Can You Wash Socks With Underwear?

If your approach to laundry is to feed the washer with various clothes, you’re like most people. However, when you wash your socks with your underwear, you create nooks and crannies for bacteria to thrive.

You can’t wash your socks with your underwear. Although laundry detergent and hot water kill off some bad bacteria, you do more harm than good when you wash these items together. You’re compiling bacteria, creating more bacterial growth, and contaminating your dirty laundry further. 

The rest of this article will further discuss the control bacteria has over your undergarments and why washing socks with underwear is not recommended. I’ll also discuss the best practices when washing socks and underwear so you can keep your drawers and hose as clean as possible. 

Can You Wash Socks With Underwear? 

Technically, you can wash your socks with underwear, but it’s not recommended. Think about everything your socks pick up from walking around. You’ve got dust, dirt, and pet hair. 

If you ever wear shoes in the house, you’re tracking in bacteria from outside, which will also wind up on your socks. Your socks are essentially as dirty as a floor mop. 

So, what about your underwear? Sweat and oil build up throughout the day, and all that nastiness goes directly into your laundry bin. 

Once you’ve placed your dirty socks into the washer, it’s easy for the crud on your socks to clog your machine’s drainage system. 

As you can read about here, even vacuums get clogged with debris. Why would your washer act any differently? When you mix your dirty socks and underwear in the wash, you clog up the machinery to some extent and only achieve a mediocre clean. 

Why You Should Wash Your Dirty Socks and Underwear ASAP 

All of that grossness isn’t even the worst part. What happens when the day is over, and you toss your clothes into the laundry bin? Your laundry sits until it’s laundry day, and by then, you’ve created a bacterial stew. 

Yeah, you’re adding bacteria to your dirty laundry. In the best-case scenario, you wash your clothes immediately, and that’s probably unlikely.

If you were to do so, however, you would avoid significantly more microbial madness than if you were to wash your socks with your underwear. 

Ultimately, no law prevents you from washing socks and underwear together, but now that you’ve read the fine print, please don’t do it. 

Should You Use Fabric Softener Underwear?

You should not use fabric softener on your underwear. Even though it smells good and softens clothing, it damages cloth fibers. It never thoroughly rinses out, leaving damp, perfumed smudges that irritate the skin and shorten the lifespan of your underwear. 

If an area stays wet for a while, mold may grow, and this is true not only for your underwear fabrics but even for resilient materials such as carpet fibers. Check out this article to learn more about replacing damp carpeting at least every seven years to avoid mold. 

How To Achieve the Fabric Softener Scent Without the Damaging Effects

To achieve the pleasant scent of fabric softener without the damaging effects of the product, an alternative solution is to add two to four drops of your favorite essential oil to a wool dryer ball

The dryer ball will disperse the scent as your underwear dries without coating the fabric and irritating your skin. 

Here’s a helpful YouTube video on using wool dryer balls and essential oils to mimic the scent of fabric softener:

Can You Wash Socks Bundled Together?

You can wash socks bundled together, but it’s not recommended. Your socks won’t achieve a deep enough clean to stay sanitary. Folds in bundled socks retain dirt and debris, even when you wash them.

Why Washing Bundled Socks Is Unsanitary

In a nutshell, here’s why washing bundled socks isn’t ideal: 

  • The least clean part of the sock (the area where your feet rest) can only get clean if you unfold the top of the sock (the part covering your ankle or higher) before washing.
  • As folded socks are washed, the water soaks into the folded areas, and those areas stay wet.
  • Folded sections also take longer to dry, leaving ample time for bacteria and mildew to develop. 

Do You Wash Socks Inside Out?

You do wash socks inside out, especially if you want to ensure they get clean. The inside of your socks is where bacteria, sweat, and oil gather, so washing your socks inside out allows the hot water and soap to clean these regions efficiently. 

Pro Tip: If you’re washing a load of white socks alone, you can add laundry bleach to eradicate bacteria. If you’re curious about the effectiveness of bleach, check out this article for more info about bleach as a cleaning agent. 

Hot or Cold Wash for Underwear? 

Hot water is best for washing underwear. It can eliminate bacteria in ways that cold water cannot. Dirty underwear harbors bacteria that can spread to anything else you’re washing in the same load; this is another reason not to mix your socks and underwear in the wash.

Many swear by cold water to preserve clothing color vibrancy and reduce the consequential wear and tear that occurs over time with machine washing and drying. It’s also the go-to method if you’re unsure of the best laundry instructions for your sensitive fabrics. 

However, preservation is not the top priority when washing your underwear – ensuring they’re clean is.

The Journal of Infection determined that clean underwear may contain between 0.1 to 10 grams (.003 to 0.35 oz) of feces. Hot water can be more effective at eliminating that grossness, so if you want cleanliness, turn up the water temperature. 


There’s no way to wash your socks and underwear for a 100% clean. After all, our world is a metropolis of germs and bacteria. 

The good news is that you can only see bacteria under a microscope, so unless you’re dealing with something like mold, you’re unlikely to notice anything. The best you can do is avoid washing your socks with your underwear, separate your whites if you feel fancy, and get on with your life.