What Is “Lint” From The Tumble Dryer?

If you own a tumble dryer, you’ll know all about lint. It’s that grey stuff that seems to constantly reappear in the lint filter after every use. But do you know what lint is?

Lint is minute pieces of fibre that are shed from your clothes during the drying process. In this article we look at lint and find out what it actually is, how it’s formed, and how to reduce the amount of lint your clothes produce.

Keep reading for all of this information and more.

What Exactly Is The Lint Found In Tumble Dryers?


The lint you find in your tumble dryer’s lint trap is made from tiny fibre particles that are shed from the fabric of your clothes as they rub together in the drum of the dryer. You’re more likely to get lint from clothes made from natural fibres like;

  • Cotton 
  • Linen
  • Wool

But it’s not impossible to find lint shed from synthetic fabrics as well.

How Does Lint Form?

The fabrics that are used to make your clothes are made from individual fibres that are somehow weaved together to form a workable material. As the clothes are produced some of the fibres are broken and some ends get snipped.

Added to this, there are some fibres that don’t get secured at both ends of the outer layer of the fabric which tend to come loose and shed.

These are typically shed during the first few washes which is why new clothes tend to create more lint in the dryer. Even after the first few washes, some items will still shed fibres and we’re partly to blame.

How Does Wearing Clothes Cause Lint?

Dryer Lint

As we go about our daily life we create friction between the clothes and our bodies. This friction loosens fibres that are then shed during the washing and tumble drying process.

Added to this, as our clothes rub together in the drum of the washer (more friction) more fibres get loosened. Many of these fibres get washed away during the wash and rinse cycle but a high percentage remain stuck to the wet clothes.

Once those clothes start to dry, the fibres fall off, get dried and become lint.

Why Do Some Fabrics Get Covered In Lint In The Dryer?

There are certain fabrics that actually attract lint which is why some items leave the dryer covered in lint while others appear to be lint free. Fabrics like corduroy, nylon, or knitted items tend to attract lint in the dryer. 

These are also the fabrics that tend to attract pet hairs too which gives us a clue as to why they get covered in lint in the dryer. What happens to these fabrics is that as they rub together in the drum of the dryer, they become charged with static electricity.

It’s the fabrics that are prone to static cling that attract the lint in the dryer.

What Can Be Done To Reduce Lint On Clothes In The Dryer?

Knitted Sweater

The best way to prevent your clothes from becoming covered in lint is to wash those that shed the most lint separately from those that attract lint. Fabrics that attract lint include;

  • Knitted Clothes
  • Man-Made Synthetic Fibres
  • Plush Fabrics
  • Linen Clothes

These fabrics are more likely to react to friction and therefore attract lint as it dries in the tumble dryer. 

However, the number one best way to reduce lint on clothes in the dryer is to keep the lint filter clear of lint. 

You should do this after every use because if the lint filter becomes blocked, there’s nowhere for the lint to go and it will get trapped on your clothes.

Why Is Lint Dangerous?

Lint can be dangerous because it can clog your tumble dryer and prevent hot air from leaving. As the dryer becomes extra hot, the dry lint acts like kindling and can ignite causing your tumble dryer to catch fire.

This is especially likely if some of the items in the dryer have previously had a flammable substance (like cooking oil etc) spilled on them.

If you or any member of your family has any breathing related issues, lint particles in the air can contribute to restricted airflow and breathing difficulties.

How Often Should The Lint Filter Be Emptied?

Tumble Dryer

To ensure the smooth and safe running of your tumble dryer and the successful drying of your laundry, the lint filter should be emptied after every use. That’s every time you use your tumble dryer, you should also empty the lint filter.

This will not only help prevent fires etc, it will also reduce drying times which will also save on electricity bills too.

How To Remove Lint From The Lint Filter

The lint filter on tumble dryers tends to be placed in similar areas. You will typically find the lint filter inside the dryer door, in the top right hand corner of the dryer or on the back wall of the dryer.

In many cases, you can simply scoop the lint out using your fingers, but it’s a good idea to remove the lint filter and wash it under a fast running tap to ensure all of the lint has been cleared.

You should also vacuum behind the trap whilst it’s removed to ensure all of the filter and filter housing is lint free. If you own a vented tumble dryer, you should also regularly clean the vent and vent hose and remove as much lint as is humanly possible.

To assist with this you can buy a vent cleaning kit which takes all of the hard work out of cleaning the vent on your dryer.

Sealegend 2 Pieces Dryer Vent Cleaner Kit and Dryer Lint Brush Vacuum Hose Attachment Brush Lint Remover Power Washer and Dryer Vent Vacuum Hose
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Sealegend 2 Pieces Dryer Vent Cleaner Kit and Dryer Lint Brush Vacuum Hose Attachment Brush Lint Remover Power Washer and Dryer Vent Vacuum Hose
  • [Remove LINT BUILD-UP] - Sealegend dryer vent cleaner kit removes lint that has accumulated for many years in your dryer vents, making your appliance runs more efficiently and securely.
  • [DEEP CLEANING] - Flexible and handy vacuum hose attachments over 3.6feet in length, the two detachable cleaning pipes allow for deep access to difficult places. Perfect for cleaning appliances that you can't move.

Is There Any Practical Use For Tumble Dryer Lint?

Most of us throw the lint that collects in our tumble dryers away. But it does have a few practical uses, for instance; Lint can be used as a fire starter for outdoor barbecues etc, or it can be used as bedding for small animals like mice or guinea pigs. 

Or if you collect enough , it can be used as packing to prevent delicate items becoming damaged during transit. You can even compost lint however, don’t compost your lint if you use dryer sheets. Dryer sheets contain synthetic fibres that can also end up in the lint filter but won’t compost.

How To Reduce Lint Shedding From Your Clothes

Now we know what lint is, where it comes from and ways to use it after collection, let’s look at ways to prevent your clothes from shedding so much lint. You can reduce the amount of lint your clothes shed if you;

  • Shake Your Clothes Before Tumble Drying
    Clothes dry faster if they are straightened out than they will if crumpled up in a ball. This reduces the amount of time they spend in the dryer which reduces the friction produced as the clothes rub together in the rotating drum.
  • Never Over Dry Your Clothes
    To help reduce lint levels in your dryer, clothes should only be dried until the wrinkles from washing them disappear. They should then be taken from the dryer and hung up to continue drying.
  • Don’t Wash After Every Wear
    Not all of your clothes need to be washed after every wear. Trousers and jumpers for example can be worn 2 or 3 times before they need to be washed (as long as you wear underwear and a shirt). This not only reduces lint production and increases the life of your garments, it also reduces your environmental impact too.
  • Air Dry Your Clothes
    If your clothes dry on an airer or clothesline, they’re not exposed to extra friction during the drying process. This means less lint is shed from the fabric.
  • Use Fabric Softener
    Fabric softener reduces the static cling and prevents fibres from catching on each other by lubricating them. This means using a fabric softener in the washing machine can drastically reduce the amount of lint that gets trapped in the dryer’s lint filter.

Why Is Tumble Dryer Lint Always Grey?

Have you noticed that the lint that gets trapped in the lint filter on your tumble dryer is always grey? Unless you only wash grey clothes, you might have wondered where all this grey lint comes from.

It turns out that tumble dryer lint is composed of fibres from all different colours. These fibres get blended together in the dryer and just appear to be a single grey colour.

Although it can be a different colour if you wash a garment that sheds a lot more fibres than your other garments.

SEE ALSO: Tumble Dryer Not Collecting Lint? (here’s why & how to fix)

Frequently Asked Questions

Is dryer lint dead skin?

Dryer lint is mainly made from small pieces of thread, yarn and fibres which are shed from fabrics during the washing and drying process. The majority of elements in dryer lint are fabric based however, there is a small amount of dead skin, hairs, dust, pollen and even plant fibres mixed in as well.

How do I reduce lint in my dryer?

You can reduce lint in your dryer by using a fabric softener in the wash. This will soften the threads of your clothes and make the fibres less likely to catch on each other. As well as reducing static which is responsible for attracting lint onto your clothes.

Is dryer lint good for anything?

Dryer lint can be used for small animal bedding, kindling, composting and packing for delicate items.

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