November 19, 2000

A Piece of Fluff

As I've mentioned before, sometimes it's necessary to scrape the bottom of the barrel to find a topic. Today, that proverbial barrel provided me with.. dryer lint.

Dryer lint is, in reality, your sheets, towels, and clothes, slowly disintegrating in the hot desert winds of the dryer. That fact alone can be depressing but we must not dwell on it, for dryer lint has brought more to humanity than it has taken away.

Like me, you probably assume (if you give it any thought at all) that dryer lint is a useless byproduct of the laundry, and fling it in the trash without hesitation. This is WRONG.

Oh, you do have to clear it out of your dryer, preferably with every load, or else this might happen to you:

Headline: Woman rescued after dryer lint ignites house

But once harvested, dryer lint has a myriad of uses, both practical and fanciful. After a web search that was quite an eye-opener, I divided these uses into four categories: crafts, including useful stuff; arts; science; and religion. (No, I'm NOT joking!)

Crafts & Useful Stuff:

Probably the most frequently cited use for dryer lint is dryer lint clay. There are many recipes out there but I think one link for that is enough.

Along the same line but less messy is the dryer lint pets project.

Dryer lint is also a good fire starter, since it's so combustible.
(This makes it impractical for the one use I would have thought of, stuffing pillows or toys with it!)

Dryer lint is in fact so useful that it is being offered as a prize; all you have to do is write an essay explaining why you want to win it. Piece of cake...

And if you don't win, you can buy some for yourself, at the sale price of only US-$18.95!


Things get a little stranger in this category. These people take their dryer lint very seriously. This site has five photos of creations by one "artist";

Then we have Meet the Lint Guys, explained as follows:

Lint Guys are tiny figurative sculptures created out of dryer lint donated by ordinary people from all over the United States. These tiny sculptures are between 2" and 6" tall and can fit into even the smallest hand. The Lint Guy project is interactive in nature. Participants donate their lint, it is sculpted, exhibited and often sent back to them. The Guys have been exhibited in galleries, schools, at yard sales, on-line and in living rooms around the country. They currently reside in 17 states around the US and are actively seeking homes in the other 28. I encourage you to send you lint today!

Becoming progressively weirder, we have Detritus, who offered this introduction (in part):

My work grows from an interest in the rituals and detritus of contemporary urban life. ... Working with used teabags, hair, and dryer lint for example, engages me in part because these materials rest between the beautiful and the ugly. In our homes this matter is banal, not an object of art or interest. A reconstitution and mass accumulation of these things is central to my work of the last five years. I began to collect my hair in 1993, after contemplating it as an interesting subject for aesthetic investigation. I saved the hair from my brush, shower drain, and hair cuts for over two years.

There is a fine line between art and... unwellness?

There is also more to art than just... art, as we learn from this site:
The Amazing Adventures of Dryer Lint Woman

This last one has to be the piece de resistance of the art section:
"Dryer-Lint Mary / Jesus Sculpture"; shown in this newspaper article which even features a photograph of the perpetrator; she looks normal - you just never can tell with people.

Artist Amy Greving used "bags and bags" of the wispy stuff collected from fellow members of the 750-person congregation to fashion her tribute to the Christmas miracle.
The mother of two spent more than three months of weekends and spare time sculpting the smooth-faced Virgin Mary whose arms stretch out as she cradles the Baby Jesus.

Consider that one crossfiled under Religion, too.


Science has jumped upon the dryer lint bandwagon as well. And again, these people take their lint seriously.. well, most of them do:

It seems that rayon fibers can be manufactured from dryer lint: this article in the Journal of Chemical Education tells you how.

Dryer lint can also been analyzed in a screening test for high levels of lead in the home, according to Science News.

My favourite, though, is this article:
Laundry: A Quantum Mechanical Approach
by: Brian J. Reardon
which deals with more than just dryer lint:

The availability of high speed automated washers and dryers has provided a number of fundamental questions that can not be answered using the classical laundry theory (i.e.: the river washed the sock away). Such questions include: Where, exactly does lint come from and why does the quantity of lint change from load to load? If the washing machine is a closed system, how can socks disappear? When using public washing machines and dryers, why is it that every once in a while you will find someone else's socks in your load even when you checked the washer/dryer ahead of time?

(I highly recommend you read the whole thing!)
It's comforting to realize this scientist's tongue is firmly in cheek; however, somewhat less comforting to find out that his day job is with the Los Alamos National Laboratory.


I hesitated to include this one; it is seriously scary. Any page that would turn up in searches for dryer lint, Frank Zappa, and the Bible, is scary by definition. I can buy the concept of the lint screen as a metaphor for life; but finding "infinite truth" therein is too much for me.


I have to admit, what began as a sort of lark (an entry about dryer lint?) became a lesson in human nature in the course of searching the web. There is nothing too inconsequential to be found - thousands of times over - on the internet. I certainly have proof of that now!

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