New Uses for Old Socks and Stockings

November 5, 2011

Credit: Margaret Boyles
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Like me, you probably have a drawer or box where you toss all those socks that emerge from the wash without a mate or with a hole in the toe.

You can count on females in the household contributing tights and nylon stockings with runs.

My box never gets too full, because after decades of practice I’ve mastered the art of finding new uses for them.

I don’t turn them into rugs, quilts, sock puppets, doll clothes, pet outfits, or anything that requires real work. Below, you’ll find a (very) few of my favorites. Please add some of your own.

Old socks

  • Nothing works better for dusting and scrubbing--or gets the job done faster--than slipping both hands into cotton socks and getting to work. Spritz the palms with appropriate cleaning products and use ’em on the floor, the counters, the ceiling fan, the car, the window blinds, the baby, or the dog. Washable, too, and good for many reuses.
  • Unmated socks also make good storage bags, especially for organizing a junk drawer. Use them to store loose extension cords, crayons, pieces from board games and jigsaw puzzles, or to organize toiletries when packing a suitcase. Use a permanent marker to categorize the contents and a rubber band or twist-tie to secure the bag.

  • Hang a sturdy sock from a hook in the kitchen and toss your spare change into it once a week. At the end of the year, add the accumulated change to your emergency savings account or put it towards a special treat--we use ours, usually about $50, to buy some holiday-feast items that wouldn’t otherwise find their way onto our shopping list.
  • As bar soaps shrink to small slivers, collect them in a cotton sock, tie up the end, and use as a soap-in-a-bag for baths and showers.

  • Make a cold or hot pack: Fill a cotton kneesock or tube sock about ⅔ full of dried rice, lentils, beans, corn or other dried seed.Tie it shut with a piece of twine. Place in the freezer for a flexible cold pack.  Microwave for one or two minutes for a hot pack. For a real treat, slip a couple of warm ones under the covers at the foot of your bed to warm up your feet on a chilly night.
  • Winter runners and walking enthusiasts: pull a couple of long wool socks over your lighter-weight gloves at the start of a winter jaunt. If your hands get too warm, pull the socks off and tuck them into your waistband or stuff them up the sleeves of your jacket.

Old tights or nylons

  • Cut off a leg from the knee down, add a measure of rice, barley, or lentils, tie it off loosely to allow for expansion, and toss it into a simmering pot of soup or soup stock. As they cook, the grains or legumes will absorb the flavors of the broth to become the basis for a new dish.
  • A leg or a whole pantyhose makes a good container for stored onions or garlic. Hang it from a hook in a cool, dry place.
  • Sliced into four-inch lengths, the legs of old tights or nylon stockings make good ponytail holders, easy on the hair shaft. Also use them as substitutes for rubber bands.
  • The leg of a nylon stocking works for tying tomato and other tall plants or young trees to a stake. Wrap once around the stem, not too tightly, before tying it to the stake. The soft fabric won’t injure the plant stem, and it will expand as the stem grows in diameter.
  • Use a piece as a filter: Stretch it over the end of a vacuum-cleaner hose and secure with a rubber band to retrieve small objects such as pins, screws, and earrings without sucking them in. Or use it to filter paint, used cooking oil, or other liquids while pouring them from one container to another.

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Margaret Boyles lives in a wood-heated house in central New Hampshire. She grows vegetables, eats weeds, keeps chickens, swims in a backyard pond in summer, snowshoes in the surrounding woods in winter, and commutes by bike whenever possible.

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Comments

Wristies

By Donnarose Russian

Cut off the foot part, and cut a 1 inch hole in the side of the ankle part of the sock, and slip over your wrists and poke your thumbs out the side holes, to keep your wrists and hands warm when you still want your fingers exposed. These are great when painting (either art or house painting), as a handy place to wipe your brush, and steady yourself with your hand against walls when painting. When it's not necessary to wear gloves or mittens outside, these under your jacket or sweater sleeves keep you much warmer. They also provide comfortable wrist support.

Great tip!

By Margaret Boyles

Thanks, Donnarose.

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