VIDEO: Scientists unravel the mystery of why socks go missing

Scientists have unravelled the mystery of why socks go missing - and developed a formula to predict the chances of socks straying.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 25th April 2016, 9:43 pm
Updated Monday, 25th April 2016, 10:47 pm
Scientists have finally got to the bottom of why socks goes missing
Scientists have finally got to the bottom of why socks goes missing

Created by Psychologist Dr Simon Moore and leading statistician Dr Geoff Ellis, the algorithm, titled the ‘sock loss index’ is: (L(p x f)+C(t x s))-(P x A)

It takes a variety of sock-related factors into account - including volume of laundry, number of people in the household, type of wash (darks, whites) and amount of socks washed.

Degree of attention to the wash - such as checking pockets and unrolling socks - is also part of the complex calculation, along with how much someone loves or hates doing a wash.

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Scientists have finally got to the bottom of why socks goes missing

The study of 2000 people, commissioned by Samsung to launch its new AddWash washing machine, found Brits lose 84 million socks every month - costing the nation an estimated £2 billion a year.

The survey found socks are lost for a host of reasons including the way washing loads are divided-up by colour and temperature of the wash - and the number of socks in each cycle.

Through interviews, researchers were able to pinpoint the common causes of sock loss - including items falling behind radiators or under furniture without anyone realising.

Stray items being added to the wrong coloured wash and becoming separated from its matching sock also featured.

Scientists have finally got to the bottom of why socks goes missing

Socks not being secured to a washing line securely causing them to fall off and blow away was identified too, along with carelessly pairing them up post wash.

Of those surveyed, on average 1.3 socks are lost each month - about 15 every year.

With the average Brit living to 81, according to ONS figures, this is a loss of 1264 socks per person during their lifetime - costing them an estimated £2528 each.

Coloured socks make up the majority of missing socks (55%), compared to other types (including white and patterned items) which make up the remainder.

The average household does 2.45 washes per week which amounts to 127.4 washes per year.

People in the Midlands suffer the highest incidence of sock loss, admitting that 1.64 socks go missing each month - almost 20 socks a year.

More than a sixth of those surveyed said doing the laundry was a waste of their valuable time.

Men said they do two washes each week and women do slightly more, carrying out three loads over the same period.

About a fifth said one of their biggest anxieties about washing is colours running.

Indeed seven in 10 women said they find doing a wash stressful - compared to three in five men.


Sock loss index= (L+C)-(P x A)

The higher the figure, the higher the likelihood of losing socks. For the truly diligent, this formula can also be adapted to work out the probability of losing a sock in a single week by using a calibrated version using statistical modelling software which adds constants as follows:

Prob= 0.38+(0.005 x L)+(0.0012 x C)-(0.0159 x P x A)


L = Laundry size

Calculated by multiplying the number of people in the household (p) with the frequency of washes in a week (f)

C = Washing complexity

Calculated by adding how many types of wash (t) households do in a week (darks + whites) and multiplying that by the number of socks washed in a week (s)

P = The positivity towards doing laundry

Measured on a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 being ‘Strongly dislike doing clothes washing’ to 5 which represents ‘Strongly enjoy doing clothes washing’

A = Degree of Attention

Which is the sum how many of these things you do at the start of each wash check pockets, unroll sleeves, turn clothes the right way and unrolling socks