How to Reduce and Remove Lint from Clothes and Upholstery

Remove lint
Charles Maraia/Getty Images

So, which is worse - dark lint on white clothes or white lint on dark clothes? It really doesn't matter because lint never looks good. Lint can happen when you wear something that sheds, sit on something that sheds or wash other clothes with a shedder. Here are some tips to help you remove lint and prevent lint from happening in the first place

HELP! The Lint Monster Already Attacked

If you've washed something and it has excessive lint that has shed from something else or a tissue was left in a pocket, begin by washing the item again and add 1 cup distilled white vinegar or a dose of liquid fabric softener to the rinse water.

This will help loosen the lint from the fabric by relaxing the fibers.

Place the item in a clothes dryer with a couple of microfiber cloths (the lint will stick to the microfiber cloths) and tumble until slightly damp. Remove from dryer and use a clothes brush or sticky lint roller to remove the remaining lint. If you don't have a sticky lint roller, use heavy duty packing tape wrapped around your fingers to pull off the lint.

If you don't have time to rewash, spray the garment with an anti-static spray and then brush with a lint roller or a dry, cellulose sponge.

For lint or pet hair on upholstery, start by vacuuming with the upholstery tool on your vacuum. Next, spray the fabric with an anti-static spray (Static Guard is a brand name). Brush the upholstery with a microfiber cloth or cellulose sponge. Vacuum again and finish up with a sticky lint roller.

To Prevent Excessive Lint Begin by Sorting Laundry

Preventing lint attacks all begins with how you sort your laundry.

Some fabrics are lint shedders, others are lint attractors and the two should not be washed together. Of course, it is best to sort lint shedders by color as well.

Lint Shedders

  • Cotton
  • Terry cloth towels, robes and shirts
  • Rugs
  • Chenille bedspreads

Lint Attractors

  • Linen clothes and linens
  • Synthetic or man-made fibers
  • Knit items
  • Corduroy and other plush fabrics

Lint in the Washer = Lint on Your Clothes

If you have a garment that is already covered with lint or pet hair from wearing, toss it in the dryer on AIR-ONLY with a dryer sheet to help remove as much lint as possible before washing. Be sure the dryer lint filter is clean before starting the air cycle.

To prevent lint from depositing on the outside of clothing, wash garments inside out. However, if you have a garment that is covered with lint (a white shirt worn under a black sweater), wash it with the right side out to help lint escape.

As you load your washer, be sure that you do not overload. It is important that water can move freely between fabrics so that lint suspended in the water can be washed away. Overcrowding allows the lint to redeposit.

Some older washers have a lint filter that should be cleaned regularly. It is usually located on the side or upper rim of the tub. However, today's washers have self-cleaning lint filters usually located under the agitator in top load machines and behind the tub of a front-load washer.

While self-cleaning sounds great, it also means that the lint and hair can be trapped if you don't use enough water to wash them completely out of the machine.

It is helpful to run a cleaning cycle every month to flush the lint away and it can also help control odors and disinfect your machine.

It is also possible that the filter at your water pump is clogged. When that happens, the wash and rinse water with all that suspended soil and lint drains too slowly and leaves deposits on your clothes.

To clean the filter at your washer's pump, you will need to open the outer housing of your washer. For front load washers, the lower panel will pop off easily and you can access the clean-out filter. For top loading washers, follow the directions in your washer manual to access the water pump. You may find lots of lint, coins, buttons or even a sock that is causing a slow drain and leaving lint on your clothes. If you need a user or repair manual, you can find it here.

If you have your washer connected to a septic tank system, the lint is being washed out of the washer and into your tank. Synthetic fibers don't break down easily and will continue to collect until they cause a problem. There are external lint filters that can be connected to the washer to prevent this problem. Remember to clean these regularly to prevent lint from redepositing on clothes.

Adding a fabric softener to the final rinse will help fibers relax and release lint to be washed away. You can use a commercial fabric softener, homemade fabric softener or distilled white vinegar.

Get Rid of Lint in the Dryer

Every dryer has a lint filter that is essential for capturing the lint that is lifted away from wet clothes as they dry. It is also essential to keep this lint filter clean or lint can redeposit onto clothes because it has no where else to go.

It's also important to keep the dryer vent system and outside vents clean so that air flow is strong enough to pull away lint - and as a bonus - it will help prevent fires.

If you have not used a fabric softener in the washer, a dryer sheet can help reduce static electricity that can hold lint to clothes.

Lint In the Closet

A lint brush or lint roller is an essential in the closet, your desk, your purse and in your car. For quick touch-ups there is nothing better and the stylish Flint Lint Rollers are so attractive, you can leave one everywhere and refills are available. If you don't have a lint roller, you can use tape wrapped around your hand with the sticky side out to remove lint.

If a garment has lots of lint and you don't have time to wash it or dry clean it, use a clothes steamer in addition to the lint brush. The dampness will help remove the static that holds the lint more tightly to the fabric.

Lastly, do not store lint producing items like sweaters or bathrobes near lint attracting clothes. And, keep black clothes away from whites!