Heating & Cooling

Is Dryer Lint and Exhaust Toxic For Humans & Pets

dryer lint lg

Dryer vents have a poor safety record, with tens of thousands of home fires caused by them. Clothes dryers require a 4-inch diameter, open metal vent to release the hot, moist air outdoors.

On the other hand, the vent is seen as a necessary evil by many individuals. Most people don’t understand why the dryer takes longer to dry a normal-size load when this happens.

Studies show that dryer lint is toxic for both humans and pets. The exact toxicity of lint is unknown because it varies due to laundry detergents, softeners, and dryer sheets. If you’re concerned about toxic chemicals in your dryer exhaust and lint, ensure your clothes dryer vents to the outdoors, switch to an all-natural detergent, and avoid using scented dryer sheets. However, this may not eliminate toxins completely.

What is Dryer Lint?

Dryer lint is produced by drying a load of clothes in a clothes dryer, which accumulates on the dryer screen. Lint consists of clumps of shorter fibers expelled from clothes when drying. These clothing fibers also contain detergents, dirt, and grime from washing clothes. 

Underwriters Laboratories recommends you clean lint from the lint screen after every drying cycle for safety and energy efficiency. The most common reason for home clothes dryer fires is failure to clean the lint filter.

Is Dryer Lint Toxic to Humans?

There is some debate over whether or not dryer lint is toxic to humans. Some people claim that the lint is full of toxic chemicals and can cause respiratory problems, while others say it is nothing more than a harmless nuisance. The truth is that no one knows for sure, mainly because the contents of dryer lint vary based on the detergent, softener, scented dryer sheets, etc. More research is needed to determine if there is a link between dryer lint and respiratory problems.

In the meantime, it is probably best to take some common-sense precautions. Ensure your dryer vents to the exterior of your home. Avoid breathing in lint particles if you can, and make sure to clean up any lint that accumulates around your home. If you experience any respiratory problems after exposure to lint, see your doctor and seek medical advice.

It is up to each individual to decide whether or not they feel comfortable dealing with dryer lint. If you are worried about the potential health risks, then take steps to avoid exposure as much as possible. However, if you don’t’ mind dealing with a little bit of lint, there is no reason to avoid it. Just be sure to keep your home clean and free of any excess particles.

Dust and lint can contain dangerous substances that humans may absorb through contact with them. These include chemicals from many everyday household items. If you have sensitive skin, use rubber gloves to avoid skin irritations when cleaning the lint trap.

Is Dryer Lint Safe for Pets?

Dryer lint is not safe for pets. If your pet ingests dryer lint, you should call your vet immediately. Ingesting dryer lint could cause an intestinal blockage, which can be fatal. Always keep lint and other potential choking hazards away from your pets. 

Dryer lint is also thought to be toxic, be sure to ask your vet. They will give you more information and advise you on the best course of action. Until then, remember to take common-sense precautions when dealing with and dispose of excess lint.

Some suggest using dryer lint for pet bedding. I would not do this. If your pets are like mine, they love tearing up stuffed items and bedding. They could end up eating the lint. Eating lint will likely induce vomiting, which could be best as lint could cause blockages that could be deadly.

Are There Toxic Chemicals in Dryer Lint?

Dryer exhaust and lint can contain any harmful chemicals and mold spores.

In a Seattle area study, researchers found acetaldehyde emissions from certain brands of laundry detergent would be equivalent to 3 percent of the total acetaldehyde emissions coming from automobiles.

In a Healthline article on dryer sheets, they cited the amount of acetaldehyde coming from the dryer vent was also just 3 percent of what’s commonly released from automobiles.

In yet another report on dryer sheets, cited the fragrance chemicals in dryer sheets can be significant, representing up to 10 percent of the contents of the product.

These chemicals are likely to present in your dryer vent exhaust and would be unsafe to breathe in over long periods. The IRC addresses dryer lint as a fire hazard as a reason for venting dryers to the exterior, but the chemical exhaust is also a safety concern. 

Is it Harmful to Breathe Dryer Exhaust?

Breathing in dryer exhaust is thought to be harmful. Again, a lot depends on what you use for laundry detergent, softeners, and dryer sheets.

Using an all-natural laundry detergent and avoiding softeners and dryer sheets may reduce the risk. Still, venting the dryer to the exterior is the best practice. 

The lint expelled from the dryer is made up of tiny fibers, which, if inhaled, can cause respiratory problems. If you’re experiencing respiratory problems and you think dryer lint or exhaust is the culprit, you should see your doctor for examination. 

Is it Safe to Burn Dryer Lint?

Dryer lint is an effective fire starter because it is highly flammable. However, this use isn’t without risks. Burning dryer lint releases chemicals trapped in the fibers into the air.

Is it safe to burn dryer lint in your fireplace? While dryer lint may be a useful fire starter while on a camping trip, keep it out of your fireplace. The fibers in dryer lint can generate harmful chemical fumes that might enter your home when burning in your chimney. 

Is it acceptable to burn dryer lint? While dryer lint might be a viable fire starter, it is not recommended and should never be used to start a fire in your fireplace. Dryer lint is dangerous because it can contain hazardous chemicals that become airborne when burned, putting your family and home at risk.

Is it safe to use dryer lint as a fire starter? You can use dryer lint as a fire starter outside. Lint in toilet paper roll and kept somewhere dry for usage as useful fire starters this fall or summer at the campfire or a firepit. Just don’t use them indoors in a chimney.


Hubert Miles | Licensed Home Inspector, CMI, CPI

Hubert Miles is a licensed home inspector (RBI# 2556) with more than two decades of experience in inspection and construction. Since 2008, he has been serving South Carolina through his company, Patriot Home Inspections LLC. As a Certified Master Inspector, Hubert is dedicated to providing his expertise in home inspections, repairs, maintenance, and DIY projects.