Thursday, March 19, 2009

Giving Up Lint for Lent

My passion for repurposing dryer lint – aka “Cheapskate’s Velvet” - is a matter of public record. ( ) In fact after looking in the mirror this morning and marveling at the rate at which my hairline is receding, I’ve decided to fast-track my latest repurposing experiment involving dryer lint. Yep, I’m trying to fashion a toupee out of the stuff. The prototypes have been very encouraging: They look preposterous, which is apparently the industry standard for toupees. At least mine isn’t going to cost me anything.

Well, as I’ve written before, maybe dryer lint really isn’t free. You can even argue that ounce for ounce it’s truly a precious commodity. You see, dryer lint represents the life of your clothing being cooked and beaten out of them by an electric or gas dryer. That – and the waste of energy used by the machine – is why I’m encouraging folks to forsake their electric dryers and hang their clothes out to dry, at least during Lent. Let’s give up lint for Lent, shall we?

In my experience, gently washing your clothes in cold water and drying them on a clothesline instead of shaking-and-baking them in an electric dryer can as much as double the lifespan of many apparel items. Theoretically, that means you could cut your spending on clothing in half just by being careful about washing and line-drying them instead of using a machine. Given that the average American family spends about $1,800 a year on clothing (, that $900 savings over, say, thirty years with a compounded interest rate of five percent could build you nice little nest egg of close to $70,000. And that’s before factoring in the additional savings on energy and appliance costs when you line-dry instead of use a machine.

Of course all that depends on your willingness to be a trendsetter and actually wear your clothes until they’re worn out. I heard recently that only a small percentage (I think it was less than five percent) of clothing that we throw away in the U.S. is truly “worn out.” The vast majority of the clothing that we throw away is simply something we no longer want or that no longer fits, and we don’t take the time to pass it along to someone else who will wear it.

Someday, I want to live in a world where a frayed cuff or a gravy stain on a necktie isn’t an embarrassment, but rather a point of personal pride; a public proclamation that someone is committed to getting the maximum life out of their clothing, and is too self-confident to let some snobbish fashionista shame them into wasting the Earth’s resources and their own hard earned money. Of course, if that day ever comes, a small part of me will miss the surplus dryer lint.

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posted by Jeff Yeager at 2:43 AM


Blogger Monica the Garden Faerie said...

Hooray! My friend makes similar fire starters but puts the lint into cardboard egg cartons and then cuts the sections. It also never dawned on me to put it in my compost bin, I have no idea why. I do try to limit drier use; I tend to put clothes in for about five minutes to dewrinkle and then I line dry them.

March 20, 2009 11:31 AM  
Blogger mother bird said...

I thought I heard once that most people only wear 20% of the clothes they own. I strive to only own that 20%, and not have piles of stuff in my closet. I myself, have to be wary of the lure of "cheap" clothes. Meaning two things, buying ugly or the wrong size clothes I won't ever actually wear just because they are really discounted, either Goodwill or on the 90% off rack. And buying "cheap" clothes that are not really very well made that end up falling apart. I'd rather spend a bit more on something that I will have and wear for years to come because it won't go out of style quickly and is well made.

March 23, 2009 6:12 AM  
Blogger *MiMi* said...

Hello Crazy Man Yeager:)

LOL! I say this with all the affection in the world...I just saw the video clip about you and this Cheapskate book. Now, granted I think this is a great idea given the state of the economy...HOWEVER, the items that you listed are NECESSITIES. It's not about luxury anymore. Our cellphones have removed the need for a house phone and in someways turn out to be cheaper. Not to mention that I have a business and MUST be able to get my emails to my Blackberry to be efficient. This is what my clients and employees are expecting and this, my friend, is a necessity. Our cable is sometimes packaged with our internet, which by the way is a basic utility especially since we are expected to upgrade our televisions to digital. BOTTLED WATER is a necessity. Of course the municipals are going to say their water is in comparison to what? how many particles per unit are YOU willing to drink? How much cryptosporidium are you willing to risk before you change your ideas about how safe the water is? Death is not an least if I can help it.

I do agree that cooking more at home COULD save you money...however, have you seen the cost of food lately? It is without a doubt cheaper to get a lunch special for $5.00 than to buy groceries for that same meal.

Times have changed. Just as you say luxury is relative...I would have to suggest that necessity is also relative. Nothing I listed above has anything to do with luxury. I do not rock a diamond encrusted cellphone nor do I drink $100 bottled water. Trader Joes has water for .49 cents a bottle for a half gallon. There are big 5 gallon bottles people can buy that cost WAY less than that per gallon.

I appreciate you trying to help us out...maybe do a second edition for those of us who don't want to sacrifice a healthy and more productive way of life...there is definitely a market for that type of book.

Peace and Blessings:)

April 2, 2009 11:04 AM  
Blogger jr said...

dyer lint has many uses as a fire starter. it is also nice to leave outside in the spring for birds to line their nests.

for those of us who need a dryer for lifestyle, or geographic reason, you need to concern yourself with the dryer vent. a clogged dryer vent can cost a family $20-$50 a month in extra utilities.

you can learn more at


April 8, 2009 9:25 AM  
Blogger Jeff Yeager said...

MiMi -

Ahh, our worlds collide, but I'm far from convinced by your words. At best, the world you have chosen to accept appears to require such things - cell phones, cable, bottled water - of you. But do remember, you're the one who chose that life. You could chose otherwise.

I have to laugh, perhaps hardest of all, about your claim re: bottled water. You're loath to accept the word of public authorities re: the quality/safety of tap water, BUT you apparently accept as gospel the similar claims made by those trying to SELL you their bottled water. Now, on the surface, who has more to gain by being dishonest?

I'm sure you're correct - that there is a much bigger market for a book detailing a less radical approach to spending/consuming less - but there are already sooooo many of those books on the market, and, as we're reading everyday in the headlines, their adice is too little too late, even in those rare instances when it's accurate.

Stay Cheap!
-Jeff Yeager

April 13, 2009 10:42 AM  
Blogger Corbie said...

Mimi, you can definitely eat well for a lot less than $5 per meal using fresh ingredients. And a Brita filter will remove most contaminants in your water. If you're unfortunate enough to live somewhere (like DC) where you need bottled water, you need to raise heck with your elected officials. Clean, drinkable tap water should be a basic service, not a luxury.

Jeff, I have friends who have gone cell-phone only and ditched their land lines to save money, so it can actually make sense, depending on your circumstances.

Back to laundry lines, though -- our HOA prohibits them. I've been known to hang my laundry up anyway, since it's hard to see the back yard from the street and my neighbors are pretty cool. But is Maryland considering any legislation overriding HOA rules against them on environmental / energy saving grounds?

April 14, 2009 2:48 PM  
Blogger Corbie said...

Oh, and before someone goes on about how one doesn't have to live in a neighborhood that has a Homeowner's Association -- well, it's hard to find such a house in some areas. We didn't want an old house (worried about mold etc. and wanted to build a new, energy-efficient instead of dealing with replacing/upgrading everything) and looked for land, but all the land that wasn't swamp had been bought up by developers.

Maryland mandates that any neighborhood larger than 20 houses has to have a HOA. So when farms are sold to developers, any resulting neighborhood has a HOA.

April 14, 2009 2:54 PM  
Blogger Alinda said...

Hello, Corbie ^-^

I have my own opinions about HOAs and fortunately live in an established innercity neighborhood that is old enough that the house already had a closeline in the yard when we bought it. (I think my house pre-dates electric dryers. It definately pre-dates HOAs.)

However, I live in Washington State (the other Washington) where rain is a frequent fact of life. Since I have a lot of clothes that I don't want damaged by the dryer, I have two choices: only wash clothes on dry days, which can be difficult, or find indoor places to dry my clothes, which isn't difficult at all. All it takes is a few eye-bolts and a couple dollars for rope to string a clothesline in my kitchen (or your laundry room or wherever). I also hung a closet rod in my bathroom for hanging shirts and such to dry. I can hang 2 or 3 super sized loads on just that small amount of space.

And... if you are fortunate enough to have a house with a garage, then you have more than enough room for drying clothes for even the largest of families without your HOA caring or even being aware.

peace ^-^b

April 18, 2010 4:53 PM  

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