Thursday, January 7, 2010

Thursday Thinking Green: Uses for Dryer Lint

As a result of all the laundry I've been doing lately, especially while getting outgrown and under used items ready to donate to the thrift store, I've been generating excessive amounts of dryer lint. Therefore, today's thinking green tip is for ways to use dryer lint rather than simply throwing it away. Truly green living dictates line drying rather than using a dryer, but it's the middle of winter so line drying is not practical at this time of year.

When planning on repurposing dryer lint, it's important to wash loads of laundry that consist only of items with natural fibers such as cotton or wool. While I don't normally dry wool items in the dryer, if you're repurposing 100% wool sweaters for other uses by felting them, the lint generated from this can be put to several uses.

Dryer lint is highly flammable which is why dryers must always be vented to the outside and the lint screen cleaned between each load. Take care to use either fireproof glass or metal containers for collecting and saving dryer lint.

Uses for dryer lint consisting only of natural fibers:

1) Use as a firestarter. Please do not use any lint with synthetic fibers for this purpose, however, as the synthetic fibers emit toxic fumes when burned. Balled up bits of lint work fine, but a more effective fire starter can be made by one of the following methods:

Save empty toilet paper tubes or paper towel rolls and when ready to start a fire, stuff with lint, then place under kindling in fireplace and light.

Save empty cardboard egg cartons, fill each section with lint, then pour melted wax over the top until covered. Set aside and let harden. (My parents, especially my mother, are notoriously thrifty and thanks to them I learned to make these years ago. We used bits of saved broken crayons for the wax and melted them inside an empty soup can placed inside a saucepan of boiling water.) Once hardened, separate into individual pieces. Store unused firestarters in a fireproof container such as glass or metal.

Make wood shaving campfire starters, substituting lint for the wood shavings. I think these would be quite lovely if domed up on top to look more like an actual cupcake and will soon be attempting this project myself.

If going camping, used prescription bottles make compact waterproof containers for transporting dryer lint to be used as firestarter.

2) Place it in your compost pile. Again, only natural fibers work for this purpose and dryer sheets should not be used in loads you plan on using for this purpose as the dryer sheets contain toxic materials best kept out of the soil.

3) Leave it outside for birds to use in building their nests. Never place lint with synthetic fibers outside for the birds as fibers like polyester do not dry properly when used in a nest. Also, dryer sheets should not be used in loads intended for this purpose as the chemicals can be harmful to birds or other wildlife. I also recommend using a chemical free detergent for these loads as well. Any chemicals used during washing or drying of laundry can be harbored in the lint and cause a break down in the integrity of bird eggs, causing birds to die before hatching. I use an open compost pile method and this allows the birds and other wildlife to help themselves to items they can use from my pile. I keep it at the back edge of my garden, close enough to be easy to add items to, but far enough away that I don't have to worry about having scavengers on my doorstep.

4) Use as plant mulch. If the fibers in your lint are all natural, the mulch can serve to protect sensitive plants through the winter. As with all mulch, keep it back away from the plant itself as it can cause mold where it makes contact with the plant. It will, however, nicely supress weeds, help retain moisture, and in the winter, prevent the ground from heaving due to excessive freezing and thawing cycles. Since the fibers are natural, they will eventually decompose and add nutrients to the soil.

5) Use for craft projects. Depending on the project, you may be able to use dryer lint with synthetic fibers in it. Personally, I have pets and always have quite a bit of pet hair in my dryer lint, so this isn't a usage I'm likely to attempt. I'm not certain how the flammability of the dryer lint is modified by utilizing it in craft projects. For this reason, I recommend extreme caution if you decide to undertake any of these and keep the finished projects away from open flames.

Faux Papier Mache

Lint Clay

Lint Paper

A few years ago, a Pittsburgh artist, from Studio Capezzuti, created
The National Lint Project and created sculptures from dryer lint. At first glance, I'd never have guessed the angels and other creatures created for this project were made out of dryer lint.

Please feel free to post comments about other uses for dryer lint or any questions you may have.


Denise said...

Great post. I have used it for birds nest along with hair from hairbrushes and actually found an empty nest in our backyard with my hair strands/lint woven in.

BarkerBell Herbs and Heirlooms said...


Thanks! I took a cue from some of your blog themes for my revamp for the new year. Nice to hear the birds made good use of your lint. I've read the tip before about putting out hair from hairbrushes but haven't tried it.

Hope you're having a great New Year and that the new job is going well.



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