Friday, October 14, 2011

Apple #551: Make Pantyhose Last Longer

I confess, I wear hosiery. In the winter I prefer tights because they're warmer, but in fall or spring when I don't want something as heavy and warm as tights, I like pantyhose better (much as I detest that word, or pretty much any word involving "panty").

But the dang things get holes in them after two or three wearings. Unlike socks, they can't be sewn up or fixed in some way. You can try to stop a run or a hole from getting bigger with nail polish, but sometimes the hole or run busts right through and keeps going to encompass several toes or extend all the way across the foot.

Keep wearing a pair of hose long enough and any run will turn into a ginormous thing like this, I don't care how much nail polish you use to try to stop it.
(Photo from Tanng J)

I'll also turn them around so that the hole that started on top of one toe is now on the bottom of the toe, but sometimes that hole gets bigger down there, or another one starts at the top of another toe. So my toes are poking through the dang things all over the place, which gets uncomfortable not to mention annoying. The rest of the garment is fine, but the toes are shot. The whole pair is then worthless and must be replaced.

Is there any way to make these stupid things last longer?

These fancy pairs of hosiery are pretty and they're fun to wear. But they probably don't survive many wearings at all.
(Photo from The Daily Green)

Lots of sites have many suggestions. Some of them I already do, to no avail. Other suggestions are new to me. I'll separate the suggestions that way.

Tips I Do Already
  • Buy the kind with reinforced toes. I never buy sheer toes anymore. Absolutely isn't worth it. But I bust through even the reinforced toes within a few wearings.

A lot of fashion adviser people will tell you to stay away from the reinforced toe varieties because they're not exactly pretty. But those fashion adviser people probably make a lot more money than I do and can afford to replace their hosiery after one or two wearings.
(Photo from

  • Buy the thicker, sturdier kind. One woman swears by the Resilience brand. I tried those before, and I do remember noticing they were a bit more durable than usual. But they still develop holes or snags. One snag in this suggestion (ha ha pun): Hanes discontinued them in 2007.

If it says "support" on the package, those are probably going to be more durable.
(Photo and pantyhose from onehanesplace)

  • Put them on properly. Bunch one leg of hosiery all the way down to the toe, work it slowly over your foot, and gently unfurl the bunched hosiery as you slide up the leg. Bunching it up at the outset keeps you from pulling or tugging at the material. In general, the more gently you handle the hosiery, the better.
  • Prevent snags. Keep your toenails trimmed, trim hangnails, file rough edges on fingernails or toenails, wear lotion on your hands, put lotion on your feet and legs -- anything to smooth the whole process of putting on the nylons. Some people even suggest wearing cotton gloves. That sounds like some kind of Mommy Dearest obsession so I'm probably not going to do that.

This kind of hole and its related runs probably came about because the wearer bumped against something sharp or maybe she accidentally put her fingernail through the hosiery while putting them on.
(Photo from eHow)

  • Inspect your footwear. Perhaps you have some roughened surface inside your shoes, or perhaps your shoes are too tight. Extra friction at the toes could wear the garment out sooner.
  • Try upsizing. Especially if you're in between sizes, buy the next larger size up. A roomier garment means less strain. Upsizing doesn't always work for me, though. Sometimes the next size up is Saggus McBaggus. That is decidedly less attractive than a minor run across the foot.
  • Rotate pairs. Don't wear the same pair multiple days in a row, or even two days in a row. Let them rest.
  • Hand wash only. I used to hand wash my hosiery. It takes longer, and I always suspected I didn't get all the soap out. Now I wash them in the gentle cycle of my washing machine. I put them in an old pillow cover that zips so they won't wrap around the core of the machine. But maybe I should go back to hand washing. Sigh.
  • Use Hosiery Mate. This is a special detergent designed only for washing hosiery. I used to use this too. It had a funny, over-detergenty smell that I didn't really like. I didn't notice much difference when I used this versus a regular laundry detergent, either. But one woman swears it helps her hosiery last longer -- although, reading her comment again, she says it's her tights that have lasted 10 years. Well, sure, I've had pairs of tights last that long, too. But I'm talking nylons, woman!

Suggestions That Are New to Me
  • Buy the kind with more lycra or spandex. I've never looked at ingredient labels on hosiery packages, but I doubt they have the fabric contents broken down by percentages. Still, if the packaging says somewhere that they're about 15% lycra or spandex, that kind will probably last longer, since those materials are more durable than nylon.
  • Wash before wearing. That's right, after you take them out of the package, don't put them on, wash them instead. Some people recommend cold water in the gentle cycle of the washing machine, others say only hand washing will do.
  • Wash them with liquid starch. This is by hand washing only. Follow the instructions on the bottle of starch. No idea if it's got instructions particular to washing hosiery, but if it doesn't, I'd guess use less than a capful in a sink of cold water.

I've only ever seen spray starch in cans that my mom used while ironing. This is a gallon of liquid starch. One bottle costs about $3.
(Photo from thriftyfun)

  • Freeze them. Lots of people recommend this and have done so for years, apparently. It's such a common suggestion that even Snopes investigated it to see if it's true. The only conclusion Snopes arrived at was to say that the reason this might have worked had more to do with the type of fabric used in making hosiery about 30 years ago (more nylon then than now?). Today it probably has less of an effect, they guessed, but they couldn't say anything definitive it.
  • One science-sounding guy said he thought there might be some truth to it. I kind of doubt that he's an expert, but I'll give you his explanation in his own words:
"When you get something real cold, the molecules stop moving, then you bring it back to room temp and as the molecules warm up they rearrange and release much of the internal stress between them. This makes the material very uniform on a molecular level. Thus, internal stress is reduced as things warm back up. This reduces the weak spots in the nylon material and allows the panty hose to stand more abuse prior to tearing or 'running'."
  • So, what the heck, why not give it a try?

This mom keeps her pantyhose in the freezer. You can see the large package sticking up at the left.
(Photo from The Daily Green)

  • People differ in their instructions about how and when to freeze them. The variations break down into two camps, to wet first or not to wet first. Here the instructions for each:
  • Before wearing the first time, keep them in the package and freeze for 24 hours.
  • Before wearing the first time, wet them, squeeze out most of the excess water, put them in a bag, and put them in the freezer. Thaw and allow them to dry before wearing.
  • There are still more suggestions, ones that have nothing to do with freezing.
  • Lightly spray them with hairspray after you have put them on. I'm intrigued by this one. Some hairsprays are like shellac, so it stands to reason that they might impart some durability to nylon as well as hair.
  • Wash them as soon as you get home. Some people say as soon as they get in the door, they're taking off the pantyhose and going to the sink to wash them out.
  • Soak them in salt water. Not sure if you're supposed to do this before wearing or after. The person who suggested it did say to let them soak for a day.
  • Double up. If you get a run in one leg, cut the bad leg off, leaving the panty (ugh, that word) intact. Match that half-amputated pair with another amputated pair and wear them together. This means that you'll have to wear both panties, one on top of the other, each with one good leg. I know I won't be trying this one.
  • Store them in a Ziploc bag or other container where they won't get snagged on the inside of your drawer.

If you go the doubling-up route, you'll want to be careful about matching the two legs with each other, or you might get something like this, except even less fashionable.
(Photo from Just Humor Me)

After having read all these recommendations, especially the odder-sounding ones like freezing the pantyhose, I thought I'd consult the expert. Who knows more about pantyhose than Heloise? Interestingly, when I searched her site (or ran several searches for "pantyhose" and "Heloise"), I found scads of tips for what to do with those old pantyhose that you can't wear anymore. I didn't find a single tip about how to make your pantyhose last longer.

Tree Hugger is another place that has lots of suggestions for what to do with your old pantyhose.
(Photo from Tree Hugger)

Wear Something Else Instead

I thought this was kind of funny. A lot of people's suggestions about making pantyhose last longer included at least two or three ideas in this category -- simply avoid them altogether. Which says to me that it's pretty much a losing battle, trying to make these things last any length of time.
  • Try thigh-highs instead. I'm not a fan of these, since they get stretched out and slide down almost immediately. But some people say they last longer than pantyhose. [shrugs]
  • Wear trouser socks instead. These will only work if you wear pants, not skirts. But they're cheaper, and they're usually more durable to boot (ha ha another pun).

Trouser socks are hosiery in knee-high form, with some added durability.
(Photo and this pair available from Simply Tall)

  • Wear tights instead. They're thicker and more durable. Yes, they definitely are.
  • Wear longer skirts and no hose.
  • Wear tall boots and no hose.

One thing that everyone agrees on: the expensive kind are no more durable than the cheap kind. You might buy the pricey kind because you like the way they look or they've got one of those built-in body-shaper things (a.k.a. girdle), but don't expect them to last longer just because you spent a lot of money on them. The reverse is also true: just because you get the cheap kind, that doesn't mean they'll fall apart faster.

So I guess the moral is, buy what you like, do your best to make them last, and move on.

If I didn't care anything about price, I'd try these. It's hard to tell from this small photo (the only one I could link to here) but they look pretty good to me. They might also be the answer to my question. They're matte tights, but they look like pantyhose. So they might last as long as tights. The drawback? They're $48.00 a pair.
(Photo and Wolford 'Fatal 15' Seamless Tights from Nordstrom)

There's also these, which are supposed to look transparent, so they're probably fragile as all get-out. But from the photo and the description, it sounds like they'd be smooth. As it happens, the description does have a percentage content breakdown. They're 96% polyamide (a.k.a. nylon), 3% elastane (generic for Spandex), and 1% cotton. They're sheer, with a sheer toe, of course. Completely indulgent purchase this would be. But if I had a kajillion dollars, I'd try them.
(Wolford Naked 8 Sheer Pantyhose, $30.00 at bare necessities)

These are more in my price range. I like the silky shiny ones, but they wear out at the drop of a shoe. These are -- get ready for this uber-long name -- Berkshire Silky Control Top Extra Wear Sheer Lycra Leg Hosiery. The color is French Coffee.
(These range in price depending on the color, but this one is $5.21 per pair through Amazon. Not bad.)

All right, that's enough of my pipe-dream hosiery shopping. You're just lucky I didn't start looking at tights!

Oh, I almost forgot: if you have tried any of those techniques that are new to me, tell us in the comments how well they work (or maybe don't work) for you.

eHow, How to Make Pantyhose Last Longer, October 11, 2011
Dollar Stretcher, Pantyhose Budget Buster
The Thrifty Couple, Daily Dose of Thrifty: Make Your Nylons and Pantyhose Last Longer
Chrissy Stewart, Wryte Stuff, How to Make Your Pantyhose and Stockings Last Longer, September 17, 2008
Snopes, Storing batteries in a refrigerator or freezer will improve their performance (that's false, by the way. They also investigated freezing pantyhose and refrigerating nail polish. Their jury is still out on the latter two.)
Ask Metafilter, Replacement for Hanes Resilience nylons?

Democratic Underground, Does freezing pantyhose really make them last longer? March 23, 2006


  1. I'll preface this by saying that I've never worn hose. I understand the problem with a run in the leg (it looks awful), but if there's a run or snag in the toe, it can't be seen (unless you're wearing open toed shoes). Why bother worrying about it? Does it cause the hose to bunch up in your shoe?

  2. It gets danged uncomfortable. Your naked toe sticks to the inside of your shoe, and the hole where your toe is poking out is inevitably too small for the flesh that wants to get through it so you get a binding, constricted sensation there.

    Believe me, I've worn hosiery long after they've developed holes or runs in the toes, and I can usually get about two or three more uses out of them. I've pulled the stocking sideways so that the hole is on the side of the foot where the toe won't poke through, but then they work themselves back to their default position and there goes your toe stuck in the hole again.

    Eventually the hole gets bigger which might seem like a relief, but then runs start expanding outward from the hole. They either extend up the top of your foot, which is unsightly, or if you're wearing the pair essentially backwards so that the hole is on the bottom of the foot, the runs extend across the bottom of your foot. So now several parts of your foot are sticking to the inside of the shoe, and at least one toe if not several are poking out through the hole(s), and the entire garment gets so uncomfortable and annoying and irritating, and you can't do a dang thing to fix them, you just have to throw them out.

  3. Wear two pair at once and cut the reinforced toes from ones that are no good any more and put them on your toes first. then put the pantyhose on. It takes a bit of patience to keep the toe reinforcement in place but it sure extends the wear. 've been doing this for years. of course it looks crumby on open toed shoes but less crumby than holes or runs. Say when are the gonna make nylons that have no toes like they make finger tip free gloves. That's what we need for open toe shoes and sandals.

  4. How do you keep the reinforced toes from sliding around as you walk?

  5. Great info. I tend to just expect to not wear them long. I wear Non Nonsense ultra sheer. They only come with a large dark reinforced toes in the Jet Brown. I hardly ever run my nylons at the toe. They do tend to try to peak out a bit is some of my cuter pumps. Have you ever had toes peaking out? Also I always call them nylons and not pantyhose.

  6. I cut out the toes from my socks and sew them into the front of my tights, works a treat!! the last pair I binned was because the crotch wore out from wearing them too much, they lasted about 6 months being worn 3-4 times a week, washed after every wear.

  7. I wear really Thick Black opaque Tights ...120 or even 200 denier yet still manage to rip the toes , when I am out and wearing them and a hole in the toe develops, I will just rip off the whole end of the tight so that my feet are free of them , it leaves a ragged end but as they are Black opaques its not so bad and I will continue to wear them till I get home , then they are straight in the bin.

  8. My biggest problem is my big toe so I wear these:

  9. For many yearsI have bought most of my pantyhose from . This is a mail order service that sends supplies on a regular basis.


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