I own a black wool peacoat, which makes me no stranger to the horrors of dust bunnies, cat hair, people hair, and of course, tiny balls of lint that seem to reproduce like actual bunnies over the course of a day. Nothing drags a dapper, dark-colored article of clothing down faster.
For years, I’ve been using a standard lint roller to remove all of this fabric debris, and although it often feels like a Sisyphean task, it’s always done a decent-enough job.
But recently, a friend of mine warned me of the potential dangers of using this style of roller. “Stop!” he literally yelled from across the room. “Those are gonna tear the fabric right off your coat!”
This was the first I’d heard of such dangers, so I decided to take to the Internets to dig up some more information.
A cursory search revealed a suspicious lack of information backing up my friend’s claim. I dug up a handful of message board threads—in fashion communities, mostly—that discussed the possibility of lint rollers damaging fabric, but in true message board style, no one could back up their claims.
There are two basic allegations against your run-of-the-mill lint rollers. First, that they pull up bits of fabric along with the debris. Second, that they leave a thin layer of glue on your clothes, since that’s the agent that’s actually pulling up lint. Yep, that’s it.
It’s true that, along with stray hairs and lint, residual fabric from my coat can usually be seen on the roller after I’m done rollin’. But with that said, I’ve never gotten the impression that this was any more than a negligible amount. As far as glue goes, I’ve never noticed a sticky sheen—even a subtle one—left behind afterward.
Without any evidence to either support or refute these claims, the only thing I can offer is some alternatives for those worried about the alleged pitfalls.
This is the cheaper of two popular clothes brushes by Kent, the apparent gold standard in the high-end clothes care market.
The CC2 is a handleless brush made of cherrywood and boasting thick black bristles. It’s designed to lift lint and hair off delicate fabrics and, most importantly, hold up over time.
The significantly pricier Kent CP6 is built from rich mahogany and features a handle. Fans of cashmere, this is your best bet: It’s specifically designed to lift the little pills of fluff that build up over time without ruining your costly sweater.
Is it expensive? Sure it is. But if you can afford a couple cashmere sweaters, what’s another 50 bucks for a brush that'll likely last you a lifetime? It's mahogany, after all.
If you’re not looking to drop serious coin on a single-function item, consider the good ol’ fashioned 3M lint brush—the next tier up from the lowly lint roller.
These iconic, dual-sided brushes have stuck around for as long as they have because, frankly, they work. Their only real downside—and this is me speaking from experience—is that it can often be tricky to remove the lint once you’re done.
So while I find it hard to believe that cheap lint rollers are actually tearing up your sweaters and coats, there are options that will likely work better and ease your troubled mind.