The Single Sock Dilemma

unmatched socksI have finally come to the conclusion that my washing machine eats socks!! Really, it does! In figurative terms, by ‘eat’ I mean that some of these socks have somehow been sucked out with the dirty water. Not sure how this happens. Do you think water treatment plants come into contact with lots of lonely socks? My curiosity got the better of me as I was writing this, and of course, I took a quick break from this article and searched on Google to see if I could substantiate my theory.

I found a 2008 article from the Southeastern Missourian Newspaper describing where the water goes at the Cape Girardeau water plant, located in a small town about 125 miles southeast of St. Louis.

The force of the 5.5 million gallons of water used in Cape Girardeau daily carries rocks and other debris that have fallen through sewer grates all the way to the plant. As the murky liquid pours into the plant’s headworks, a screen holds back rocks and grit, sending them to buckets, which move along a chain and are emptied into a six-cubic-yard bin. Another screen sends piles of paper, cloth and nylon to a second bin.
According to Jim Baylor who has worked at Cape Girardeau’s wastewater treatment plant for 30 years and is now chief operator:
“You know how socks disappear in a load of wash? This is where they go,” … pointing to what he calls “the rags.”

This is where truly laundered money goes, too. “But I’m not looking for it,” [says Baylor] laughing.

Anyway, now that I have ascertained that my washer certainly does eat our socks, the question becomes – what to do with the unmatched socks that I have in my laundry room? For too many months, I would keep the single socks in a basket in the laundry room, hoping to find a match. Sometimes, I would match a navy sock with a black one, and hope that my kids or husband would not notice. As far as I know, they never did as not one has ever brought up a mismatch. When enough time had gone by, with additional socks being eaten each week, and the number of only socks piling up and spilling out of the basket, I would reluctantly throw them in the trash.

But good news for those of you who like to reuse everything and live waste-free! I have recently discovered several places that will take single socks (as well as unusable, ripped or worn-out clothing). Both the larger Salvation Army and Goodwill stores will accept clothing textiles for recycling; just check with the store in your area first. The Village of Highland Park also accepts single socks and other textiles.

My natural curiosity drove me to find out what is done with these ‘unwearable’ items. According to Chicago Textile Recycling:

Clothing that is damaged is recycled into wiping rags. Clothing and textiles not suitable for wiping purposes are processed back into fibers that are then remanufactured into paper, yarn, insulation, carpet padding, sound proofing [and more].

Are you interested in what happens to all your clothing donations? Taken from the same source:

  • 45% are worn as second hand clothing
  • 30% are recycled into wiping cloths
  • 15% are reprocessed into fibers, and
  • only 5% are unusable, yet this number continues to shrink.

So get with the program! I now have a bag to collect single socks, as well as ripped and unusable clothing. When it gets full, I take it to the Highland Park drop-off box. Through my research for this post I have also learned not to lose socks in the first place; I am now placing them in a small mesh laundry bag which goes into the washer with the rest of the clothes. Perhaps I will save some money by hanging onto our paired socks longer, at least until they develop some holes.

Help reduce our carbon footprint and do the same!

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