You're Not Losing Your Mind: Your Washer Might Actually Be Eating Socks

by Christina Marfice
Originally Published: 
Sarah Rose/Twitter

It’s not just an old wives’ tale that socks disappear in the wash

It’s just too easy to lose individual socks. They’re small enough to get under beds and behind dressers, to be stolen by pets, to be pulled off in the car after soccer practice and lost under a seat until a shop vac signals their unfortunate end. We know they get lost, but we also know it’s just an old wives’ tale that they get eaten by the washing machine. Or is it?

A viral tweet has revealed the truth behind the sock monster that lives in the washer: It actually exists (sort of).

Sarah Rose got that photo from Bored Panda, where it was originally posted by Cathy Hinz, who explained in her post that that was a commercial washer in the laundry room of a mobile home park.

“Today, my husband got tired of fooling with one of the washing machines that was just not working properly and decided to take it apart, starting with the bottom panel,” she wrote. “To his shock, this is what he found. For those of you that swear your machine eats your small things … here is the proof!”

Vindication for kids (and moms) everywhere! We don’t just suck at keeping track of our socks. They’re actually getting lost in the wash. How many of us are going to be taking that front panel off our washers today to investigate?

To get to the bottom of this, TODAY spoke with James Darmstadt, a quality engineer at GE Appliances. According to Darmstadt, this was a pretty extreme case, but it’s entirely possible for your washing machine to eat your socks like this if the gasket — the thick rubber ring that creates the seal around the door — is damaged. It happens during the spin cycle; when things get moving in there at high speeds, the centrifugal force can push socks through holes or slits in the gasket. Technically, any clothing item can get “eaten,” but socks are most likely because they’re small enough to squeeze through small openings. You can check your gasket for any damage, and call an appliance repair company if you think this might be responsible for missing socks in your house.

And here’s another surprise: Most front-loading washers come with a filter attached to the drain pump that may also be housing some socks — and other things.

“On many front- and top-load washing machines today, there is a filter or basket that is a part of the drain pump assembly. This should be cleaned by the consumer,” Darmstadt said. “It is often a simple five-minute task to access the drain pump filter, clean out and replace.”

For those of us who had no idea this was a thing (*author raises hand*), GE has a helpful video showing you what to do to recover all those little things that your washer may have eaten over the years.

Removing that front panel like in the viral Twitter pic, though, Darmstadt warned, should be left to a professional. And while this proves the washing machine is probably actually eating your socks, leave the dryer out of this — it’s really unlikely that it’s also housing a sock monster, unless you run it without replacing the lint screen first.

Now that you know where all those socks have (possibly) been going, don’t tell the kids. The last thing they need is an ironclad excuse for losing more socks.

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