Make use of the useless: Dryer lint

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When I was a little kid, I used to love dryer lint. My mother wasn't too careful about cleaning out the lint trap; when she finally did, the layer of lint would be an inch thick. I loved deciphering the lint, seeing the streaks of colored fabric that made up the pile. Red, green, white, black...I imagined myself as a sort of lint archaeologist, excavating the layers of washing.

Clearly, I had way too much imagination, not to mention free time.

The thing of it is, though, that after I exhausted the archaeological potential of lint, there really wasn't much else to do with the stuff. It was kind of grubby, too fragile to use as fabric, and made a big mess when you played with it. By the age of eight or so, I had turned my back on lint, never to return.

Or so I thought.

I recently read an article in which the author tried to find uses for dryer lint. I was amazed. Honestly, finding uses for dryer lint seems like one of those intellectual exercises, like Shroedinger's Cat, that is primarily designed to make you clutch your head, screaming. Still, the author had some interesting suggestions, and they got me searching for more:

Lints and Crafts: The original post that I checked out suggested using dryer lint as stuffing for toys and, alternately, as a raw material for homemade yarn. However, other sites had far more exciting ideas. One suggested using it as a basis for fake clay and a fibrous form of papier-mache. Another suggested ways to turn dryer lint into paper. While these might not save you a lot of money, per se, artist supplies can get expensive, and "linter mache" is a cheap substitute.

Regardless of what you do with your dryer lint, please keep in mind that it's extremely flammable. Don't use it to make a baby blanket!

Grow a Lint Garden: The original lint post suggested using lint as a composting material; if most of your clothes are made from natural fibers, your lint should be able to decompose, adding nutrients to the soil. Alternately, another site suggested using it as an indoor mulch or pot liner. I thought that this sounded a little icky, but then I imagined my ficus plant clad in a festive sweater and decided that the idea was deliciously surreal. Many sites also suggest leaving your lint out for the birds in your yard, as they can use it for building their nests.

Around the House: One site suggested filling your old tube socks with dryer lint and using the resulting "lint snakes" to block drafts under doors and in windows. Using lint in this way can shave a hefty chunk off your heating bill. Of course, you should probably watch out for flame-thrower wielding kitty cats, as lint is very flammable!

Be a Lint Pyro!: Having been a Boy Scout, I was attracted to lint's impressive fire-starting potential. After all, if lint is highly flammable, then it should come in handy when it comes to creating conflagrations of great dimension. Some sites suggest using your dryer lint as tinder for starting fires, or making handy little firestarters. I would go further, but legal and ethical considerations prohibit me from offering specific suggestions. However, if lint is as dangerous as everyone says, I would argue that dryer lint (along with gasoline, kerosene, Styrofoam peanuts, M-80's, strike-anywhere matches, and road flares) might be an outstanding addition to the toolkit of any budding pyromaniac. Unlike the aforementioned items, however, lint is incredibly cheap!

I'm only sad that I didn't think about it when I was 12. On the other hand, given the number of times I accidentally set my hair on fire, it's probably for the best.

Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. He hasn't set his hair on fire since he started shaving it a few years ago.

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