Can you machine wash neoprene wading socks? With instructions.

All socks stink if they are not washed after use.  Neoprene wading socks are no different, but can you wash them in the washing machine? 

You can machine wash neoprene wading socks IF you use a very gentle cycle with a slow spin and a mild detergent.  Neoprene wading socks will last longer and keep fresher when cleaned after each use.  Additional cleaning practices may also be necessary to stop the introduction of river pests and plants. 

Here are some tips on looking after your neoprene wading socks, including how to clean them in your washing machine.

How to look after my wading socks

Like any fabric that you wear next to your skin, the neoprene fabric in your wading socks will pick up and absorb sweat and grime.

Washing wading socks will ensure that there isn’t a build-up of dirt which means they last longer, won’t get stinky and will provide you with years of service. 

After each use, soak your neoprene wading socks or rinse off using freshwater. If your socks are filthy, soak overnight. 

Washing by hand, or in the washing machine, are both viable options.

How to wash neoprene wading socks in a washing machine

Instructions for washing neoprene wading socks:

  • Rinse or soak first in cold water
  • Place socks in the washing machine 
  • Select ‘cold wash’ 
  • Set wash cycle to ‘delicate,’ or another short, low impact setting with a slow spin
  • Add mild laundry detergent 
  • Remove socks immediately and hang to dry
  • Once outside is dry, turn socks inside-out to complete the drying process

What products can I use to clean neoprene?

You can use any mild detergent to clean neoprene.  

Possible cleaning agents include:

  • Dishwashing detergent
  • Bleach – (not more than a 2% solution)
  • Nappy cleaning products
  • Liquid soap
  • Laundry detergent
  • Vinegar 
  • Specialist neoprene cleaning products

How to stop your neoprene wading socks from getting stinky

I wear lightweight merino wool socks inside my wading socks.  Merino wool is a popular fabric for outdoor wear because it doesn’t get smelly. 

I’ve written a whole article on what to wear inside your wading socks here

Immediately after each day’s fishing, I rinse out my lining socks and my wading sock.  I wash them routinely, and always when moving between rivers. 

This prevents a stinky build-up.

Wearing lining socks is also great for keeping my feet in good condition and reducing rubbing and blisters.

How long does neoprene take to dry?

It takes 1-2 hours for neoprene wading socks to dry.  

But you must turn the socks inside-out once dry on one side so that the interior fabric can dry completely.

Do not store neoprene wading socks without drying them thoroughly.  

Molds and fungi can continue to grow if the socks are left damp. 

Store your wading socks in a plastic or cloth bag.

Can I dry my neoprene wading socks in the dryer?

Under no circumstances should you tumble dry neoprene wading socks.  High heat can melt the fabric. 

Also, the glue used to tape the seams can easily be damaged by high heat.

Keep your wading socks in good condition for a long time by following these instructions – rinsing, soaking and washing in cool water, then line drying.

What is neoprene fabric?

Neoprene fabric is a specialist synthetic rubber that is light and durable and acts as an excellent thermal barrier.  

Wading socks are made with closed-cell foam, which makes them waterproof.  

Neoprene wading socks are made from the same type of material used to make wetsuits. 

The fabric, which comes in varying thicknesses from 2 mm to 7 mm, is reasonably resistant to chemicals and corrosive mediums.

Does neoprene fabric absorb water?

The closed-cell fabric neoprene used to manufacture wading socks is waterproof.   

However, your socks will hold a good amount of moisture which you will notice when wringing them out.

Spinning the wading socks on a slow cycle in the washing machine, or wringing out by hand, will remove some of this water.

Once you have wrung out the excess water, dry the wading socks by hanging them in a cool, airy location.

Washing your neoprene wading socks protects our rivers and lakes

Unfortunately, some rivers and lakes contain insect and plant pests that can easily be transported from one place to another.

Any fishing gear you use can be the culprit, so it is essential to clean all your gear when moving from one river to another.  

Fun Fact
Here in New Zealand, we have been able to stop the spread of didymo from the South Island to the North Island through the care that anglers and boaters have taken to clean their equipment between locations.  However, it is an ongoing battle.

How to prevent moving pests from one waterway to another?

Check, Clean, Dry is the name of the New Zealand system to stop the spread of didymo – an invasive freshwater algae, but this process also applies to other pests and locations.

If you move between waterways within 1 or 2 days, you must either:

Use different sets of equipment in the different waterways.


Follow the instructions below between every waterway.


Remove all visible plant material from all rods, reels, fishing lines, flies, tackle boxes, nets, clothing and other equipment that has been wet.


Soak your neoprene wading socks and boots in a mix of 10% dishwashing liquid/nappy cleaner or 2% household bleach for 10 minutes before rinsing.

All rods, reels, fishing lines, flies, tackle boxes, nets, clothing and other equipment that has been wet should be thoroughly soaked in, or washed down, with a cleaning solution, rinsed off and left to dry.


If there are a few days between activity in one waterway and another:

  • CHECK for and remove any visible plant material from your fishing equipment and clothing.  
  • Ensure it is completely dry to the touch, inside and out.  
  • Then leave it to DRY for at least 48 hours before using on another waterway.

An example of similar advice, this time from the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department says:

Spray your gear with high-pressure water or rinse it with hot water (120°F for at least 2 minutes or 140°F for at least 10 seconds).  This will kill most aquatic invasive species. Or drying your gear for at least 5 days before using it on another waterbody is also effective.

Here’s my Easy 7-Step Complete Guide to Cleaning Your Wading Boots.