5 Reasons Why White Socks Turn Brown (Plus Fix)

Any pair of socks are hard to keep clean at the best of times, but especially if they are white in colour. Every bit of dirt shows on the sock and you can’t hide it! But why do white socks turn brown?

Here Are 5 Reasons Why White Socks Do Turn Brown:

There are some obvious and some un obvious reasons why white socks turn brown, this includes:
Dirt within the shoe causing discolouration and brown marks
The soles of your shoes are rubbing and causing marks on the sock
Dead skin cells are coming from your feet leaving brown marks
Washing your white socks with other colours can cause stains or marks
Mud getting into your sock on bad weather days

If you are having trouble with white socks and keeping them clean we have listed all of the reasons below as to why socks do turn brown, and some wonderful solutions for you to keep your socks clean and whiter and brighter. Thanks for reading.

Reasons Why White Socks Turn Brown

White socks are a wardrobe staple for the majority of people, but it can be tricky to keep them in their original condition! Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to notice your white socks turning brown over time, especially because there are several things that could be responsible for this staining.


One of the most likely reasons for your white socks turning brown is the dirt that accumulates every single time you wear them. Even if your floors haven’t long been cleaned, it’s impossible to avoid even the smallest specks of dirt because dirt particles cling onto fabric materials and build up very quickly. If enough dirt builds up, it will show itself as brown marks on your socks and give them a dirty appearance.

White socks are probably the worst offenders for showing brown stains because they are so light that even a little dirt is instantly noticeable. This will mostly be reserved to the soles of your socks because they are the parts that make direct contact with the floor. However, if you are walking around in white socks on dirtier surfaces, you might also notice brown marks spreading further up the material, and the bigger the stains, the trickier they might be to get rid of.

Dead Skin Cells From Feet

The dead skin cells on your feet can be annoying at the best of times, but they are also one potential cause of brown marks on your white socks. Though the dead skin itself is harmless, when it is trapped in your socks with heat and moisture all day, bacteria can become trapped. These bacteria multiply as they consume the dead skin cells, and this can leave sweaty, smelly and dirty marks on your socks.

Having your feet trapped inside socks and shoes all day is often unavoidable, but it is one of the leading causes of foot odours and sock stains. Even worse, the friction of your soles rubbing against your socks and shoes all day can make dead skin peel more, speeding up the process. The more that dead skin cells and bacteria build up inside your white socks, the more that it will show as staining on the outside.

Soles Of Shoes Are Leaving Marks On Socks

Regularly cleaning the soles of your shoes is not something that occurs to us often, but it is an easy way to prevent them from leaving marks on your socks. Just like your socks, the insides of your shoes also build up sweat, odour and bacteria from being worn all day, so it’s essential that you take some time to properly clean them when you can. If not, any dirty marks that have built up on the soles of your shoes will transfer onto your white socks as soon as you start to move around in them.

If you’re only noticing brown marks on your socks when you take your shoes off then it’s safe to assume that the soles of your shoes are to blame, especially if you are also noticing an odour coming from them. Luckily, this is a problem that can be easily solved by cleaning out your shoes on a regular basis to protect your socks from staining. You should try to do this with every pair of shoes that you own because odours and stain-causing bacteria can linger for a long time on shoe soles.


Mud more commonly accumulates on shoes rather than socks, but it can also cause brown marks on your white socks if it gets in contact with them. For example, if you’re wearing shoes that expose your socks then mud can easily get onto them. If your shoes aren’t properly protective, have holes in them or have run-down soles, things like rainwater and mud are also likely to get at your socks that way.

Mud can be a pain to remove from your clothes as well because it cakes onto them thickly and then dries, forming a hard, crusty mark. This will instantly cause your white socks to turn brown, especially if the mud gets smeared across them while still wet, such as if it is inside your shoes. However, if you get cleaning your socks as soon as possible, mud shouldn’t leave any long-lasting brown stains on them.

Washing White Socks With Colours

Lots of people are guilty of mixing whites, colours and darks while washing laundry, but this can greatly impact the colour and condition of your whites. Like any other white garment, white socks can absorb darker colours when the darker garments bleed during the wash. As a result, they can start to develop a brown colour that ruins the look of them, and this can be very difficult to restore once it has happened.

One reason why it’s important to separate your whites from other, darker colours in the washing machine is that whites should typically be washed on a higher heat because it removes dirt and stains more effectively. However, a higher temperature makes colours and darks more likely to bleed, which will ruin any white socks that are also in the machine. To preserve the colour of your white socks, don’t mix laundry loads because the risk of colours merging is always there.

Best Ways to Keep Your White Socks Bright and White

Exfoliate Your Feet

Just as you’ll want to keep your socks as clean as possible, you should also focus on keeping your feet as clean as possible. And even if your feet aren’t dirty, regularly exfoliating them is an easy way to keep on top of the dead skin problem. Scrubbing the dead skin cells off your feet before you put your socks on will help to get rid of them, but you’ll need to keep doing it as the dead skin returns.

Even better, the less dead skin cells on your feet, the less likely it is that bacteria will build up inside your socks and shoes. This is a win-win for both your socks and shoes because it will keep them looking cleaner and smelling fresher for longer, with minimised staining on your socks and shoe soles. And your feet will also benefit from feeling less hot and sweaty in your socks, too.

Wash Your White Socks With Whites

As previously stated, you should never mix laundry loads together because different coloured garments require different things. If you want to keep your white socks in optimal condition, wash them with other white garments and use a hot enough heat to remove any dirt or dust that could cause stains. Hot water will ensure bright whites and leave your socks feeling perfectly soft.

You could also consider using a small mesh laundry bag for your white socks because this will stop them from getting stuck anywhere in the machine. Sometimes, socks can get trapped in areas of the machine and accumulate dirt or fuzz, so a mesh bag will prevent this from happening. But the main thing that your socks need to stay white and fresh is regular soaks in the washing machine with other white garments.

White Vinegar Soak

White vinegar has lots of handy uses, and creating a soak for your socks is one of them. Sometimes, even a cycle in the washing machine isn’t enough to scrub pesky brown stains out of white socks, so a further soak in a stronger liquid is needed. The acidic properties of white vinegar work to break down dirt and grime and leave your whites looking whiter than ever!

All you need to do is boil a bowl of water, tip in a cup of white vinegar and leave your socks to soak in this mixture overnight. By morning, you should see a noticeable difference in how white and bright your socks are, with any hard-to-remove stains either completely gone or drastically reduced. Then, you’ll just need to wash your socks in the washing machine to get rid of the lingering smell of vinegar before you wear them again.

50/50 Mix Of Warm Water And Hydrogen Peroxide

Just like with the vinegar soak, a 50/50 mix of warm water and hydrogen peroxide can also be used to shift brown stains and whiten your socks again. All you need to do is add half a cup of hydrogen peroxide to half a cup of warm water and then leave your socks to soak for 30-60 minutes. This should be enough time to lift the brown marks from the fabric.

Again, you’ll need to give them a spin in the washing machine afterwards to make them smell clean and fresh, but the stains will be gone. For the best results, use hydrogen peroxide 3%, which can be found online or in some chemists and stores. You might find that it will come in handy for other purposes too, once your white socks have been brightened up again!

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