How to wash waterproof socks: a quick guide

Washing socks in a basin
We walk you through how to wash waterproof socks to avoid damaging them and losing their water repellency (Image credit: Evgeniy Skripnichenko)

So you’ve finally got yourself a pair of waterproof socks for hiking and been walking in the wetlands without so much as a drop of moisture making its way inside your hiking boots. You’re probably feeling quite pleased with yourself – after all, you’ve managed to get around soggy feet even when you’re wearing hiking shoes with mesh panels, which means you’ve probably cut way down on  blisters, and it's all without having to stop and put on gaiters every time you have to cross a creek.

But after a few saturated saunters, your socks are probably in need of a bit of a refresh, and you’re no doubt asking yourself a common question: how do you wash garments that don’t absorb any water? Won’t it just repel any moisture and accompanying soap like the anti graffiti wall in The Naked Gun?

Well, it won’t quite be that dramatic, but you are correct that your socks’ robust waterproofing means you need to take special care when cleaning them. Just follow our quick guide to how to wash waterproof socks and your feet will be feeling fresh on the trail again in no time. 

EDZ waterproof socks being tested under a tap

Won’t your waterproof socks just repel any moisture and accompanying soap like the anti graffiti wall in The Naked Gun? (Image credit: Julia Clarke)

 Can you machine wash waterproof socks? 

There are some waterproof socks out there that suggest washing your socks in the machine on a gentle or wool cycle at a low temperature. However, there’s a whole camp of hikers and runners who argue that your waterproof socks really shouldn’t ever see the inside of a washing machine, which can degrade the waterproof lining or treatment, and shrink your waterproof socks. If you’re determined to use the machine, definitely follow the care instructions and use as cool a temperature as possible. However, we recommend washing and drying yours by hand, following the instructions below. 

A person starting a washing mahine

There are some waterproof socks out there that suggest washing your socks in the machine on a gentle or wool cycle at a low temperature (Image credit: Westend61)

How to wash waterproof socks 

Your waterproof socks will repel water, but they won’t repel dirt. If they have a nice, moisture-wicking lining, they’ll be steadily absorbing sweat from your feet while you walk, and because they’re made using synthetic materials (at least partially), they’ll get stinky after a few wears. First, always turn your waterproof socks inside out when you get home and let them air out. When they are starting to get really ripe, follow these steps to keep the inner lining of your socks odor-free and wash off any dirt the outers have picked up from the trail or the insides of your shoes. 

1. Prepare some soap and water 

Either grab a basin or head to the sink and fill it with lukewarm water. Add a little gentle dish soap, delicate hand wash detergent or gear cleaner, and have a cloth at hand. 

2. Hand wash your socks 

Dip the cloth in the soapy water and use it to wipe the outsides of your socks and remove any dirt. Next, turn your socks inside out and submerge them in the water. If they’re really grimy, let them soak for 5-10 minutes, then use your hands to gently rub the insides of the socks. Keeping your socks inside out, run them under lukewarm water to rinse off the soap. 

3. Dry your socks 

Don’t toss your socks in the dryer or lay them out on a warm radiator as this can also damage the waterproofing. Instead, keep them inside out and lay them out flat on a drying rack until they are completely dry. 

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.