One of life’s inevitabilities is that a pair of socks will become half a pair of socks. Over the years there have been a multitude of explanations of where socks could possibly go. From sock pilfering gnomes, to socks partying up a storm on an island in another realm and even being abducted by aliens, the theories have been wild. Sock disappearance is such a popular topic that typing “Where do missing” into Google is auto-completed as, “Where do missing socks go?”.

To solve this mystery, Samsung in the UK commissioned a study. It yielded surprising findings.

In a survey of 2 000 Brits involving face-to-face interviews, it was concluded that socks go missing for the following reasons:

– Washing loads are too confusing. Dividing washing into batches with varying laundering prerequisites, as well as the number of socks in each batch, increases the likelihood of socks disappearing.

– Practical reasons such as falling behind furniture, falling from washing lines, being blown away by the wind, and being carelessly paired up.

The researchers came up with an intriguing formula, the sock loss index, that measures the likelihood of losing a sock each week. The higher the index, the higher the likelihood that a sock will go missing. The formula is (L+C)-(PxA)3, where:

L = Laundry size
Calculated by multiplying the number of people in the household (p) by the frequency of clothing being washed (f).

C = Washing complexity
Calculated by multiplying the total laundry batches being washed (t), eg delicates, by the number of socks washed in a week (s).

P = Laundry positivity
The positivity toward doing laundry is measured on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being “strongly dislike” and 5 being “strongly enjoy”.

A = Degree of attention
The sum of how many of the following are done before the start of each wash: checking pockets, unrolling sleeves, turning clothes the right way and unrolling socks.

The study also found that the average Brit loses 1 264 socks in his or her lifetime, costing more than R50 000). This culminates in a national sock loss of more than 84 million single socks.

Source: Samsung