Sorry TikTok, Putting Potatoes In Your Socks Won't Clear Toxins From Your Body
TikTok has been a hub for many unique and questionable health-related trends—from taping your mouth shut at night to sleep better to eating raw meat for more energy and better digestion. The latest health hack involves putting potato slices in your socks while you sleep.
The strange remedy, known as “potato sock,” has gained so much popularity that there are hundreds of videos on the app showing people trying it out. Videos related to the term “potato sock” have also racked up 8.5 billion views collectively.
According to several TikTok users, sleeping with slices of potatoes in your socks can help get rid of toxins and viruses from your body and help you feel better faster if you are sick with the cold or flu.
One TikTok user explains in a video with over 6.7 million views how to “properly” do the hack. The user said you cut a potato in half and make a few slices. Then, put one slice between each foot and cover it with a sock overnight while you’re asleep.
Other users on the app have shared similar stories claiming that the potato sock remedy has worked for them. One TikToker said in a video that her child and mother, who both slept with potato slices in their socks during a bout of cold and fever, woke up feeling much better.
While the hack might be popular on social media, experts aren’t so sure. Here’s what they say about putting potatoes in your socks.
Eric Ascher, DO, a family medicine physician at Lenox Hill Hospital, told Verywell that sleeping with potatoes in your socks—cut or uncut—does not have the potential to draw out viruses or toxins from the body. There are no clinical trials or studies that prove potatoes are effective at getting rid of toxins or helping you get over a cold faster.
Jeremy Toffle, MD, a pediatrician at the Children’s Physicians in Nebraska, told Verywell that there is also no evidence that shows you even can draw out a toxin from the skin by placing something on it.
According to Toffle, most toxins require a process called chelation, where a specific medication is ingested and absorbed into the bloodstream to help manage high levels of specific toxins.
“For a toxin to be drawn out of the body, it would have to be in considerably higher concentrations in the blood and be able to pass through the various skin barriers to accomplish this task,” said Toffle.
While some users on TikTok argue that the potato remedy has worked for them, Ascher and Toffle say it’s probably the placebo effect. That’s when someone truly believes that something is going to help them, and their body responds in a specific way to make them feel better.
Toffle said that the placebo effect has been studied a lot, and it “absolutely can affect our body’s biology, including dopamine release and other chemicals that make us feel better.”
Tiktokers who have tried the potato sock remedy claim that in the morning, the potato slices will look black and dark. They claim that the discoloration is an indicator that toxins came out of their body.
However, experts say that a color change has nothing to do with absorbing toxins. The reason the potatoes turn black is because of a natural process called oxidation, which can be heightened by the interaction with your skin overnight.
Jesus Lizarzaburu, MD, a family physician at TPMG Grafton Family Medicine in Yorktown, Virginia, told Verywell that potatoes will turn brown when they’re exposed to fresh air because they have starch in them. When it’s exposed to oxygen, it can leave potatoes with a grayish-brown tint.
Ascher explained that just like when you cut up other fruits and vegetables like apples, bananas, and avocados when left out, they will turn dark. Again, this happens because of oxidation.
According to Toffle, while there is no harm in trying the potato sock trend, he does not recommend it, because there are no true or proven health benefits.
The harm could also come if you are truly sick and avoid seeking medical attention by trying to use this method.
It could also be risky. Ascher said it’s also possible people could get fungal infections on their feet and other changes, depending on their health habits.
“Since potatoes are moist when cut, sleeping with socks increases moisture in tight spaces between toes,” said Ascher. “This is the perfect breeding ground for increases in toe fungus and bacteria to multiply.”
Lizarzaburu added that putting potatoes directly on your skin could also cause an allergic reaction or irritation of the skin. Allergic reactions might be more likely to happen if you use lotion or other products on your feet at the same time as the potatoes.
“Overall, most people will probably not have a problem, but a few with sensitive skin may see some irritation,” said Lizarzaburu. “The harm could also come if you are truly sick and avoid seeking medical attention by trying to use this method.”
Instead of sleeping with potatoes in your socks, health experts say that there are plenty of other natural ways to help remove toxins from your body and boost your immune system.
The best trends to do are to live a healthy lifestyle—get the appropriate amount of sleep every night, drink enough water, eat healthily, and exercise.
Research-backed ways to support your health include:
“The best trends to do are to live a healthy lifestyle—get the appropriate amount of sleep every night, drink enough water, eat healthily, and exercise,” said Toffle. “When you take care of your body, it allows your immune system, gastrointestinal system, and everything in between to function at its peak ability.”
Despite claims on social media, sleeping with potato slices in your socks will not clear toxins from your body or help you get over a cold faster.
Instead, experts recommend drinking lots of water, getting enough rest, eating a nutritious diet, and staying active to naturally clear toxins from your body and support a healthy immune system.
Sears ME. Chelation: harnessing and enhancing heavy metal detoxification--a review. ScientificWorldJournal. 2013;2013:219840. doi:10.1155/2013/219840
MasterClass. How to keep peeled potatoes from turning brown: 3 methods.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sleep and the immune system.
National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Exercise and immunity.
By Alyssa HuiAlyssa Hui is a St. Louis-based health and science news writer. She was the 2020 recipient of the Midwest Broadcast Journalists Association Jack Shelley Award.Staying hydrated. Eating a diet that’s high in fiber, fruits, and vegetables.Prioritizing sleep. Exercising.