I've got athlete's foot after having my feet in the same boots for extended periods of time.
How can I disinfect my wool hiking socks to prevent this from spreading and reinfecting my feet?
Simply throwing them in the wash should suffice, but if you want to be extra sure the fungus dies, you could soak your socks in a 1 part bleach to 10 parts water mixture for ten minutes. Keep in mind that it's not your socks you need to worry about so much as your shoes, they're a little more difficult to clean. Try changing your insoles out, they make special ones which help prevent athletes foot.
Hot Water - needs to be very hot - 140 F (60C) - reported to kill all, but is not good for wool.
UV Light - hang out to dry in direct sunshine. Products exist that claim to sterilize shoes using UV light and can be used for socks.
Chemicals - Anti fungal Laundry rinse (e.g. Canestan) is effective, Borax etc. Bleach alone does not kill fungus spores.
Your shoes and feet need treatment as much as your socks.
(Late answer here.)
Several years ago, a scholarly report was published. The report's "Appendix A" discusses, among other things, how you should do laundry if someone in the home has a fungal infection.
The report advises:
In some countries (including the US and certain others), if you want to wash clothing at 140 °F (60 °C), there's a problem.
An article on the Bottom Line Inc. website states that, in these countries,
household water heaters typically are set to 120 °F [50 °C] to minimize the risk of scalding.
The article suggests three possible workarounds.
One (dangerous) workaround would be to raise your water heater's temperature to 140 °F (60 °C). But this is a dangerously-high setting. (Source.) It may also be illegal in your jurisdiction. (Source.) Water at 120 °F (50 °C) takes 5-10 minutes to cause a third-degree burn; but water at 140 °F (60 °C) takes just 3-5 seconds. (Source.) Third-degree burns sometimes kill people. (Source.) Maybe I should email the Bottom Line Inc. and suggest that they revise their article.
Another workaround might be to pour a kettleful of boiling water into your top-loading washer shortly before it's finished filling.
A third workaround is to use a washing machine with a water-temperature-boosting feature, "such as the Whirlpool Front-Load Washer with Deep-Clean Steam, model #WFW86HEBW, which can get the water up to 150 °F [65 °C]".
Rubbing alchohol is also an effective disinfectant.
However, the problem is more general: Wearing socks inside foot boxes on a day in, day out basis is the root.
Recommendations to prevent a recurrence:
Go barefoot more of the time.
When you do get an infection, rub your feet with rubbing alcohol at the end of the day.
Do not sleep in socks. If the weather is cold enough, keep separate day socks and sleeping socks.
On canoe trips I wear 'reef boots' (footwear with rubber soles and neoprene sides) on several week trips. During the day my feet were constantly wet. Once in camp, I changed to dry socks and lightweight runners or sandals. No problems.
Chlorine Bleach is not good for wool. Found a solution that worked for me - phenolic disinfectant (Lysol) the web site also suggested Pine Oil (Pine Sol or Lysol Pine Action) http://laundry.about.com/od/handwashing/fl/How-to-Wash-Wool-Socks.htm Remember to also disinfect towels, shower shoes/sandals, etc as the athlete's foot fungus can spread via laundry basket contact (or gym bag / backpack) http://laundry.about.com/od/laundrybasics/a/athletesfootlaundry.htm also (same address as prior ending with) /disinfectlaundr.htm Best of luck
Going along the "homebrew supply" route, peracetic acid AKA PAA/peroxyacetic acid is a reasonably safe and very effective sanitizer. It's used in hospitals and by veterinarians, as well as in the brewing industry. I've splashed it on myself and my partly wool socks (and shoes) enough times that I'm confident it won't hurt your socks.
Don't get the undiluted stuff on your skin or in your eyes!
Don't try to smell it! (I've been there and done that.)
Diluted, it is still a bit of a skin irritant, so rinse immediately. Even diluted it will react with metals, except for stainless steel.
Recommended exposure time is usually 10 minutes, but I'd probably use it longer on cloth.
I have dealt with this myself. I use wool socks almost exclusively and sometimes a tech liner underneath.
Cheap White Vinegar. Buy by the gallon and keep on hand and foot. Use undiluted or 50/50 lowest.
10% bleach solution is what I use INSIDE my shoes and fan dry thoroughly at least once a season for any shoes I sweat in.
Good luck. Foot AIDS sucks.
Merino wool is self-cleaning. Carry as many pairs you need to keep your feet always dry as fungi thrives in moist and dark places. Dry your socks in direct sunlight. Do not wash them too often as wool contains lanolin (aka. wool wax) which has anti-fungal and antibacterial properties that protect the sheep's skin from infection. Of course you need to wash them sometimes but following each wash, lanolize the wool in a tub containing lanolin. Some people skip this step if using a wool wash that contains lanolin.
If you feel 100% merino won't cut it, try to find some 100% merino socks with silver-based treatment. Then add the lanolin treatment and you'll have socks you don't want to part from.
Potassium Sorbate. You may be able to find it at a homebrewing (beer/wine) supply store.
It will work. You'll need to do your research and be careful, though.