Thursday, October 27, 2011

Hidden Costs of Laundry, Con't

-- Laundry Lint --

I’d like to take some time today to respond to a few questions sent our way after a blog post earlier in October about dryer lint…

First of all, front loading high efficiency washers use less water than standard washers – only 20-66% of the water is used with these newer models... depending on the settings that are chosen and the size of the load.

I have learned that they are more gentle on clothing and fabrics, therefore the clothes will not wear out or stretch as easily as with other washers. And because the spin cycle is so efficient, one doesn’t need the dryer to work as hard (when the clothes line is not in use).

October, being Fire Prevention Month is also a time of year traditionally when we experience a rise in the number of house fires. Dryer vent cleaning is so important… installing the dryer vents properly is key as well. So take a look at your dryer vent and see  if you have a coil plastic pipe leading to the exterior dryer vent. If so, you’ll want to  replace that with a solid metal venting system, or an extendable metal one, although a solid metal pipe is most recommended because the fewer ridges and corners in your venting system will actually increase the efficiency of your machine and prevent lint buildup. 

All dryer vents will need cleaning, usually annually – because lint can build up in the ducts inside the dryer and make the machine work harder due to improper air flow, and this is a fire hazard. Lint is really the perfect fire starter – literally. Check out our book Trash Talk to learn ways of turning lint into a campfire or emergency kit amendment. 

In the original post on this topic, (Hidden Costs of Laundry) we offered some simple suggestions to help prevent synthetic lint from polluting beaches, harming wildlife, and accumulating in our oceans. However we had some people looking for more information on this... so I did some research and found the following:


Lint from the dryer, not the washer, will often end up in the garbage or in composting systems. Now if you are using organic fabrics – that lint is probably safe for the compost… in fact our lint always goes to the compost. What concerns me, though, is if this synthetic lint causes problems in the ocean… what is it doing to our soils and possible food chain?

Add ½ cup white cleaning vinegar to the laundry wash cycle and this will reduce the amount of lint produced… but also will act as a fabric conditioner since it softens the water. Pet hair too, will not cling to the fabrics as easily when using this method.

Sorting the laundry from synthetics, delicates, and mixed cotton and denim loads is a great way to run the laundry room more efficiently. Sweaters, towels and track pants or sweatshirts tend to produce a lot of lint – so you may want to wash these in one load Synthetics should be washed in a separate load with a gentle, cold water cycle. Polyester, the experts say, is especially a problem – when it comes to synthetics.
Be sure to close all snaps, zippers etc so that these items to not cause more friction in the load.  And be sure to check all the pockets, each and every one, for loose change, paper receipts and lists, or paperclips and miniature lint balls. 

Give the items a bit of a shake before putting in the washing machine – by putting in loose, rather than balled up, items the machine will run more efficiently and it reduces the friction on your clothing. 

Make sure the load is sized appropriately for your machine – if it is too full then there won’t be a proper water-to-clothing ratio… and more lint will form.

Most modern washing machines have a lint filter – your manual will let you know where it is located – be sure to clean this periodically. And make sure that the dryer lint screen is cleaned each and every load.  If you clean the inside of the washer machine and dryer drums, it can help to prevent excess lint production.

Those of us who purchase used clothing are enjoying a hidden lint benefit – since new clothes and fabrics will have loose threads, etc, that will come off in the first few loads.

Because of these options – there is less lint produced, our clothes last longer, we pay less to run the laundering machines... and less synthetic fibers will leak into the water systems and eventually into the ocean.


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