How to Reduce Lint

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Dear Home Ec 101,

Do you know how to reduce lint in the laundry? 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 separately (to avoid any ironing!) they still come out with a lot of lint on them.

I clean out the dryer lint trap after every load and that doesn’t seem to matter.

Do you have any suggestions on how to reduce the lint in the laundry?

The lint on all of our clothing is driving me bananas.
Signed,
Lint-ridden in Linton

Heather says:

Wow, does the internet have a lot to say about lint. And interestingly, there are a lot of people who don’t know what lint is.

So, let’s start at the beginning

What is lint?

Lint is fuzz created from tiny broken and loose threads or yarn.

Lint tends to build up in washers and dryers. Unlike what some internet searches will tell you, lint is not dust mites, looking at you, wiki.answers—that one just hurt to read. Remember, folks, not everything on the internet is true.

New clothes will often produce a LOT of lint.

Why? The broken and snipped threads created during manufacturing are shed during the first few washes. Additionally, the fibers that aren’t secured at both ends of the outer layer of the material used to weave your clothing comes loose most often early in the life cycle of your clothing item.

How to reduce the creation of lint.

You can reduce the creation of new broken threads by not overdrying your clothing, as excess heat and tumbling/friction stresses the fibers in your fabrics.

Remove your items from the washer and shake them out. The loose fabric dries more quickly than the twisted lump that some washers like to create.

On a whim, I bought an interesting gadget that I saw on TikTok of all places and have found it very helpful for drying large sheets. It’s called Wad Free. You pinch each corner of a sheet into the square and it creates a little parachute preventing the sheet from becoming a twisted mass in the dryer and reducing the time it needs to dry. I love this thing.

If you really want to reduce your lint production start to just dry your clothing only until the wrinkles from washing disappear and then hang your items to finish drying. You won’t have to iron and the clothing will produce less lint, and as a nice little bonus, your clothes will also last longer.

If you have one, use a clothesline and eliminate using a clothes dryer altogether.

Don’t wash your clothes too often.

Not only does this tip reduce wear on clothing, but it also reduces your energy bill and your overall environmental impact. Americans, as a whole, tend to wash their clothes far more often than necessary.

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

a) you wear underwear (don’t tell me otherwise, just wash your pants, please),
b) undershirts and/or a good antiperspirant are used, and
c) there hasn’t been anything spilled on the item
d) you use an item like an apron when cooking. (Or just change into your at-home clothes)

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 just sweat more heavily than others. Use your common sense and your nose, I suggest this on behalf of everyone you interact with, to help make that decision.

Now that we know how to reduce the lint we create, what can we do to get rid of the lint we have?

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 is time to clean out the clothes washer.

Wipe the tub out with a towel and then take that towel outside to shake it out. (Think about it, you really don’t want to put that lint right back in, do you?)

Next, run a quick, empty cycle on hot with the appropriate amount of detergent for your machine 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. If you don’t know your the model of your machine, you can usually find it somewhere on the appliance. You might have to play detective. It can be difficult to find, but it will be on the appliance. common areas are: under the lid, inside the door, on the back near the bottom, and behind the control panel. You may have to open a door, but you generally do not have to disassemble anything to find this information. Write it down before searching and remember that sometimes ones can look like lowercase Ls and that zeros can look like the letter o. If you can’t find what you are looking for the first time, try swapping them out until you find what you need. Almost all washing machine manuals are online, usually in a pdf. Once you have your manual, 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.

laundry tips and tricks
Click the picture for more tips!

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 sort of your mileage may vary tip it could 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.

Don’t forget your dryer.

You may be cleaning the lint trap after every load, but how is the hose that leads to vent? Does it have a kink? If the air can’t escape, a clog can build. Lint clogs are a major fire hazard and can also cause lint to continue to circulate in your laundry.

Take a walk outside of your home and take a look there, too. Has a bird built a nest in your dryer vent? I sure hope not!

Best of luck and enjoy your less linty laundry.

Send your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com

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21 thoughts on “How to Reduce Lint”

  1. 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.

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  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.

    Reply
  3. 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.

    Reply
  4. 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.

    Reply
  5. Pingback: Wrinkled clothes | Ask Aunt Sandy
  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.

    Reply
  7. 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

    Reply
  8. 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

    Reply
  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

    Reply
    • Hi Mirella, did you won the lint fight? I have the same problem, drowning in lint. I’ll start applying some tips mentioned here. Cheers

      Reply
  10. To remove lint will require you fit a lint filter into the washing machine water cycle. I changed from a old simpson washing machine to a new water saving electrolux and then had a terrible time with lint. It maybe due to the water saving feature that lint is not being flushed from the system, so finally after many years and the purchase of a 3D printer I have designed and fitted a lint filter to the water spout. As the water is circulated it is now filtering out the lint. The design is on-line and looks similiar to one a LG machine I saw was using to trap lint.
    https://www.tinkercad.com/things/aPFj2E09oxu

    Cheers Bruce

    Reply
  11. I have a big pile of 6″x6″ microfiber cloths (instead of rags). They really pick up the lint in the dryer, as well as that occasional tissue.

    Reply

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