Is dryer lint biodegradable? (7 applications of dryer lint) 

In this article, the biodegradability status of dryer lint will be explored. Other covered topics will be: 

  • What is dryer lint?
  • What is the composition of dryer lint?
  • What is biodegradability?
  • What are the sources of dryer lint?
  • Is dryer lint good?
  • How can dryer lint be utilised?

Is dryer lint biodegradable?

Yes, dryer lint is usually biodegradable because this lint is made from natural fibres in greater quantities as compared to synthetic fibres. Dryer lint may also source from synthetic fibres (in small quantities) which will not be biodegradable. 

Dryer lint is associated with numerous health, mechanical and environmental concerns and must be dealt with properly. 

Dryer lint also has a good utilitarian value which you can consider instead of just throwing it away. 

What is dryer lint?

The clothes that we wear are made from either natural or synthetic fibres. Examples of these fibres can be cotton, linen or wool. Clothes are basically produced by the bundling of textile fibres. However, with the regular wear and tear, these bundles might untangle making lint. 

Lint is thus the accumulation of small fibres that slough off clothing and other textiles. Lint can be classified into several classes. These may be: 

  • Cotton lint 
  • Dryer lint 
  • Pocket lint 
  • Navel lint 

Cotton lint is a fibrous material that is surrounded by cotton seeds. The lint is usually dust particles. Cotton lint is removed by the application of a strong acid. During cotton research, lint removal is one of the first steps of the research procedure. 

Dryer lint is the small fibres that are obtained by the drying of clothes in a dryer machine. This lint might affect the functioning of clothes dryers and therefore it is recommended that after every cycle, the dryer lint should be cleaned to avoid unnecessary complications. 

Pocket lint is the debris (small fibres, paper or tissues) that is accumulated at the end of the pocket and is called pocket lint. It usually is considered trash and is disposed of. 

Navel lint is also called navel fluff. It is found in the navel cavity of the belly button. The navel lint is accumulated when there is friction between hair and fabrics. As a result, lint gets stuck in the navel usually at the end of the day. 

What is the composition of dryer lint?

The composition of lint depends on the fibres it is sourced from. If lint comes from cotton clothes, it is made of cotton. If lint is sourced from wool, then it is composed of small wool fibres.

Regarding lint, the general rule of thumb is that lint from natural fibres like cotton or silk is in greater quantity as compared to lint from non-natural sources like synthetic fibres. 

Regarding the composition of lint, it is generally perceived that it is dust and is of no value at all. However, both the assumptions are incorrect. 

Lint may contain dust too but it is not dust entirely. It is the accumulation of small fabric fibres that may contain other debris as well including dust or hair particles. 

Dust is made from animal or human skin cells. At a fundamental level, dust is animal-based whereas lint is mostly made from plant-based material (fibres). 

Secondly, the assumption that lint is of no value at all is also incorrect because lint can be used for a variety of purposes which will be detailed in the remaining sections of the article.  

The appearance of lint is most of the time grey in colour. It is also asked how is it possible that multi-coloured clothes such as red, green, blue, black, and white create a single coloured lint.

The answer is that lint is an accumulation of all the fabric fibres. When you combine all these colours, you get the colour of the lint (grey). 

What is biodegradability?

In order to understand the biodegradability status of dryer lint, it is important to know what biodegradability is in the first place. 

Biodegradability is the process through which complex waste is converted into simpler substances by the action of microbes. These microbes can be bacteria, fungi, algae, yeast or protozoa. 

These microbes break down the structures of complex waste so that it can become a part of nature again. This conversion is important because if waste is not degraded, it will accumulate in the environment and will cause many issues to human life, animal life and the environment. 

Among these issues, there are: 

  • Global warming
  • GHG emissions
  • Changed weather conditions/patterns
  • Loss of life
  • Destruction of habitats
  • Ozone depletion 
  • Pollution 
  • Loss of agricultural land 
  • Food deprivation 
  • Decreased access to clean water
  • Destruction of aquatic ecosystem
  • Depletion of oxygen in the water ecosystem
  • Deforestation 
  • Soil erosion 

Other than these environmental effects, if waste is not degraded, it will also cause a multitude of detrimental impacts on human health as well including: 

  • Skin allergies
  • Eye issues
  • Neurological issues
  • Cancer
  • Lungs infections 
  • Throat issues
  • Reproductive damage
  • Necrosis 
  • Organ defects
  • Cancers 

Therefore, biodegradability is important because non-biodegradable products will make our world non-livable in years to come. 

Regarding biodegradability, a general rule of thumb is that man-made products are not degradable whereas natural products are degradable. Examples of these natural products may be waste from crops, plant-based waste or animal-based waste. 

Whereas, examples of synthetic non-biodegradable products may be nuclear waste, electronic waste, polymers, nylon et cetera. This waste may remain in the environment for hundreds of years. 

What are the various sources of dryer lint?

As it has been established that dryer lint is made from fabric fibres. These fabric fibres can source from both natural and synthetic sources. 

Natural fibres are made from natural sources such as animals or plants. Examples may include cotton, jute, silk and wool. These fibres are sourced from nature, however, their production can include the use of harmful chemicals like agrochemicals. 

These natural fibres come with some advantages such as: 

  • Eco-friendly 
  • Biodegradable
  • Durable
  • Better absorbance as compared to synthetic fibres 

On the other hand, we have synthetic fibres. These fibres are man-made and synthesised in the labs. The use of chemicals is important here that convert polymers into fibres. Some examples of these synthetic fibres may be: 

  • Microfibres
  • Rayon 
  • Spandex
  • Acrylic fibres 
  • Polyester 

These fibres are cheaper and offer the same utility as natural fibres. These fibres also have some edge which may not be there in the case of natural fibres. For example, synthetic fibres (like Dyneema) can be made 100% water-proof making them a good fit for outdoor use. 

Is dryer lint biodegradable?

For a substance to be biodegradable, it must be made from natural materials so that microbes can break down the structure. In this way, it can become part of nature again. 

We have seen that dryer lint can source from both natural and non-natural fibres, therefore it can be summed up that dryer lint can be both degradable and non-degradable. 

However, studies show that dryer lint is mostly made from natural fibres (in greater amounts), we can assume that dryer lint is usually biodegradable. 

Is dryer lint good?

Dryer lint is linked to several negative impacts on humans. These effects can be respiratory problems, nausea, dizziness, headaches, and psychological problems. That is why, dryer lint should not be inhaled and should be dealt with carefully. 

Dryer lint can also cause decreased functioning of clothes dryers. That is why it is advised that dryers should be constantly cleaned after some cycles because otherwise, it will take more time for dryers to dry your clothes. 

The drying machine can also get clogged and you may end up with increased electricity bills. Thus, if not cleaned, dryer lint is bad for both the environment and the economy since electricity is mostly made from non-renewable sources of energy. 

Dryer lint that is sourced from synthetic fibres might give the same effects as those synthetic fibres. These may include pollution, destruction of marine habitats, loss of life, and degradation of water quality in water bodies. 

These effects may reciprocate at various levels and may translate into countless domains eventually ending up in our kitchen, water bottles and dining tables. 

How can dryer lint be utilised? (7 applications of dryer lint) 

There are a number of ways in which you can utilise the dryer lint instead of simply throwing it away. This will increase the utility of dryer lint instead of just clogging your system or creating health complications. 

Some of the ways in which dryer lint can be used are: 

  • Stuffing for handicrafts
  • Fire starters 
  • Pet bedding 
  • Dry composting 
  • Yarn making
  • Paper machine pulp
  • Prevention of soil erosion and weed growth 

Conclusion 

It is concluded that dryer lint is usually biodegradable because this lint is made from natural fibres in greater quantities as compared to synthetic fibres. Dryer lint may also source from synthetic fibres (in small quantities) which will not be biodegradable. 

Dryer lint is associated with numerous health, mechanical and environmental concerns and must be dealt with properly. 

Dryer lint also has a good utilitarian value which you can consider instead of just throwing it away. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Is dryer lint biodegradable?

Can dryer lint be used as compost?

Compost is decaying organic matter. Dryer lint from natural fibres can be used as compost to improve soil quality. 

Why is dryer lint always in dark grey colour?

This is because, as per studies, when you add various colours (from fabric fibres) randomly, you end up with a colour similar to that of dryer lint. 

Reference 

  • Turner, A. (2019). Trace elements in laundry dryer lint: A proxy for household contamination and discharges to wastewater. Science of the Total Environment, 665, 568-573.
  • Cheng, K. C., Zheng, D., Tetteh, A. O., Park, H. K., Nadeau, K. C., & Hildemann, L. M. (2016). Personal exposure to airborne particulate matter due to residential dryer lint cleaning. Building and Environment, 98, 145-149.
  • Yousef, S., Eimontas, J., Striūgas, N., Mohamed, A., & Abdelnaby, M. A. (2021). Morphology, compositions, thermal behavior and kinetics of pyrolysis of lint-microfibers generated from clothes dryer. Journal of Analytical and Applied Pyrolysis, 155, 105037.
  • Snow, John. (2012). Why is dryer lint grey? Retrieved from: https://www.livescience.com/33685-dryer-lint-gray.html

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