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This photo solves the mystery of where missing socks go — and it's crazy

This goes deeper than we knew.
Is this where all the single socks end up?
Is your washing machine the culprit?Getty Images stock
/ Source: TODAY

Is this where the sock monster lives?!

A photo that's going viral on Twitter may reveal what actually happens to socks that disappear in the laundry — and hungry washing machines are the culprit.

Twitter user Sarah Rose posted this photo of a washing machine overflowing with socks from its bottom compartment.

This was a commercial washing machine in the laundry room of a mobile home park, according to Cathy Hinz, who originally posted the photo on Bored Panda.

“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,” Hinz wrote in her post. “To his shock, this is what he found.

“For those of you that swear your machine eats your small things … here is the proof!” she added.

But could a washing machine really eat that many socks?

It’s absolutely possible, says James Darmstadt, a quality engineer at GE Appliances. In the case pictured, he says the socks most likely slipped through a hole in the gasket — that thick, rubber ring on front-loading washers that creates a tight seal when the door closes.

Washing machine
Innocent washing machine ... or sock-eating monster?Courtesy James Darmstadt/ GE Appliances

When the machine is spinning at very high speeds, socks could slip through a hole or slit in the gasket and get trapped in the space below the metal washing basket.

It’s rare to see such an extreme case, though.

“The problem is likely years in the making,” Darmstadt told TODAY Home in an email. “Clearly, this washing machine is in a high-usage situation.”

Still, Darmstadt says the same thing can happen on a smaller scale with in-home machines. He recommends regularly checking and cleaning the rubber door gasket on front-loading washers.

“While cleaning, feel the surface and look for any tears or holes,” he said. “Tears, slits, holes would be bad. This could lead to disappearing socks as well as water leaks.”

Washing machine
If you have a front-loading washer like this one, check the rubber gasket for small holes or tears. Courtesy James Darmstadt/ GE Appliances

But don’t put all the blame on front-loading washers. Top-loading machines can be sock death traps as well.

“Clothing could ‘walk’ to the outer edge … and land in the dead space between the tub and the side metal walls,” Darmstadt said. “Those socks may never be seen again.”

In a top-load washer, socks can slip between the basket and the machine's outer wall ... never to be seen again.
In a top-load washer, socks can slip between the basket and the machine's outer wall ... never to be seen again. Courtesy James Darmstadt/ GE Appliances

To spare socks this unspeakable fate, don’t cram too many clothes into one load, says Wayne Archer, a Sears Home Services appliance repair expert.

“You can save your socks from the jaws of a top-load washer by not overloading it,” he told TODAY Home in an email. “Correct loading actually solves a lot of problems, like laundry not getting clean or banging noises during the spin cycle.”

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And what about dryers?

“Dryers usually follow a sock-free diet,” Archer said, “unless you forget to reinstall the lint screen. If the lint screen at the bottom of the door is missing or damaged, socks or other small items can find their way into the exhaust pipe.”

Luckily, there are some ways to keep sock casualties to a minimum while doing laundry.

“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,” Darnstadt said. “The intent is to catch things such as baby socks, coins, pet hair (and) earrings before they go into the drain pump.”

If those small items slip through, it could damage the pump and need professional support. “It is often a simple five-minute task to access the drain pump filter, clean out and replace,” he explained.

Here’s a video guide from GE Appliances on cleaning out the filter of a front-loading washer.

When in any doubt, consult a professional.

“If your front-load washer doesn’t have a drain pump access door, it’s often safer to have a service technician check the washer and recover eaten socks,” Archer told TODAY. “If you decide to DIY by taking apart the washer, be safe by unplugging the washer first and turning off the water supply.”

Of course, home appliances aren’t always to blame for missing socks.

“Socks can fall between or behind your washer or dryer, or you can lose the sock before it reaches the laundry room,” Archer said.

As for how socks vanish before they reach the laundry room? That one will remain a mystery for the ages.

This article was originally published on May 3, 2018.