If it feels like you have more single socks than matching pairs, you’re in good company. According to a study from Samsung, the average person loses approximately 15 socks per year. That means you’ll say goodbye to about 1,264 socks over the course of your lifetime. And while losing socks is an inevitability in life, where those missing socks end up has been a complete mystery—until now, that is.
Cathy Hinz, who’s a property manager with her husband in California, made a crack in the curious case of the suspiciously vanishing socks recently. In an article published on Bored Panda, Hinz revealed that her husband made a surprising discovery after removing the bottom front panel on a dryer: dozens of socks, pairs of underwear, and even a credit card. (When he took out the machine’s water pump, he also found nearly $7 in change—cha-ching!)
But this still doesn’t answer everyone’s most pressing question: How are single socks slipping through the cracks and winding up where they don’t belong? Well, according to Ed Christie, owner of New York-based Christie’s Appliance Repair, you can thank overloading your machine for all those mate-less socks.
“When I see socks outside the dryer drum, that’s usually the result of overloading, and it’s forcing socks into areas where they’re not supposed to be,” says Christie. They tend to wind up in the lint filter area, between the dryer’s drum and cabinet, or in the exhaust duct at the back of the dryer.
“The dryer drum is a cylinder and it has a felt seal on the rear and a felt seal on the front,” Christie explains. “The socks are making their way past the felt seal and that’s how they get out.”
But there is some bad news: Christie says that “there’s nothing you can do to correct that problem” on a mechanical level in a relatively new machine with its parts intact. That’s because these minor gaps in the dryer are necessary to maintain the drum’s mobility.
However, you can have a professional check your machine’s bearings and change its seals if they’re worn out. “But if they’re not worn out, it’s overloading that’s the problem,” and there’s unfortunately nothing you can do to your machine, he says.
That doesn’t mean you have to settle for a lifetime of mismatched socks, however. There’s still an inexpensive solution to your wandering sock woes that may be relatively obvious. “Use a garment bag so that small items, like socks, don’t get separated outside the drum,” notes Christie. It’s as simple as that! And for more of life’s little mysteries solved, check out This Is What Happens to All Your Returned Holiday Gifts.