Next to line-drying your clothes, the best strategy for saving energy is to invest in an energy-efficient dryer, to dry only full loads and to clean the lint trap after each use (see References 5). The latter step is important because dryer lint, a homely and forgettable by-product of doing laundry, can clog the dryer --- the longer it takes your clothes to dry, the higher the energy costs. Don't just dump the lint in the trash, though. From kindling to crafts, dryer lint has several useful household applications.
Handmade paper uses recycled printer paper, leftover or used wrapping paper and colored papers of various kinds and fibers, including dryer lint. Just dump dryer lint into the blender with soaked printer paper and water, and process until you have a soupy slurry. The dryer lint adds a bit of substance to the paper pulp. Use dissolved gelatin in the pulp mix for writing paper so the porous material won't absorb and blur ink. Add dyes for colored paper before you put the pulp in a paper mold. You can buy a paper mold or make one from old wooden picture frames and a fiberglass or plastic sheet. (See References 2)
Use dryer lint for a papier-mache recipe that you can whip up in a few minutes. Mix 3 cups packed dryer lint and 2 cups water in a large pot. Add 2/3 cup all-purpose flour --- do not use self-rising flour --- and mix it in thoroughly. Heat the mixture over medium flame, stirring until it forms peaks and holds together. Dump the papier-mache out on sheets of newspaper to cool. Mold it over a bottle or another form to make shapes that will harden in four to five days. (See References 4)
Dryer lint is highly flammable. That's one reason why you shouldn't use it to stuff pillows or toys. It works perfectly as a fire starter for a fireplace or a backyard barbecue, however. Stuff lint into an empty cardboard toilet paper or paper towel tube. Place the tube in the pile of firewood or charcoal, and light it. For large fires or wood that is thick or isn't perfectly dry, use several tubes of lint. (See References 3)
Dryer lint is a useful addition to a compost pile. It breaks down quickly and becomes part of the soil enrichment of your organic garden. Stockpile it in an old plastic milk jug with the top cut away, and dump it into the compost pile or bin when the jug gets full. Or just drop the lint on the compost pile each time you clean out your dryer's lint trap. When composting lint, follow the same guidelines you would when adding newspaper or other similar products. (See References 1)
Benna Crawford has been a journalist and New York-based writer since 1997. Her work has appeared in USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, and in professional journals and trade publications. Crawford has a degree in theater, is a certified Prana Yoga instructor, and writes about fitness, performing and decorative arts, culture, sports, business and education .