How to Get White Socks White Again in 4 Steps

White socks get dirty easily and can be a pain to keep looking bright and new. But with the right techniques, you can get those socks looking like new again. Follow these 4 simple steps to get your white socks white again.

Step 1: Check the Sock Fabric

The first step is to check what fabric your socks are made of. This will determine the best method for whitening them.


Cotton socks can withstand higher water temperatures and bleach, making them the easiest to get white again.

Polyester or Nylon

These synthetic fabrics don’t hold dye as well. They require lower temperature water and non-chlorine bleach.


Wool socks are delicate and require the lowest water temperature and non-bleach methods.

So check the sock tag to see the fabric content. Then you’ll know how hot you can wash them and if bleach can be used.

Step 2: Wash with Detergent

Washing with detergent is the first cleaning step. This alone can remove quite a bit of dirt and discoloration.

Sort Socks by Color

It’s best to sort socks by color before washing. Wash white socks separately from colored socks so dye doesn’t transfer.

Use a Laundry Bag

Placing socks in a mesh laundry bag prevents them from getting lost or damaged in the wash.

Choose the Right Detergent

For cotton socks, any normal laundry detergent will work. For wool or synthetics, use a delicate detergent to prevent damage to fibers.

Wash on Hottest Setting Allowed

Check the sock tag to see the recommended washing temperature. Then wash the socks on the hottest setting allowed for the fabric. The hot water helps loosen and remove stains.

This initial wash with detergent can make a big improvement. But for dingy, discolored socks, additional steps are needed to make them bright white again.

Step 3: Whiten with Bleach

Adding bleach is one of the most effective ways to whiten socks. But you must select the right bleach for the fabric.

Chlorine Bleach for Cotton

Cotton socks can be whitened with chlorine bleach like Clorox. Make sure the sock tag says “bleach” is allowed.

Add 1/2 cup chlorine bleach to the wash cycle with hot water. The chlorine acts as a disinfectant and whitening agent.

Non-Chlorine Bleach for Synthetics and Wool

Non-chlorine bleach like OxiClean must be used for polyester, nylon, and wool socks. It whitens without damaging delicate fibers.

Follow the package directions based on load size. Add it to the wash cycle with warm or cool water depending on the sock fabric.

Bleach can really make dingy socks look bright white again. But some people prefer to avoid chemical bleaches. So natural whitening options are also available.

Step 4: Whiten Naturally

For those wishing to avoid bleach, effective natural whiteners are available.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is a mild abrasive and natural whitener. Add 1/2 cup to the wash cycle.

For extra whitening power, make a paste of 3 parts baking soda to 1 part water. Rub it directly on stains before washing.

Lemon Juice

The citric acid in lemon juice helps remove discoloration and whitens. Add 1/2 cup lemon juice to the wash.

For set-in stains, rub undiluted lemon juice directly on the stain and let sit in the sun before washing.

Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is another common household item that whitens fabrics. Use 1/2 cup in the wash cycle.

Make a paste with baking soda and peroxide and rub on stubborn stains for extra effectiveness.

White Vinegar

The acetic acid in white vinegar acts as a natural bleaching agent. Add 1/2 cup to the washing machine.

For heavily stained socks, soak them in a solution of 1 part vinegar to 3 parts warm water before washing.


Hanging socks outside in direct sunlight helps remove stains and whitens the fabric. Wet the socks and hang them in a sunny spot for 6-8 hours before washing.

Using natural whiteners avoids harsh chemicals but may require more effort to see big whitening results.

Frequently Asked Questions

Still have questions about getting white socks their whitest? Here are answers to some common queries.

Are there products that can whiten socks in the wash?

Yes, there are a few products designed specifically for whitening socks and athletic gear in the washing machine:

  • RIT Dye Remover – Helps remove dyes that cause discoloration
  • Lysol Laundry Sanitizer – Whitens and removes odors
  • OxiClean White Revive – formulated for dingy whites
  • Arm & Hammer Laundry Whitener – Whitening booster

Follow the package instructions carefully for best results.

Can I use chlorine bleach on wool or polyester socks?

No, chlorine bleach should only be used on cotton or other natural fabrics. It can damage or discolor synthetic fibers and wool. For these fabrics, use non-chlorine bleach.

How often can I bleach my white socks?

It’s best to limit bleaching cotton socks to once per month. Frequent bleaching can weaken fibers over time. Non-chlorine bleach is gentler and can be used a few times per month if needed.

What temperature of water should I wash white socks in?

Check the care tag for recommended temperatures. In general:

  • Cotton – Hot 105°F to 140°F
  • Polyester/Nylon – Warm 80°F to 105°F
  • Wool – Cool 60°F to 80°F

Use the hottest temp allowed for max cleaning power.

How can I prevent my white socks from discoloring again quickly?

Wash similar colors together and separate from whites. Wash after each wear and don’t let stains set in. Hang dry socks rather than putting in the dryer. Also, rotate between multiple pairs so each gets less frequent wear and washing.

What is the best drying method to keep white socks bright?

The heat and friction of machine drying can cause white socks to become dingy. It’s best to air dry them. Hang socks outside in direct sunlight or on a clothesline indoors for fresh whites that stay bright longer.


Discolored socks don’t have to be a source of annoyance. Follow these simple tips to get your white socks back to looking like new again:

  • Check sock material and wash care instructions
  • Wash in hottest water allowed with laundry detergent
  • Whiten stubborn stains with chlorine or non-chlorine bleach
  • Use natural whiteners like lemon juice and sunlight
  • Air dry socks rather than machine drying

Keep your socks bright and your laundry routine easy by addressing stains promptly and whitening socks every few weeks. With a little extra attention while washing, you can keep your white socks fresh and clean.

So next time you take off your shoes and notice your white socks are dingy, don’t despair! Just grab the bleach and laundering hacks recommended here to return them to their just-out-of-the-package look again. Keeping white socks white makes getting dressed each day a little brighter!