How to get your socks clean in 4 minutes

Once in a while I run out of clean socks and need to get them clean again quickly.

Like today when I was stuck at the airport of Doha for another 24 hours after I had missed my connecting flight. Luggage is gone, and I am stranded with nothing but the socks I am wearing. And they started to smell.

Here is the trick how I got my socks clean again in less than 5 minutes:

I went to a bathroom, in this case the shower room of the lounge. But any sink works.

You do not need any special detergent for cotton. Any soap does a good job, and shampoo is perfect.


The physics of getting dirt and smell out of clothes tells us that you need:

  1. Heat (in the water). The hotter, the better.
  2. Physical movement (of the dirty stuff). The more, the better.
  3. Time. The longer, the better.

You can understand the cleaning process as a formula:

clean = [heat] x [movement] x [time]

The larger the result of the multiplication of the three, the cleaner your socks get. And you can compensate some of each of them with more of the other.

A washing machine may use water hotter than your hands can stand. And it definitely takes much more time (usually 30 to 90 minutes). So you can only compensate both by real good movement.


Meaning you have to manually rub the socks against each other for 2 -3 minutes. Or even use them like gloves and then rub their bottom parts (which are the dirty parts) against each other with your hands inside. This method is a much more effective movement than the soft and random rotation of a washing machine. And this is how you compensate for a good result.


Now you have dissolved the dirt and smell with the shampoo, but both is still in the socks. So give it a good rinse. And another one. And another one. Until nothing but clear water runs out.

Twist the socks much as you can. To will get them 1/3 dry.

Two more steps, and you are done:

To get your socks 2/3 dry, use a dry towel. Put it on the floor and place your socks nicely on top. Make them as wide as possible to enlarge the wet surface that gets in touch with the dry towel.


Now roll the towel until the socks are fully rolled in.


And now apply pressure.


For me that works best if I stand on the rolled towel.


Let your weight work on the least surface of your feet. In other words: stand on your heels, and now stand on one heel only. This gives the most pressure to the towel. Make sure that all parts of the towel get that pressure, from far left to far right.

Rotate the towel around its axis for 90 degrees. And repeat.

Now your cotton socks are 2/3 dry. And if your socks are made of a synthetic material you may even be done already.

But cotton soaks much water per weight (this is why we like cotton towels so much), and it does not let the water go easily (this is another reason for cotton towels).

Since we fought cotton with cotton, we are not fully done yet.

My last step: get a hair dryer, pull the socks over its opening – and now apply full power!


Make sure that the sock does not block the dryer from working. Otherwise it will overheat. You can either test this by putting your other hand over (just a part) of the inlet filter on the opposite side. If you feel the air streaming into the dryer, everything is fine. Or you test whether enough air is getting through the socks. You can actually feel the humidity getting blown out.

If not, you can try to pull the sock longer. This makes the mesh a bit larger and lets the air through more easily.

The hair dryer will gently inflate the sock, and the hot air will evenly leave the sock and take all humidity out.


After just 30 or 60 seconds your sock is dry.

Well, almost dry. Since the very upper part will still be 1/3 wet. That bit, that was pulled over the dryer. But that does not bother you and will quickly dry when wearing them.


In my case the whole procedure took me 4 – 5 minutes. And now my socks don’t smell any more and I feel much more comfortable sitting in the lounge without shoes again and writing this blogpost.