To lint or not to lint -
March 18, 2005 1:16 AM   Subscribe

Maybe this should be titled 'To de-lint or not to de-lint.' My Dad is living with me for a few weeks and we've had some heated discussions about dryer lint. In the interest of peace (and the possibility of not having to do any dishes for a week) - please share your knowledge or opinion.

One of us believe's strongly that the dryer lint trap/vent should be cleaned out several times during the drying cycle - that this will allow much more lint/fuzz to be collected from the clothing and also makes the dryer work more efficiently, as the vent isn't heavily blocked by the lint.

The other person believes that opening the dryer door so often causes too much heat loss and as a result, a decline in efficiency - this person also believes that the lint trap is perfectly capable of handling lint from a normal dryer load - that it will, can, does collect all the lint available, whether the lint trap is empty or not.

What do you think?
posted by LadyBonita to Home & Garden (38 answers total)
 
...the lint trap is perfectly capable of handling lint from a normal dryer load - that it will, can, does collect all the lint available, whether the lint trap is empty or not.

Yes. Leave the door closed and clean the lint trap after every load.
posted by fixedgear at 1:38 AM on March 18, 2005


Anyone who is anal enough to want to clean out the filter several times per load has likely picked most of the lint off their clothes before laundering.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 2:09 AM on March 18, 2005


Oh my (deity). Grow up!
posted by Dean Keaton at 2:13 AM on March 18, 2005


It seems obvious to me that opening the door will allow the heat to escape; which strikes me as a bad thing, if your real intent is to dry clothes.

However INATE ( I'm Not A Theromodynamic Engineer ).
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 2:22 AM on March 18, 2005


As far as I understand, my dryer is designed to run through a fixed program, and it doesn't care whether its contents are shoes, laundry, the cat or just plain hot air. Presumably, more advanced dryers do care about the moisture level of the air they process, and so have variable length run cycles.

Also, I am a bit confused by your choice of goal variables - I'd go for dry laundry at minimum energy cost, not maximum collected lint, and I assume that (at least for 'fixed program' dryers) the negative effect of heat loss on the final drying results exceeds any benefits from improved air flow from the clean lint.

If you insist on measuring collected lint, I suggest that you take a scientific approach and purchase something like ten dryer loads of cheap textiles, wash them once under comparable conditions and then dry five of them under the closed-door regime and five with interrupts to clean the lint filter. Form two piles for 'collected' and 'rogue' lint for each sample, then borrow your resident drug dealer's precision scale to measure lint mass.

That still leaves you to decide whether you go for maximum collected lint or minimum rogue lint, or some kind of combination for the two. This should probably determined beforehand to avoid conflict.

Happy experimenting, and keep us updated!
posted by themel at 2:26 AM on March 18, 2005


Then there's the lady lawyer in Kitsilano who called the apartment manager (whom I know) to fix her dryer. She didn't know there was such a thing as a lint filter. Femlibio ad absurdum.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 2:34 AM on March 18, 2005


You are also undervaluing your time by hanging around a dryer during its cycle to continually remove lint. (This is the normal case anyway, it's possible that your time actually has little value based on this example.)
posted by biffa at 3:05 AM on March 18, 2005


These machines are designed and tested to work as described in their manuals. If the manual doesn't say "clean the lint filter several times per load," don't do it.
posted by pracowity at 3:37 AM on March 18, 2005


What everybody else said plus in the interest of peace and considering your Dad is only with you for a few weeks, you could just do it his way, whatever that is and enjoy your time together instead of having heated discussions over lint of all things. He's your Dad, give him a hug.
posted by Tarrama at 4:17 AM on March 18, 2005


(and the possibility of not having to do any dishes for a week)

You wash, let dad dry. Oh - and don't bother the dryer while you're doing the dishes.
posted by whatisish at 5:16 AM on March 18, 2005


Oh yeah, a few more things. Since I get all my good tips from Gawker Media and Gina and all, I saw this on Lifehacker. Clean your lint filter with soap and water and scrub it with an old toothbrush or scotchbrite pad or something. I was a little skeptical when I read this, but my lint filter could actually hold water. Using dryer sheets leaves a coating on there and the screen gets plugged. I also take apart the vent pipe every six months or so and clean it with a shop vac and run a stiff wire through there. And give your Dad a hug.
posted by fixedgear at 5:26 AM on March 18, 2005


Your dad is bonkers. Just tell him what he wants to hear (ie that you stood by the drier and cleaned). If he's actually around when drying is being done, tell him you would do the multiple cleanings but you are just too busy sorting your coin collection/washing your hair/alphabetizing your CDs and so he'll have to do it.

Yes, i am a horrible daughter. Can't you tell?
posted by Kololo at 5:31 AM on March 18, 2005


i beg to differ with fixedgear. when you lived in your parent's house, you had to follow the rules or get sent to your room, right? ok, same goes at your house. your rules. dad should be grounded for a week.
posted by andrew cooke at 5:32 AM on March 18, 2005


...the link regarding washing the lint filter.
posted by glibhamdreck at 5:52 AM on March 18, 2005


I agree with andrew, making my mother go out to the garden if she wanted to smoke was easily one of the most satisfying experiences of my adult life. 'You can tell me what to do when it's your house' indeed.

I can also add that hanging your clothes up to dry will both reduce energy use and render lint gathering a moot point. Good for the environment and for increased storage space.
posted by biffa at 6:04 AM on March 18, 2005


We have the opposite problem at my house. The lint screen is external, it slides in from the top. My landllady, who we live with, never changes it. She'll let us change it, she just doesn't really think about it herself. She does a ton of laundry. We'll get calls from her kids every now and again who say "Make sure she cleans that lint filter, she's going to burn the house down with a dryer fire!" We try to keep it clean but sometimes we forget. I have noticed no diminshing in our dryer's capabilities whether the screen is clean or chock-full of lint. Also, no dryer fires. There is no reason to clean a lint filter mid-cycle except irrational lint anxiety.
posted by jessamyn at 6:17 AM on March 18, 2005


jess,

I used to have one on those dyer exhaust shunts that you could set to expel the heated & humidified air into your basement during the winter. It had its own secondary lint filter. I noticed that even a very modest coating of lint seriously clogged the vent.

Since the ability of the dryer to, well, dry, is impaired if it can't move the water saturated air out of the dryer, I'd suggest that despite your observation that cleaning the lint filter is important to dryer efficiency.

Fires, on the other hand, I dunno...
posted by mojohand at 6:50 AM on March 18, 2005


Let whoever desires to clean the filter mid-cycle stand there and do it themselves. Then get on with the visit and enjoy each other.

If you want the engineer's take on this, opening the door costs you nothing. The dryer works by passing lots of heated air out the vent. Whether it passes out through the vent or door probably matters not. As for a mid-cycle cleaning, unless you are doing towels you probably can't get enough lint on the filter to matter during one cycle. Since all the air goes through the filter if it gets blocked it will hamper efficiency, but a small amount of lint won't make enough difference to notice. On the other hand if your goal is to capture the most lint possible, a partially blocked filter will actually catch more lint (small pieces will pass through the holes of a freshly cleaned filter).

*puts pocket protector and slide rule back into the drawer*
posted by caddis at 6:50 AM on March 18, 2005


Wait, why are you all assuming that Dad wants to stop mid-cycle? Maybe the original poster wants to stop mid-cycle?
posted by fixedgear at 6:57 AM on March 18, 2005


caddis, would there not be a link between temperature and the amount of moisture passing out of the clothing and into the surrounding air?
posted by biffa at 7:13 AM on March 18, 2005


Oh, and for the record the lint trap is there not to get your clothes lint free but to prevent lint from accumulating in the vent where it can catch fire. Lint fires are rare, but can happen. Of course, I have never bothered to clean the vent on our dryer, but I hear that it is a good idea to do this every couple of years or so, or at least when you replace the dryer.

How Dryers Work
posted by caddis at 7:15 AM on March 18, 2005


Clearing the lint filter several times per load is actually reducing its effectiveness. Most filters work best when they are 20-30 percent occluded.
posted by planetkyoto at 7:19 AM on March 18, 2005


biffa, I am not sure I understand your question.
posted by caddis at 7:21 AM on March 18, 2005


I was wondering if drying was more effective at higher temperature, and if opening the door caused temp reduction thus slowing drying and/or requiring additional heating.
posted by biffa at 7:57 AM on March 18, 2005


If you are drying clothes with enough lint creating ability to clog the dryer vent completely it's worth doing a clean out. I bought some cheap towels and they create a giant lint brick in my dryer. Unless I remove the 1/2 brick partway through the cycle they will never get dry. Regular clothes, no difference.
posted by tinamonster at 8:04 AM on March 18, 2005


I don't know if it has been proven, but I think that most dryer lint is created by the washer. I believe this because I've cycled dry clothes in the dryer (if I forget about the laundry, I'll re-dry the already dry clothes to get the wrinkles out), and they produce virtually no lint.

My normal routine for the dryer is to let it run for about 30 minutes, then open it, clean the lint filter, check the moisture of the load, and then reset the timer for an appropriate length and restart. Usually, the lint trap has very little or no lint after this second cycle.

I also have a shop vac right next to the dryer, and frequently vacuum the lint trap and door area, because I really can't stand the way lint jumps onto and sticks to some fabrics.
posted by yesster at 8:38 AM on March 18, 2005


Man, your dad sounds like mine, except mine insists that one must stir up the detergent in the laundry machine before putting the clothes in, because otherwise it won't dissolve fully, doesn't clean as well, and sticks to the clothes. This is because my family used to live in a place with particularly hard water, and used really cheap detergent, although neither applies anymore. I can only imagine his apoplexy if he discovered I was using liquid detergent and never had to worry about the problem.
posted by kindall at 8:48 AM on March 18, 2005


My friend sublet an apartment with its own laundry room and I lived there for part of the summer. The first time I did laundry I checked the lint trap before starting the dryer. I don't think it had ever been cleaned out before. When I pulled the lint brick off of it the brick then expanded vertically to about a 18 inches high of layered colors of lint sediment. I like to picture the owner returning to his apartment and doing his laundry. He goes "Hey, they must have fixed the dryer! What great sublet tenants!"

Frankly, I think all the occupants of that building should get together and throw me a party or write me a check in gratitude of saving their lives.
posted by palegirl at 9:00 AM on March 18, 2005


When I pulled the lint brick off of it the brick then expanded vertically to about a 18 inches high of layered colors of lint sediment.

This sounds awesome.

For what it's worth, I have an aunt who I consider to be very bright who didn't discover the lint filter until her dryer broke ("There's a filter you have to clean?").

In answer to the original question: what are you, nuts? Just leave the dryer be.
posted by rafter at 9:23 AM on March 18, 2005


Response by poster: Several of you assumed it was my father who insists on cleaning the lint trap several times - and that's correct.
posted by LadyBonita at 10:02 AM on March 18, 2005


I don't know if it has been proven, but I think that most dryer lint is created by the washer.

Another sound argument for front-loading washers. Clothes simply last longer with them.

Anyone who cleans the filter several times, except in the most unusual of circumstances, quite clearly has an obsessive-compulsive disorder, or far, far too much time on his hands.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:54 AM on March 18, 2005


I don't know if it has been proven, but I think that most dryer lint is created by the washer. I believe this because I've cycled dry clothes in the dryer (if I forget about the laundry, I'll re-dry the already dry clothes to get the wrinkles out), and they produce virtually no lint.

Certainly wetness weakens a lot of fibres, and is probably a big factor in lint production. But the other thing that varies between your two scenarious is a day of *wearing* the clothes and breaking down the fibres.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:57 AM on March 18, 2005


biffa, opening the door will let in some unheated air, thus cooling the clothes, but not by much when you consider the mass differential, plus evaporation that occurs out of the heat will not immediately be compensated for by incoming hot air. This may affect efficiency, but in an almost negligible fashion. Enough to overcome a small efficiency gain from cleaning the filter? I doubt it even comes close, but I can't (or won't try to) prove it.

As to the original question, I would say that Dad is right in terms of using the least electrical energy and time, but you would never be able to measure the difference on anything but large lint producing loads like towels. As for keeping the clothes lint free I would think that the process of removing the lint filter next to a mostly dry load of laundry will put lint back into the load (our lint filter always throws a cloud of lint when removed) which might now stick by static electricity, especially to any items already dry, but this is just a wild ass guess.
posted by caddis at 12:05 PM on March 18, 2005


and render lint gathering a moot point.

Because none will be gathered, and it will still be on your clothes, and then you'll have to use a (time-consuming) lint brush on them?

I don't know if it has been proven, but I think that most dryer lint is created by the washer. I believe this because I've cycled dry clothes in the dryer (if I forget about the laundry, I'll re-dry the already dry clothes to get the wrinkles out), and they produce virtually no lint.

I've noticed what has to be a significant correlation between the amount of time my clothes sit on the floor before being washed, and the amount of lint. That is, the longer they are there, the more dust accumulates, and the more lint there is. I've also noticed that clothes that are line-dry only accumulate tremendous amounts of lint/dust after a while, and one has to take the lint brush to them. So based on this, I doubt that dryer lint is created by the washer. What I actually expect is that something about washing loosens dust/lint that has accumulated. Some of this may be part of your clothes, but in my experience the large part probably comes from the clothes' environment.

As to the original question:

I also believe that you should only empty the lint trap before or after a load. (Following up on the point earlier about the design and testing of dryers) Don't you think that if the lint filters were that ineffective, by this point in time, they'd have managed to improve them (perhaps by expanding surface area) so they didn't have to be emptied constantly? Dryers are fundamentally a time/effort-saving device, after all.
posted by advil at 12:34 PM on March 18, 2005


WHO WON THE BET?
posted by graventy at 1:36 PM on March 18, 2005


also, I seem to have always lived with roomates who were weird about lint. these guys cleaned out the lint all the time, but just left it by the window
posted by jessamyn at 2:52 PM on March 18, 2005


By the way, you can save the lint and make things out of it.
posted by exceptinsects at 2:54 PM on March 18, 2005


Response by poster: I WON THE BET! Dad gets to have fun doing all the dishes next week AND cleaning out the lint over and over again. I guess I'll spend my free time making cool stuff out of Dad's massive lint collection. Thanks all!!
posted by LadyBonita at 10:06 PM on March 18, 2005


« Older Where should I attach a pick-up on my violin   |   I want to start programming under OS X. Where to... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.