How to Reduce Lint

Dear Home Ec 101,

My husband just started a new job that has him wearing dress slacks -like Dockers- and dress shirts instead of the jeans and t-shirts he’s always worn.  Even though I wash and dry them separetely (to avoid any ironing!) they still come out with quite a bit of lint on them. I clean out the dryer lint trap every time and that doesn’t seem to matter. Any suggestions on how to reduce lint on clothing?

Signed,

Lint-ridden in Linton

Heather says:

I just poked out from under the rock that is Home Ec and looked around the Internet before answering this email. Boy there are a lot of people out there asking, “What is lint?” and boy oh boy can the Internet be full of stupid.

Let’s keep it simple, lint is the fuzz created from tiny broken and loose threads (yarn in some cases). It tends to build up in washers and dryers. Lint is not dust mites, looking at you wiki.answers -that one just hurt to read.

First of all, new clothes are often quite linty. Why? The broken and snipped threads created during manufacturing are shed during the first few washes.

You can reduce the creation of new broken threads by drying minimally. Remove the clothes from the washer, shake them out of the twisted ball that some washers like to create, and toss into the dryer. Dry just until the wrinkles from washing disappear and hang to finish drying. You still won’t have to iron, the clothing will produce less lint, and as a nice little bonus, they will also last longer.

If you have one, use a clothesline and eliminate drying altogether.

Along the same line as not over-drying is don’t wash your clothing too often. Not only does this tip reduce wear on clothing, it also reduces your energy bill and overall environmental impact. Americans, as a whole, tend to wash their clothes more often than necessary.

Pants and outer shirts can certainly be worn more than once, provided:

a) you wears underwear (don’t tell me otherwise, just wash the pants, please)

b) undershirts and/or a good antiperspirant are used

c) there hasn’t been anything spilled.

Hang clothing after wearing to allow it to air out. Obviously there are times of the year when sweat is more of an issue and some people are just heavy sweaters and can’t get away with a second wear. Use your common sense and your nose, I suggest this on behalf of everyone you interact with,  to help make that decision.

Before you wash your next load of hopefully lint-free clothing, take a peek inside the tub of your washing machine. You may need a flashlight to do this. If the machine itself is full of lint or hair, it’s time to clean out the machine. Wipe out what you can with a towel (and shake it before throwing it back in the washer) or use a paper towel and run an empty cycle on hot with detergent and vinegar OR chlorine bleach. Not gallons of bleach either, just a cup in a standard top-loader and 1/2 cup or less in a high efficiency model. This should be done a few times a year.

If your washing machine is older, there is a chance that it has a built-in lint trap. If this is the case and you were unaware it existed, over time it can become an automatic lint spreader. If you don’t have your washing machine manual, use Google and search for YOUR WASHING MACHINE BRAND AND MODEL MANUAL. You don’t need to use all caps. Almost all washing machine manuals are online, usually in a pdf. Follow the directions for cleaning the lint filter.

If you have a new, high efficiency washing machine, wipe out the rubber gasket that lets the door seal tightly. This is a major lint, hair, and other funk trap. If this isn’t done, lint from one load can transfer to the next.

Finally, all over the Internet I see people suggesting that a 1/2 cup of vinegar in the rinse cycle will rid your life of lint problems. Eh, it’s a your mileage may vary tip It can improve the solubility of the detergent and may help wash away the sticky detergent residue. Without the residue lint won’t stick as much to clothing. Will it be life changing? Not unless you habitually use too much detergent.

Best of luck.

Send your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com

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Comments

  1. Marie Altobelli says:

    As a spinner I want to point out that technically it's not threads that are lint. A thread (or yarn) is made up of millions of tiny bits of fiber (cotton, wool, whatever) that are twisted until the tiny scales on those fibers are squeezed and locked together and able to resist pulling, making a strong thread out of what was a pile of fluff. Whenever you spin, the spun thread has a halo of fluff around it of fiber pieces that have one end twisted in the thread, and the other end hanging out. When anything made of the thread gets wear and tear (through general wear, the washer or dryer or whatever), those little fiber pieces can break off, creating lint. More wear after that makes other pieces of fiber that were previously nicely trapped in the thread come loose, then those break off. That's why in particularly old pieces you see a thinning of the cloth itself, as the threads are actually getting thinner as they lose fibers over time.

    That said, the ways to avoid lint are the same as you mentioned above. Air drying is best, or not overdrying if you use a dryer. Though I'm interested in figuring out why vinegar in the rinse would help. I've heard of it as a fabric softener but not a lint reducer.

    • Great clarification, I edited the post. I have no idea where the vinegar as a lint reducer suggestion got started. I'm sure some excellent researcher could find patient zero of that little meme. I've seen it for years.

  2. I turn clothing that tends to attract lint inside out before washing. Then a short air fluff in the dryer and line (drying rack) dry to finish.

    Think about what you put together in a load of wash too. Don't add high lint producers (towels, cotton underwear, cotton socks, etc.) with work clothes. Even if they are the same color (dark or light). Wash the work clothes alone, even if it's a small load. Wash on gentle cycle too. All those things will help.

    And keep a good lint roller handy.

  3. Tinkerschnitzel says:

    A note about the line drying: don't leave your darker clothes in the sun for hours on end. Take them off as soon as they are dry! It does as much damage if not more than a dryer will. My husband learned this the hard way, and I now have to re-dye a set of sheets.

  4. caryn verell says:

    turn the pockets inside out, then turn the whole item inside out- especially if the item is knit or dark in color. also, wash item alone or with like items. also wash items in machine before any load that produces excess lint such as towels and t-shirts.

  5. dont skip dryer sheets (fabric softener). they help with lint problems too.

  6. Stop using your dryer. Switch to a clothesline or laundry drying rack. Lint is your fabric that is being rubbed off your clothes. Air drying is much gentler to your clothes. Not to mention how much money you can save be making this one laundry change. Clothes dryers use the most electricity in your house after your air conditioner and refrigerator. Also dryers are one of the leading causes of house fires in the US. Mostly because people do not clean the lint out of the vents and ducts.

  7. At last! Someone who udnesrtands! Thanks for posting!

  8. I separate clothing by color and type and do linens and socks/towels last. I also keep an electric lint remover in the laundry room.

    I used a clothesline last summer which resulted in a home fabric pest infestation. Which leads me to my next point, it was imperative that all my clothes were clean when put away because this helped get rid of the fabric pest infestation. It was awful; I had the clothes moth larvae which uses lint to make a case over itself and that’s how it got around -I thought I was crazy but a pest specialist confirmed both the webbing clothes moth, Tineola bisselliella, and the casemaking clothes moth, Tinea pellionella. Also, if you live in a wet area like i do, it’s not a good idea to have damp clothes around. According to a website the webbing moth prefers moist conditions:

    “This species is notorious for feeding on clothing and natural fibers; they have the ability to turn keratin (a protein of which hair and wool mainly consist) into food. The moths prefer dirty fabric for oviposition (Laying eggs) and are particularly attracted to carpeting and clothing that contains human sweat or other liquids which have been spilled onto them”.

    So just a precaution.

    Thanks,

    Rose

  9. Can someone please help. I am drowing in lint while I sleep. It is all over the furniture and floor and only in that one bedroom which is far from the laundry room. Anyone out there with ideas on how to solve the problem

  10. Can someone please help. I am drowing in lint while I sleep. It is all over the furniture and floor and only in that one bedroom which is far from the laundry room. Anyone out there with ideas on how to solve the problem

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