Got holey socks, or odd socks that have lost their partner? Don’t bin them! Here are 20 clever uses for old socks – from crafts to cleaning and more – so that you sock it to textile waste.
Socks are one of the most hard-working yet overlooked items in our wardrobes. We wear them until they literally fall to bits, but we put very little thought into them.
If your socks develop holes that can’t be mended or repaired, or you have a mounting collection of odd socks that have irretrievably lost their partner (seriously, just where do socks go?!) then don’t bin them.
Textile waste is a massive problem. And even that old holey pair of socks or that partnerless sock contributes to this huge issue. The BBC reports that globally around 92 million tonnes of textiles waste is created each year – the majority of which is either dumped into landfill or burned. That’s equivalent to a rubbish truck full of clothes ending up in landfill every second.
To help reduce your textile waste, instead, you can find clever ways to reuse your old socks. I’ve got over 20 ideas to get you started!
20 Clever Uses For Old Socks
Old socks may have been traditionally used for stuffing your bra with, but I promise I’ve some much better uses than that! It goes without saying that in all cases use clean socks. Your socks might be holey but it’s always best to wash them first before repurposing them!
1. For Dusting, Cleaning & Polishing
Old socks work great for cleaning, dusting and polishing your household surfaces. Simply pop the sock on your hand, much like a mitten or glove, and wipe. I find old fuzzy socks are especially good at attracting dust.
You can also use your favourite cleaning spray in conjunction with the sock to clean objects – particularly small ornaments. Or use a natural furniture polish on a sock to buff and shine your wooden furniture to perfection.
2. Stuffing Draft Excluders, Cushions Or Soft Toys
If you’ve built up quite the collection of holey or partnerless socks, then another good idea is to use them to stuff draft excluders, cushions or soft toys that need a little extra padding.
Rather than using whole socks for stuffing soft objects, cut the socks into small pieces and use them as stuffing. Whole socks can form large lumps, that aren’t so comfortable or can cause unsightly bulges in your creations.
3. As Hair Ties
Did you know that you can use old socks to make hair ties?
It’s true! Simply snip the toes off of your old socks, and then cut the socks straight across into roughly 1-inch thick rings. No sewing is required. You can use these straight away to tie back your hair without ever having to buy new hair ties again!
4. Use Old Socks To Remove Nail Polish
Instead of using disposal cotton rounds to remove your nail polish, turn to your old (clean!) socks. It’s another one of these great uses for old socks.
All you have to do is saturate a section of your old sock with nail polish remover and then wipe to remove your old polish without any waste. You can even chop your old socks into squares or rounds. Store these in a jar for all your nail care needs.
5. Use To Pad Wire Coat Hangers
Most of us have the odd wire coat hanger in our wardrobes. However, these wire hangers are not so great for our clothes. They lack the support that many heavier types of clothing need. This means that depending on the clothing type, these hangers may leave an indentation on your clothing.
Rather than binning your clothes hangers, you can use old socks to create a soft padded hanger that protects your clothes. Follow this handy tutorial from Tilly & The Buttons – substituting the wadding for your old sock.
6. Use To Protect Fragile Items In Storage
Another great use for old socks is to protect fragile items in storage. Whether you are moving house, and need to protect your ornaments or wine glasses. Or perhaps for after Christmas, to protect any glass baubles before popping them back in the loft.
Simply pop a sock on them, or around them and you can protect your breakables without needing to buy any plastic bubble wrap.
7. Use Old Socks To Remove Cobwebs
Cobwebs on your ceiling are easily tackled with old socks. Simply pop a sock on the end of a broom or mop (the handle end), and swipe down any cobwebs. Wash the sock, and you’re good to go again next time spiders start making a home on your ceiling!
8. Use Old Socks To Wipe Your Floor
There’s no need to buy disposable floor wipes to dust your hard floor. Pop an old fluffy sock over a flat mop head, and swish around the floor to remove any dust, dirt and hair. Remove the sock when you’re done and wash it so that it’s ready for next time.
9. Use To Remove Dust From Your Houseplants
When a layer of dust settles on a plant’s leaves, this reduces the sunlight it can absorb. This in turn interferes with the plant’s ability to photosynthesise – the process by which plants use sunlight to absorb nutrients from carbon dioxide and water.
To help keep your plants healthy and happy, it’s important to dust them regularly. And, you’ve probably guessed it by not – you can dust the leaves of your plants with an old sock. Just pop the sock on your hand, like a mitten, and dust gently. This method works particularly well for plants with textured leaves that don’t lend themselves to cleaning very well.
10. Use An Old Sock To Make A Sock Bun
No, I’m not suggesting that you eat your old socks! A sock bun is when you make a bun in your hair, using an old sock that’s hidden away inside the bun to provide the illusion of volume. This is especially useful if your hair isn’t long enough to create a full-looking bun.
Hair styling is not my strong point, so I’ll leave it to Emily from The Freckled Fox to show you how to create the perfect sock bun. All you need is one old sock in a shade close to your own hair colour and you’re good to go!
11. Deodorise Your Shoes
One of my favourite uses for old socks is to deodorise my shoes and slippers. This works best on socks that don’t have any holes, so keep this particular task for your odd sock collection.
Simply half-fill two odd socks with bicarbonate of soda. You can also optionally add 3 drops of your favourite essential oil to each sock for an added scent boost. Secure the ends of the sock with a hair tie or elastic band or similar so that the bicarbonate of soda won’t spill out. Then pop a sock in each shoe to freshen and deodorise even the stinkiest of shoes.
Leave the sock in at least overnight to leave your slippers and shoes smelling fresh come morning time. You can then reuse the socks for up to around 3 months before needing to refresh the bicarbonate of soda if the socks don’t need washing before then.
12. Make A Reusable Heat Pad For Muscle Or Period Pain
In a similar manner, old socks can also be used to make a reusable heat pad for helping to alleviate muscle or period pain.
Again, this one is another job for your odd sock collection rather than your holey socks. All you need to do is fill your sock around halfway with dried rice or dried oats. Add a few drops of lavender oil, and then sew the top of the sock shut.
To use, heat the pad in the microwave in 30-second intervals until it’s warm, not hot. I find it’s best to add a small microwavable cup of water alongside the pad in the microwave to prevent the sock from burning. Alternatively, you can slightly dampen the sock before heating it. Either way, it’s best to stay beside the microwave, so you can ensure it doesn’t burn.
13. Use To Clean Venetian Blinds
If you have slatted Venetian blinds then you are in luck – old socks can be used to clean these easily and effectively. Simply pop the sock on, like a mitten, and swipe your hand across each slat to remove any dust. Old fuzzy socks are the best for this job, but a regular sock will do if that’s what you have to hand.
14. Make Dog Toys
I haven’t met a dog yet that doesn’t love chewing on a sock. Knot two together tightly and you’ve got a chew toy that will provide hours of fun. Alternatively, pop a tennis ball in an old sock, and knot the end for another variation.
15. Use To Season Cast Iron Pans
Keep your cast iron pans in tip-top nonstick shape using a humble holey sock!
Take a clean sock and rub your clean and dry cast iron pan all over with vegetable oil. Then take your sock, and thoroughly buff the pan so it no longer looks even a tiny bit greasy. Serious Eats then recommends popping your pan in the oven for 30 minutes and then repeating the process three or four times, to create a natural non-stick coating.
16. Use Old Socks In Your Garage Or Shed
Old socks are incredibly handy to keep in a basket in your garage or shed. There are myriad uses for old socks here. From cleaning bike chains to a rag for when you need to check your car’s oil level, to cleaning paint brushes, socks can do it all!
17. Buff And Shine Shoes
Want shoes so shiny that you can see your face in them? Turn to your socks.
After brushing off any dirt, apply a little polish to your shoes and rub in the shoe polish in small circular motions. Allow the polish to dry, before applying an additional layer, if required. Brush off any excess polish, and then buff with a sock in a brisk side-to-side manner to leave them super shiny.
18. Apply Stains, Waxes Or Polishes To Wooden Items
Wooden utensils and chopping boards often need a little love, in the form of wood polish, to keep them at their best. Old socks are perfect for this job. Simply add a little polish to your sock, and buff the polish into your wooden items to maintain their smooth and glossy look.
19. Use Old Socks As An Ice-Pack Cover
If you or your kid needs an ice pack, then you can pop a sock cover on it to avoid the ice from burning your skin. Slip on an old sock over the pack, and you’ve got a cover that won’t come off easily.
20. As A Cat Toy
Finally, in my last of the uses for old socks, did you know you can use your old socks as a cat toy? Fill a sock with around a third of catnip, and stuff another sock inside. Knot the end, and you’ve got a toy your cat will adore (as long as it likes catnip!).
Can You Compost Old Socks?
Old socks generally cannot be composted, unless they are made from 100% natural fibres using natural dyes.
The problem is that most socks contain a small amount of plastic – such as nylon, lycra, or elastane – for comfort and stretch. The inclusion of these stretchy materials helps to stop your socks from falling down or from cutting into your ankles. Convenience comes at a cost though – these will break down into microplastics if you try to compost them.
If you are certain that your socks are made from 100% natural fibres and natural dyes, then chop them up in little bits and pop them in your composter. It will take some time for them to fully decompose, but you will eventually be able to use your compost in your garden.
If you are in need of new socks, then check out my guide to ethical socks. And check out my guide to recycling bras if you’re currently having a clear-out of your smalls. Meanwhile, my post on what to do with old clothes that cannot be donated might be useful for wardrobe clearouts.
If you have any other uses for old socks then do let us know in the comments below! We’d love to hear them!