Making use of old socks

June 24th, 2007
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A wave of nostalgia struck me when shopping for socks the other day; memories from my childhood of my mother darning socks that had holes in them. Aside from that memory, I can’t remember the last time I’ve heard of anyone darning or patching socks. I guess it’s because of the price of socks these days – the ones I bought were just over a dollar a pair.

It’s great they are so cheap, but the materials socks are made from these days aren’t particularly environmentally friendly, usually being a polyester and cotton mix. Polyester is a product made from crude oil and mainstream cotton production requires enormous amounts of water and pesticides. Added to that, because of the polyester content, when you throw a sock away, it takes many years to break down in the environment.

I get through about 7 pairs of socks a year I guess, so over my lifetime, that translates to hundreds of pairs of castoff socks – now multiple that by millions of people doing the same and it amounts to a huge pile.

Given this waste, we need to do more with our old socks rather than trashing them; so here’s a few tips:

- I use them as cleaning and polishing rags. They can be particularly handy in hard to clean areas such as blinds and under appliances by slipping your hand into the sock and using it that way.

- Good as whyteboard erasers

- The elasticity makes them great for tying up trees to stakes. After a storm, a couple of small trees in our yard went askew and I used a couple of old long socks to set them straight again. 6 months later and the socks are still holding up to the weight.

- Use them as shoe protectors when storing shoes or traveling

- Outdoor soap on a rope. Probably not the most presentable idea for the home, but great for the shed and garden. Put a bar of soap into a long sock and tie it to an outside tap. After working in the garden, run water over the sock/soap bag, rub it and it will lather up. Great for removing grease from hands!

- Long socks can be cut at the ankle and used as leg or arm warmers

- Have problems with odd socks? It’s a well known fact that washing machines and driers steal them. Keep plain colored odd socks in good condition to one side and no doubt over time you’ll get some matching pairs.

- Place delicates in them before washing instead of using a delicates bag

- Tie a few together to use as a pull toy for your dog

- When painting, slip an old sock over your shoes to prevent paid from splattering them.

- Socks can be used on some dryers as lint catchers – save money on buying lint bags

- There’s all sorts of toys you can make from old socks, including the popular sock puppet enjoyed by generators of young kids. Here’s a couple of other toy ideas – sock monkey – sock doll

- Use as insulation for cans and bottles of cold drinks – also helps to soak up condensation on can or bottle

- Handwarmers and fingerless mittens. Cut off the toes and cut a slit for your thumbs.

- If you have babies just learning to crawl, cut the toes off (the sock of course) and slip the sock tube over your baby’s knees to help protect them.

- Fill up old long socks with sand or rice, sew the end and use as door snakes to prevent drafts.

- Keep a couple of old socks hand to use as gloves when needing to reach into yucky areas

To get more from a pair of socks, I buy the same style and color. As socks tend to wear unevenly and you’ll often end up with a good one and a bad one and by buying the same type, you’ll wind up with spares that you can pair.

By the way, who said that wearing matching socks was law?  Throw caution to the wind and make a fashion and consumption statement by wearing unmatched socks!

Do you have a handy tips for ways to use old socks? Please add them below!

By the way, if you’re looking to buy socks that are more environmentally friendly – organic cotton and hemp blends are worth checking into. They are a good deal more expensive, but better wearing from what I’ve read.


Michael Bloch
Green Living Tips.com
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