The Joys of Dryer Lint?

by Deborah Taylor-Hough


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Several times each month over the past four or five years, I've received email from people looking for ideas of things to do with dryer lint. Dryer lint? Isn't that just about the strangest thing? I personally think it's a bit weird -- and why they picked me out of the millions of people on the Internet to ask about it, I'll never know for certain (maybe it's their idea of a joke?).

But whatever the reason might be, I decided to give in to the collective voice of the masses and actually write an article on dryer lint uses (now, please don't groan so loudly!).

Please keep in mind this isn't necessarily a completely "serious" article -- I have enough trouble controlling clutter in my own life without worrying about where to store my dryer lint and old egg cartons, you know? But these ideas I'm going to share really are useable for regular folk -- not just those poor souls desperately seeking ways of recycling the lint balls off their favorite sweaters.

Warning! (Seriously! -- a dryer lint warning!) Dryer lint can be a serious fire hazzard. Be sure to clean your lint trap regularly -- ideally after every load of clothes (this saves electricity in addition to being a safety precaution). Clean your dryer vent and tubing regularly, as well.

Several years ago, we had our clothes dryer catch fire because of a build-up of lint around the outside of the dryer's internal drum -- the lint had accumulated on the heating coils inside the dryer itself where we couldn't see it until the flames came shooting out when I opened the dryer door one afternoon. Now I take the threat of dryer lint combustion very seriously.

Also, don't use dryer lint to stuff pillows, toys, draft stoppers, or other homemade craft items. Remember, it's highly flammable!

Dryer Lint Ideas

1) Save dryer lint in a large coffee can and use bits of it as fire starter (yes, there's actually a way to benefit from the lint's combustability). Small amounts of dryer lint can be used when starting a campfire, when using the outdoor barbeque grill (in place of lighter fluid), or when starting a fire in the fireplace. And here's a tip I learned from a Boy Scout: the tighter you roll the lint, the longer it burns. Dryer lint is also incredibly light and easy to pack (compacts down to virtually nothing) for backpackers who need to carry some sort of fire starter with them.

2) Use dryer lint and old candle stubs to make great little fire starters that can even be used as gift items. Fill each section of a cardboard egg carton with dryer lint (it must be a cardboard egg carton rather than a styrofoam one). Melt wax from old candles in a double boiler. Carefully pour the melted wax over the dryer lint until the egg carton sections are full. Let dry. Cut each section apart. Use the firestarters instead of kindling by simply lighting the cardboard.

3) Use dryer lint to pad small items being sent through the mail.

4) Add dryer lint to your compost pile (but only from natural fabrics such as cotton or wool -- synthetics won't compost).

5) Hang a mesh bag (an onion bag from the grocery store works well for this) from a sturdy tree branch filled with a collection of the following items: a few very small clumps of dryer lint*; thin fabric strips; short (2-3 inch) pieces of yarn, thread or string (longer strings can strangle small birds); leaves; feathers; hair; dog combings; small twigs; pine needles; dry grass; cotton; flower petals; Spanish moss; shredded burlap. This is a fun activity since you might actually see some of your brightly colored yarn or string (or dryer lint!) used to build a nearby bird's nest.

*Dryer lint isn't the best nesting material since it doesn't dry out adequately and can cause problems for birds in areas with lots of rain or high humidity. If you live in the desert, it should be all right to use.

Dryer Lint Recipe (please don't eat this!)

Dryer Lint Clay

  • 3 cups lint
  • 2 cups cold water
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3 drops oil of cloves or wintergreen flavoring (if you want scented clay)
  • newspaper
  • saucepan
  • paint, glue, glitter (or whatever else you might want to use to decorate your finished clay project)

In the saucepan, soak dryer lint in water. When the lint is soaked through, add flour and stir until smooth. Cook dryer lint mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, until it forms peaks and holds together. Pour onto several layers of newspaper to cool completely. Use like modeling clay or press into a mold (paper mold or cookie mold). Set aside where it won't be disturbed; allow to dry for three to five days. After modeled object is completely dry, paint and decorate. This mixture can also be used like paper mache' and placed -- while wet -- over a form like a balloon.


Deborah Taylor-Hough is the author of the bestselling Frozen Assets: Cook for a Day, Eat for a Month and A Simple Choice: a practical guide for saving your time, money and sanity. She also edits the Simple Times email newsletter. To subscribe, visit Debi online at: thesimplemom.wordpress.com

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