What causes lint in washing machines and dryers, and why does it stick to clothes? --- Daniel, Georgetown, Guyana
Lint is fabric fibers that shed off of fabric. Some items (like cotton terry cloth towels and socks) produce a lot more lint than other items. And if you ever make the mistake of leaving a kleenex or a piece of paper in a pocket, you get a bunch of artificially induced paper lint. A rough agitator may also sheer off more fibers (that become lint) than will a gentle agitator. Lint sticks to itself and to clothes because the fibers become entangled as they brush against each other.
It turns out that there has been a big revolution in washing machine design over the last decade because of the drive to improve efficiency. With these new designs, there are definite differences in lint performance. Some washing machines leave a lot of lint, while others don't. Consumer reports made a particular point of discussing lint in one of its washing machine roundups. If you have a washing machine that performs poorly on lint, you will see a lot of lint when clothes comes out of the washer (especially if you mix clothes and towels in the same load). Usually the lint gets blown off in the dryer.
This video offers tips on eliminating lint:
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