There are few things more tragic than the development of a hole in the toe of your favorite sock, or a visit by the laundry gnomes that leaves a healthy sock mateless after a round of washing. Some of us throw away socks that aren’t fit for wearing anymore, while others hoard them “just in case,” but there’s actually another solution.
In fact, a whole lot of solutions, because old socks are far from useless. You can give them a new lease on life and you might be surprised by the myriad of ways to employ an old sock around the house.
Socks make excellent cleaning tools—for basic cleaning, slip a sock over your hand and use it as a duster. You can also use cleaning fluid if you want a more thorough wipe-down. Socks are terrific for applying furniture polish, and they can be washed and reused. A bag of old socks can also be useful for cleaning around the shop or garage.
A sock attached to the end of a rod or ruler can make a useful cleaning stick to get behind hard-to-reach areas in the house, while socks also make a great rag for wiping down cars, bikes, and other equipment without scratching the finish. Fabric squares cut from old socks can also be used to shield hardwood floors from heavy wooden furniture; stick a chunk of sock under the leg so it won’t create gouges.
Leather items like shoes, socks, saddles, and purses can also be given a sock cleaning. A clean, dry sock with soap or polish can be worn over the hand or held between the hands for a nonabrasive rubdown and an even application. Socks can also be useful for applying waterproofing. When you’re done, buff with another clean sock, and throw the used socks in the laundry for another round of leather care in the future.
Old socks can be handy for personal care. Try sticking a bar of soap in a sock to create a soap-holder and body-scrubber in one; you can do the same with soap slivers, if you have a number of them sitting around. Socks filled with rice (yet another great way to use rice around the house), beans, or another grain can be heated in the microwave to make a hot pack, or chilled to make a cold pack. Stick a tennis ball in the end of a sock to make a foot or back massager, or use old socks for overnight moisturizing; apply a thick layer of moisturizing cream or oil and slide a sock over it so it will have time to soak in while you sleep.
Pets like them too. Stuff worn and unwashed socks that smell like you to comfort pets when you’re away from home or they have to go to the vet. For a quickie cat toy, you can stuff an old sock with catnip; if you want, you can add a bell or squeaker for stimulating noise. Dogs enjoy chew toys made from tying old socks together or tying a used ball inside a sock.
Assuming socks are mostly intact, they can be useful for storing and wrapping small items. Things like jacks, marbles, tacks, screws, and other supplies can be kept in socks to make sure they don’t end up all over the house, but remember to attach a tag to the outside so you can remember what’s inside! Socks are also handy for keeping cables under control, especially in luggage, and they can be used to protect breakable items like glassware when you’re moving or traveling.
The distinctive shape of old socks makes them ideal bottle covers. You can use a sock over the bottom of a hot or cold bottle or glass to insulate it and prevent condensation on furniture. With hot beverages, sock covers can also help prevent burns.
When all else fails, there’s always hand puppets!
s.e. smith writes about San Francisco area carpentry and home maintenance issues for Networx.