains a natural moth-repellant) into the water as directed on the label.

Using Eucalan wool wash to wash socks

Be sure to look for a wash intended for hand washing, as these are intended to care for wool fibers and also do not need to be rinsed out. Contrary to its name, Woolite is a detergent and is terrible for wool. Spend the extra money for a real wool wash… you only use the tiniest bit for each wash and a bottle will last a long time.

Now, plop your socks into the sink, and press down so that they are fully submerged.

step by step tutorial on how to wash socks by hand

Leave for about 15 minutes.

That’s all! They’re clean! Squeeze each sock, getting out as much water as you can without wringing:

squeezing hand wash socks without wringing

Don’t get too disgusted by the icky-color of water that might come out… don’t forget, they’re socks!

Lay flat on a towel to dry.

When they’re dry, re-stock your sock drawer!

tutorial on how to hand wash socks

That’s not so hard, right?

If hand washing sounds like a nightmare to you, then I highly recommend that you knit all of your socks with machine washable yarn. Otherwise, your socks will wind up sitting in your drawer like an obscure antique, and who wants that?!?

But, if the siren song of the oh-so-delicious hand wash only indie dyed yarn sings to you… go for it! Hand washing isn’t so bad!


  1. Rae SAYS...

    It looks like you washed your tan pair of socks along with the more colorful….but it does not look like the colored ones faded onto the tan ones. Is that something to worry about? I usually use machine wash yarns, but have just begun using hand wash yarns, they always look so nice on other people’s items. Thanks, Rae

    • That’s such a great question, Rae!
      The first time I wash an item (usually when I’m blocking it), I wash it alone to see if any color comes out of the yarn. With hand-dyed yarn, color appearing in the water often happens. However, after the first wash, the water should run clear.

      Once no more dye comes out, you should feel free to mix your socks 🙂

  2. I’m a beginning crocheted. A retired elementary teacher, mother of 6, and grandmother of 15, I am now bedridden. I have been an avid sewer and quilter all my life and always trying out various hobbies. I stumbled across crochet tutorials on You Tube. This is something I could do in bed. Creating is extremely important to me. I have really enjoyed your blob, your attitude about life, and your projects. I want to try making animals next. My grandchildren will love them, probably more than the hats, afghans, scarfs,etc. I’ve made them. I love your sites. I’ve learned a lot already. I’m going to sign up for all that I can. Keep up your great work.

    • Thanks so much, Judith! Crocheting is very compact, so it’s perfect for doing in bed! So happy you’ve found me 🙂

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  4. But do you turn the socks inside out before washing?

    • Anonymous SAYS...

      I dont think there’s a need, I never do.

  5. Cathleen SAYS...

    Thank you so much for making a task that seemed daunting into something quite simple!