Since the dawn of humanity, or at least since the invention of socks, this problem has plagued mankind. Why is it that no matter how many socks you have, how careful you are to transfer them directly to the hamper when you take them off, directly to the washer/dryer when they need to be cleaned, directly to the drawer once they are clean, you eventually end up with fewer socks than when you started? Why is there always one single sock that’s a completely different color or pattern or shape than all of the others? I will attempt to address this today, and bring to an end an age of indecision and torment in the human psyche. What follows are a series of theories and explanations. Perhaps you will find your solution in then. I certainly hope so.

Theory #1: Evolution

We’ve certainly all run into the situation where not only have half of some of your matched pairs disappeared, they’ve been replaced with other socks which you’ve never even seen before. Where the hell did this sock with the mauve stripes and the diagonal pleating come from? And what the hell happened to the left (or is it right?) of your favorite socks, the ones with Abraham Lincoln giving Jefferson Davis the finger on them? Why is it that you have six socks with different-colored stripes on them? Evolution, obviously.

Take a look at some of Nature’s weirdest creatures, like your average chameleon or shapeshifter. These guys can change their appearence to fit a new situation. It’s a survival reflex. Long ago, your socks realized that if they continued to match and look like socks, you’d keep wearing them, develop large holes in the heels, and eventually throw them out to live the rest of their lives in obscurity. They don’t want this. They want to be thrown out now, so that they can live out their days at the dump, amongst the old cardigans and G. I. Joes. So they change. They develop new shapes and patterns, ones that they noticed when you left them on the floor next to old Victoria’s Secrets and Soldier of Fortunes. They’re hoping that you’ll say, Feh! I don’t need this sock with the neon-green hatching and the googly eyes at random intervals! and throw them out. But they can only effect this transformation in the presence of water and then heat, which (as everybody knows) are to socks like toxic waste in old movies is to people.

Defensive tactics:

The only really good ones is to wash your socks by hand, one at a time, to ensure that they don’t change while you’re not looking. Make sure to air-dry them in a prominent location. What you’re relying on here is the fact that socks are extremely shy and will not shapeshift in the presence of humans.

Theory #2: Sock gnomes

You guys know gnomes. The little bastards are only dependable for one thing, and that’s mischief. Gnomes are like a tiny version of the Mafia: they insinuate themselves into everything, usually without the general populace knowing. Here’s the general routine for a sock gnome:

  1. At Gnome Central, locate your washer and dryer on the GSC (gnomish supercomputer).
  2. Using advanced technology and the RFID tags previously placed into your socks at the factory by RFID gnomes, who are also everywhere, the gnomes pick out socks that look appealing and will sell for much money.
  3. Select some tools. Popular choices are grappling hooks, crowbars, and squeaky shoes.
  4. Hop in the Gnomemobile and drive to your house.
  5. Sneak in through a window, making sure to knock out dogs and/or small children with tranquilizer darts. These are removed once the gnomes are inside — they wouldn’t want people to find the darts and analyze the tranquilizers, as gnomes are also years ahead with their chemistry.
  6. Using the backdoors built into your washer and dryer by backdoor gnomes at the factory, enter the machine.
  7. Make away with socks, making sure not to take too many of the same kind — wouldn’t want to make prices fall by flooding the market with Abe Lincoln socks. Gnomes are also economics geniuses.
  8. Sell the socks, either on eBay or through the sock black market.
  9. Buy crack cocaine and Huey Lewis and the News albums. Have a fun evening.

Defensive tactics:

Set out gnome traps around your home. Clever as gnomes are, they cannot resist getting a new hat or perhaps a little blow. Bait the traps accordingly, but make sure to conceal them well. Another option is find the backdoor in your dryer and reëngineer it such that it isn’t openable from the inside. Make sure to leave a snack in the dryer; gnomes bite viciously if they haven’t had a snack in a while should you free them without the aid of very strong gloves.

Theory #3: Wormholes

It’s a well-known fact that wormholes connect many locations in space and time. What’s not well known is that dryers in particular are very good at starting wormholes. Eventually, minute enthalpic fluctuations will cause one of these to open up and fling your socks, say, six hundred years into the past. It’s thought that one of the reasons that Chaucer never finished The Canterbury Tales is that he was suddenly crushed to death by several thousand socks dropping out of his ceiling, and that his family subsequently covered up the incident, attributing his death to natural causes.

Defensive tactics:

Really, there’s nothing that you can do. Wormholes are just a fact of life. You could try following the solution to theory #1, but you’re still left with the fact that your jackass roommate will include your socks with his when he goes to put his clothes in the dryer, thinking himself to be some sort of altruist. You can also check hardware stores for an anti-wormholing kit, but these aren’t stocked at many stores because setup requires about six years of graduate-level physics as well as first aid certification. If your local hardware store does stock them, it’ll probably be next to the aluminum foil hats and phaser batteries.

Theory #4: Dark magic

As recorded in the Cthulhu documentaries, many years ago, the crazed Arab necromancer Abdul al-Hazred, in addition to compiling the Necronomicon, set into motion a number of foul magical spells, many of which still rage and swirl around today. These include the spell that makes expensive mechanical pencils jam during examinations and other inopportune times, the spell that makes people cut you off in heavy traffic, and the spell of sock redistribution.

Invoked by intoning (in ancient Hebrew) the words ani lo gar b’yam, ani gar al-gag, the spell causes evil whirlpools to form at the bottoms of clothes hampers and swap socks with a whirlpool in a different location. The spell relies on there being a number of these open, so al-Hazred made sure to have a number of crazed Arab apprentices toiling day and night repeating the spell for about a week, at which time al-Hazred discovered in a crazed Arab fit that he was himself missing socks. He ordered his apprentices to stop chanting, but it was too late. They’d already opened enough whirlpools and left enough potential ones floating around in the aether to make sure that socks would be redistributed for thousands of years to come. In a fury, al-Hazred rent his crazed Arab beard, as well as the skulls of several of his apprentices.

Defensive tactics:

Get yourself a copy of the Necronomicon and read chapters 5-9, skipping chapter 8 (Baking Delicious Cakes using the Blood of Shub-Niggurath). You should be able to cobble together enough foul, ancient spells to build a defensive grid at the bottom of your hamper. Think of it as a Faraday cage for your soul, and you’ll be on the completely wrong track, but at the very least you’ll be thinking in weird ways, which is always a good place to get started when working with fell magic.

Theory #5: Communism

I’ve seen it, you’ve seen it, we’ve all seen it. Kids these days are corrupted by their hip-hops and their Segways and their late-night television. Communism is a silent menace, creeping into their heads like a muskrat in the night. One day, they’ll be partaking in nice American activities, like the ice cream sociable, the sock hop, and beating their girlfriend, and the next they’ll be part of an underground vodka smuggling ring.

Communism has three central tenets, laid out by the self-appointed Comrade Marx more than two hundred years ago. These are:

Because they’ve been thoroughly brainwashed by those evil Red bastards, Commie kids will most likely begin breaking into people’s houses and stealing socks. They believe that stealing enough socks will cause Capitalism to crumble, to be replaced by a perfect society where everybody wears sandals without socks, plays the guitar, and smokes a lot of marijuana. This is quite possibly the most insidious threat to American socks that we’ve seen in the past century. If you’re not scared now, just wait until your kid comes home and announces that it’s wrong for the top 1% to control 99% of the world’s money. That’s evil crazy talk, and must be stopped.

Defensive tactics:

Making sure that your kid grows up in a communism-free environment is getting harder and harder. It’s important to make a start by either home-schooling your kid or sending him to an exclusive private school. Just make sure that at the first sign of Commie thought being taught to him, you storm into the school and demand the resignation of everybody involved. Threaten to stop paying that endowment that you started when your child matriculated. Hopefully they’ll fire Comrade Badvalues and your child can get back to getting a good education. Also, you should tightly control what forms of entertainment your child is exposed to. No music written by foreigners is a good start. Also, make sure that video games and movies should only be about wars that benefit the United States. World War II games are on the list of banned titles, as they often portray Red Commies as being on the same side as America. This is a historical inaccuracy that (unfortunately) no amount of complaining to the game companies will fix.

Theory #6: Schröedinger

Many people know the story of Schröedinger and his cat. What they don’t realize is that Schröedinger was not just trying to make a point about the irrelevancy of applying quantum-mechanical theora to a macroscopic context, he was also setting an important precedent for the disappearance of other objects. Consider the following:

  • Cars — when you go shopping, as soon as you leave the parking lot, the waveform for your car collapses. This is to say, your car simultaneously has been stolen, has been moved over three spots by car-moving gnomes, and has been pimped out by MTV.
  • Children — watch out when you put your child in a daycare center! While you go to work, your daughter is neither alive nor dead (which is to say, she’s both). So don’t be surprised if you come back to the daycare center and find that you’re now the proud father of a zombie!
  • SocksSchröedinger’s Special Theory of Socks stipulates that not only do socks in a washing machine exist in all possible states for socks, but they also exist in all possible states for other objects. Theoretically, you have a jumbo jet, the remaining members of Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, and Friends, the Lindbergh baby, and God knows what else floating around in your washing machine. It’s not really that difficult how to understand that if you suddenly leap into the washing room and yell “Boo!”, the ur-laundry will suddenly have to resolve itself into socks. Which means that some of your socks will get it wrong, as the universe can be kind of slow on the uptake sometimes. So don’t be surprised when in addition to suddenly missing socks, you also have three of some socks (of which you had two only a few hours previous) and some unidentifiable objects. This is why so many theoretical physicists are also raging alcoholics.

Defensive tactics:

You know what they say — if you don’t like the weather, move. Current theory stipulates that there are probably 26 dimensions — why not consider relocating to one in the upper teens if you care enough about socks? Another option is constructing a time machine, going back to the early- to mid-twentieth century and killing Schröedinger so that he never gets the chance to invent his crazy theories and throw everything out of whack.


There are many possibilities for where socks go, but most of them are crazy. This is due to the fact that just as an old sweater takes on the shape of the person who wears it, the world that we live in takes on the shape of our craziness. We live in a world of gnomes, dark magic, crazed Arab physicists, and, of course, socks. Even if we could figure out a way to prevent socks from disappearing, would we really want to? Silliness is the spice of life.

If you really are having trouble with socks disappearing, and want some sort of easy solution, you should really check out, home of the sockscription.

Sock disappearance is an oft-cited and poorly understood phenomenon. The various explanations offered demonstrate the extent of ignorance on the subject. For all the talk of gnomes and wormholes, the explanation is really quite simple.

One of the first purchases for anyone owning or renting a reasonably sized home or condominium is a washer and dryer set. Once these appliances are in the house, you must connect them to the "hookups" before use. The washing machine is fairly straightforward: a faucet each for hot and cold respectively, and a drain pipe. But the dryer, not only do you have to plug it in, there is also a mysterious large duct you must connect your dryer to by use of a flexible tube. You don't ask why, you don't investigate, you just do it, dutifully.

Well, the hot air's got to go somewhere, hasn't it? Do you honestly believe drying your clothes requires the who-knows-how-many cubic feet per minute of air that would require a 6" tube? Besides being an exhaust pipe, it's also a secret conduit for sock transportation!

Now, before you go and yank that hose right out, consider that the government has already done its homework here. You must use the duct, you have no choice. If you don't, you will fill your home with dust and the horrible smell of fabric softener! I just want you to be aware of what's going on. Inside your wall is a pipe that goes down, straight down to a collection tube that runs under your neighborhood and eventually to a regional incinerator that destroys the socks sucked from your dryer.

Why would they do such a horrible thing? Well, it started way back when, at the time of the invention of the electrical clothes dryer. Intelligence elements within the government recognized the chance to carry out psy-ops on every single American as the device approached ubiquity. It was relatively easy to pull off, as they had intimate dealings with large manufacturers like General Electric. The operation was such a success that it is still alive to this day. By stealing people's socks, the CIA is able to create an insidious sense of instability in the populace, thereby maintaining control of the people with ease.

So now you know. Knowledge is power, and with this understanding you can resist the evil plans of the government. I hope I have set your mind at ease, free from the anxiety of just not knowing. Of course it's still a pain to have to keep buying new socks, but at least you have your freedom. If you would rather not know, I'm sorry. Once you find out the truth, you can never go back.

Because the ability of socks to disappear seems to be of major concern in the world, I decided to conduct a set of experiments to conclusively prove how socks manage this feat.

I decided to focus on testing previously mentioned theories. To do this, I established environments where every phase of the cleaning cycle could be monitored without interrupting the process itself. I have been by bitten by the observer effect in the past. Specifically, when I decided to track the color of the underwear a schoolgirl who lives down the street from me wore so that I could accurately predict the day's color and be sure to have matching socks so I would have a convenient "in" for conversation. Well, she spotted the surveillance camera and told her father, who told the police and yada yada yada, now I have to put out a sign on Halloween saying "NO CANDY". But I digress.

The first theory I tested was Evolution.

Because the most basic sock is a dye-free cotton, I decided to start with a batch of 20 dye-free cotton socks. After 15 wash/dry cycles, I still had 20 dye-free cotton socks. Either this theory was bogus or I was missing something.

I reread the evolution theory and noticed it mentioned that the socks needed to be exposed to visual stimuli so as to (presumably) give them something to aspire to. I went to the mall and obtained a Soldier of Fortune magazine and then went to my bathroom to obtain a Victoria's Secret catalog.

I then mixed the socks together with the magazines and left them on the floor. A week later, I was reminded of my experiment while watching a commercial for pantyhose and immediately began searching through the various piles of magazines and clothing that constitute the bulk of my apartment's floorspace. After several minutes I found the 20 dye-free cotton socks and ran them through 15 more wash/dry cycles.

Net result: 20 dye-free cotton socks.

Conclusion: Evolution theory is unfounded



  The next theory I tested was Sock Gnomes.

In analyzing the documentation provided on the tactics of Sock Gnomes I determined that the best way to verify their existence was by either monitoring their access to the back door of my appliances or by monitoring their entry point into my home. I spent nearly 3 hours searching for the backdoor on my washing machine and failed to locate it so I decided on catching them at a window.

I live in an apartment with only 4 windows - 2 in my bedroom, a sliding glass patio door and the little door peephole. I decided to board over my bedroom windows and patio door to eliminate entry via those portals and I enlarged my door peephole to a two-foot diameter porthole.

I then proceeded to kick through the piles of magazines and clothing on my floors until a couple of hats came to the surface. I placed the hats beneath my new door porthole in the hopes that they would serve to funnel the gnomes into the area I had placed powerful night vision security cameras and RFID signal detectors.

I then initiated the wash sequence and fell into a deep sleep during which I dreamed I won a Nobel prize.

I woke up the next morning and ran to my dryer to count the socks and for a split second I felt an elation I hadn't experienced since the first time I got to second base. ALL THE SOCKS WERE GONE! I had just begun the mad dash to check my camera footage when I realized that the socks were probably still in the washing machine. Yep. That is when I began to wonder why there is an alarm on the dryer but not the washer. Isn't it much worse to have soggy clothes in the morning than it is to have wrinkled but dry clothes?

 I transferred the clothes to the dryer and went through the motions of reviewing my security cam footage while I waited for the coffee to finish.

Net result: 20 dye-free cotton socks

Conclusion: No Sock Gnomes



  Just as I was about to test the theory of Wormholes, I realized that I needed to do an actual load of laundry. I didn't want the effort to be wasted so I made the load of laundry part of my experiments. I decided to do a load of laundry that consisted of the 20 dye-free cotton socks, the 3 t-shirts I have that still fit, my single pair of blue jeans and all of the underwear that I could see from my coffee machine. Since I was out of laundry detergent, I just added the fabric softener that my ex-wife left me a couple of years ago. The lid just managed to close.

When the wash was over (actually about 2 hours after the wash was over - I missed it because the washer doesn't have a buzzer), I transferred the clothes to the dryer and all 20 dye-free cotton socks were accounted for.

When the dryer buzzer went off an hour later, I put down my X-Box 360 controller and sighed because I knew my experiments were nearly complete and I would not win a Nobel prize. I went through the motions of counting the dye-free cotton socks and was perplexed when the count was complete and only 19 dye-free cotton socks were present. What's this? I initiated an immediate recount. My thoughts were racing. 17..18...19..... THERE WERE ONLY 19 DYE-FREE COTTON SOCKS. I stumbled through the clothing and magazines on the floor in a mad rush to verify that my windows were still securely boarded up. I checked my RFID detectors. Nothing. Silent and steady. So where did the sock go?

Flash forward 2 days. The sock was in my blue jeans. No doubt hurled there by the centripetal forces within the dryer. I also found a black sock in the narrow space between my washer and the wall.

I have a competing theory for where socks go. It is similar to the magician trick that is available online where the website asks you to focus on a card from a selection of 5 cards and then instructs you to click the button when you are ready. When you click the button, you are taken to another page where your card is missing. Magic? Not at all. Because you were so focused on what your card was, you never notice that second page contains 4 new cards - none of which appeared on the first page. And I think that missing socks are a lot like this.

What I am about to tell you may endanger my own life.

There are a lot of theories as to what happens to odd socks that don't come out of the laundry. Malicious gremlins, spontaneous existence failure, and inadvertant shrinkage to microscopic levels have all been proposed, with varying acceptance. Some people cite the fact that putting all your socks in a sealed cloth bag apparently prevents them from going missing as evidence for either the "quantum indeterminacy" or the "human carelessness" hypotheses. All of these theories are wrong however, for I have learned the shocking truth. Exposing it publically may well be the only great achievement of my life, and I am sorry to say it is likely to be my last. But the world deserves to know.

You, dear noder, deserve to know.

You probably believe your washing machine functions by filling a giant bucket with water from the mains, optionally heated, and swooshing your laundry around in it until all the dirt comes out. You've probably never really given this process much thought beyond how long it seems to take and how much it seems to put on your electricity bill. You may even have tried washing your clothes by hand, and if you're the observant type you may have puzzled over how your clothes never seem to come out as clean when you do it this way, despite using the same detergent, the same hot water, and hands that are in theory considerably more effective at agitation.

The answer is that washing machines do not function this way. The noise, the vibration, and the wet clothes are just a cover story to conceal the true mechanism: a tame black hole! The laundry goes into the basket, and the black hole is moved upward to just underneath it; the dirt is them violently sucked out through the little holes, which acts as a sort of sieve. Occasionally, dye particles can get sucked out too, or into other pieces of clothing below them. You've probably already leaped ahead to the conclusion that socks can get sucked through the little holes; in fact any of the smaller items of clothing can slip through under the tremendous gravitational pull. Socks just get missed more often because they come in pairs! You've probably lost more than a few knickers/boxers this way as well, but what kind of sad sack counts their knickers? The reason bagging the socks keeps them from going missing is because a whole bag of clothes won't fit through the little holes, even when pulled very hard. You may also have noticed that big, thick woolen socks go missing less often as well - same reason. It may further explain why you occasionally find socks in your laundry that aren't even yours, but I'm not an expert in black hole physics so I can't comment, and my source was silent on this issue...

But surely this is a ridiculous notion? What could the motivation for washing machine manufacturers possibly be to keep this a secret? The answer, it pains me terribly to say, is a conspiracy! You see, black hole washing machines don't actually consume any more electricity than it takes to power the fake vibration unit and the Sloshing Simulation Module (SSM) - certainly not the kilowatts of power that end up on your electricity bill. The reason you're still charged for it is the electricity companies know you don't know how your washing machine really work. The cable at the back - you know, the big thick special cable only washing machines use - is actually a direct communication line to them - they bill you for the amount you would have used if it were a "traditional" washing machine, and get away with it too! This is why it's still a secret, and it's no surprise profit is at the bottom of it.

You're probably wondering how I found all this out. I can't tell you, to protect the innocent scientist who was clever enough to deduce all this, and courageous enough to tell me (envoy to the internet's most trusted repository of knowledge) in spite of the risk of further terrible retribution (for he has already suffered terribly at the hands of the shadowy powers at the nexus of this conspiracy - full body paralysis is not an easy thing to live with). After all, there aren't many black hole physicists in the world, and if I divulged too much information it could probably be deduced who he was.

All of this applies only to top loaders by the way.

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