Parenting: The Sock Vortex

Wednesday, February 02, 2011
inside dryer

Is a two-year-old capable of helping out with the laundry? The answer at the end of this parenting blog.

In the meantime, a quick story about socks and the laundry, and how they sometimes vanish without a trace.

Just the other day my wife was wondering aloud "why do socks disappear in the dryer?"

That got me thinking too.

Let us trace the journey a sock takes from your dresser drawer (that is, if you keep them in a dresser), to your foot, to the hamper, to the washer, to the dryer and back again. Perhaps we will find a clue here or there.

On second thought, you're probably busy, so let's make this short and get right down to it.

When you are done wearing socks (which is usually after a day) you send them on their way to be washed. You put them in the washing machine with the rest of your clothes. And then you place them with the rest of the load in the dryer.

Sometimes when you empty the dryer machine, one or two socks aren't there anymore. And they never disappear in pairs. Just as singles. Strange.

You stick your head through the dryer door. Maybe you peer in there with a flashlight. Is that sock still sticking to the side? Is there a hole in here large enough to fit a tumbling sock? Did it fall out?

Maybe you also search for evidence of black holes, wormholes, compact teleportation devices, time machines, Michael J. Fox wearing a vest, etc. Hmmm. None of those things in this dryer.

And even if a sock did take some type of cosmic, time-warp journey, where would it end up? Jupiter, like HAL? Another galaxy where socks go to find new pairs (and there would have to be some type of sock singles bar in one of the solar systems there)? Another dimension where socks are not required to serve their master humans and instead are conscious beings who can make decisions of their own ("Hah! I'm not going to cover feet anymore. From now on, I will be a sock puppet!)?

It would be fascinating if it truly was the case that a sock can vanish into thin air and reappear in another corner of the universe, or in some parallel universe where socks are king.

But the explanation has to be much simpler than that.

Because to explain things, I always find the law of Occam's Razor to be quite useful. When you apply Occam's Razor, you search for the simplest explanation to the problem. That is usually the best one.

And the simplest explanation to our problem with missing socks is that static electricity causes socks to cling to other clothes in the dryer. And sometimes they cling to the insides of our garments, whether they are shirts, sweaters or pants. And when they do that, they can escape the dryer hatch unnoticed, hitchhike a trip to another region of your closet, and escape discovery until the next time your wear that other article of clothing.

You're missing a sock? Check your closet. It's in there somewhere.

And let a drum roll a two-year-old capable of helping out with socks and other items involved in the laundry?

Personally, I say yes. It's good to get children going with tasks at an early age.

But don't take my word for it. has some suggestions on age-appropriate laundry room tasks. Here is a link:

See you next week.

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