Have you ever had one of those days when you just want to look your best? Maybe it’s time for a big dance at school or perhaps you’re going to the beach to try out a new swimsuit. You take a bath or a shower and scrub-a-dub-dub yourself until you’re sparkly and shiny.

Yet, upon closer inspection, you notice a problem. Uh oh. There appears to be some sort of fuzzy substance stuck in your belly button. Oh no! It’s a navel disaster! (Sorry…pun totally intended!)

What are we talking about? Belly button lint, of course! And don’t pretend like you’ve never experienced this issue. From time to time, we all have to do a little extra cleaning around the midriff area.

If you’re WONDERing about lint, that’s what we call those bits of fiber and dust that accumulate on and around our clothes. The materials our clothing is made of, such as cotton and wool, consist of many tiny fibers woven together. Over time, some of these fibers break or come loose.

You may have noticed that cloth items you use often, like your favorite shirt or bathroom towels, become thinner over time. You may have also noticed that the lint collector in your dryer collects these fibers every time you do laundry.

Static electricity tends to cause these loose fibers to stick to each other…and to other objects they’re close to. Other things that often get wrapped up with these fibers to form pieces of lint include human and animal hair and skin, dust, plant fibers and pollen.

Beyond your clothes, lint often makes its way to other areas, too. That’s where the belly button comes in. It seems to be the perfect spot to collect lint. Why is that?

Austrian chemist Georg Steinhauser thinks he knows the answer. He spent three years researching over 500 pieces of lint from his and others’ belly buttons. His research revealed a type of body hair that appears to trap pieces of lint and push them toward the belly button.

Two factors about the hair led him to his conclusion. First, the hairs he found have tiny scales that act a bit like hooks that latch onto shirt fibers and pieces of lint. Secondly, the hairs tend to grow in circular patterns around the belly button, leading to the collection of the captured lint in that area.

Steinhauser tested his ideas by shaving his belly. He learned that shaving the belly does indeed lead to a lint-free belly button — but only until the hairs grow back.

So if belly button lint really bothers you, you can always shave your belly! You can also just wash your belly button every time you take a bath or shower. If you have an “outie” belly button, you’ll also probably accumulate less lint than if you have an “innie” belly button.

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  1. I thought today’s wonder was cool but I never really noticed that your towels can get smaller from that. I also think that the reason we get lint in our belly buttons is that there is a hair that holds the lint in.

    I think tommorow’s wonder will be about the desert or when you are at the beach.

    • What a great point you make, Danny! It’s interesting to think that with each use, wash and dry! There are fibers everywhere, no wonder our belly buttons collect dust and fuzz every once and a while! Thanks for sharing your hypothesis about the hair in your belly button, too! :)

      We hope to see you very soon, Danny! Have a terrific Thursday! :)

    • That’s true about the towels but it can also be from the sweaters and shirts we ware that are cleaned in a dryer and get dryer lint on them.

      But above all your ideas are vary thought out and make sense.

    • WOHOO, we’re so glad you learned something new with us, Alliyah! Keep up the great WONDERing and we’ll see you soon, Wonder Friend! :)

  2. We thought today’s wonder was gross, but interesting! Kaitlyn thought it was strange to think about hairs pulling lint and fibers…she wonders why bigger things don’t get caught, too.

    We think tomorrow’s wonder will be about a race car, a ferrari, a campfire, a Camaro, or a chef.

    • Hey there, Wonder Friends in Mrs. Ski’s AM Class! We are glad that you were brave and visited Wonderopolis today– even if belly button lint is kind of weird to think about! :)

      You have a great Wonder of your own, Kaitlyn! We bet the little hairs near your belly button are strong, but they can only collect so much!

      We hope you’ll join us for a fantastic Wonder Friday tomorrow… your guesses have got us movin’! :)

    • Great comment, Dylan! We’re glad that you and your Wonder Friends in Mrs. Savaria’s class enjoyed today’s belly button Wonder! Have a super innie/outie day! :)

  3. EEEEWWW!!! That’s so gross!! I don’t usually get lint in my belly button, but I just think that is really weird/gross! But, oh well, I learned something! :) Thanks!
    =Bryleigh=
    :D :) :P ;) :(

    • YIKES, we’re glad that you are here Bryleigh! We know today’s Wonder might make you say “YUCK!” but we’re glad you learned something new, just like you said! Have a terrific Thursday! :)

  4. We thought today’s Wonder was kind of gross! We didn’t realize lint was made up of so much “stuff.”

    We think tomorrow’s Wonder will be about a roller coaster, a zipline, a plane, a grill, or a stove. We can’t wait to find out!

    • Today’s Wonder did have a certain yuck factor, you’re right Third Grade All-Stars! However, we learned something new today about our belly buttons with you, so we’re happy campers!

      Thanks for sharing your adventurous guesses for tomorrow’s Wonder– we can’t wait to see you again! :)

    • We Wonder if you can do some more WONDERing of your own, Ashley? Maybe you can ask an adult or teacher to help you do some more research about the belly button! We’re so glad you’re here! :)

    • We’re glad you learned something new today, Pink! We know that belly button fuzz isn’t the most appetizing subject, but we think it’s neat to think about how the fabric and clothes we wear is make of lots of little fibers! Hope to see you tomorrow! :)

  5. Miss Perry’s 1st grade girls think they don’t have belly button lint, only the boys but the class WONDERS why the scientist decided to study belly button lint and how did he collect samples from other people? It’s kind of gross.

    • We’re glad our Wonder Friends in Miss Perry’s 1st grade are WONDERing with us! We bet everyone gets lint in their belly button from time to time… but we’re not sure what inspired the scientist, Georg Steinhauser, to research belly button lint! Perhaps he wanted to be the first in his field to study belly buttons! :)

    • Hi there, Webby, we’re sorry that today’s Wonder wasn’t one of your favorites! We appreciate your comment very much and we hope you’ll visit Wonderopolis again! We hope to see you soon, Webby! :)

    • You’re not alone, Justin! We all find lint in our belly buttons from time to time– but now we know that a good scrub in the tub will help remove those little fibers! :)

    • Great, thanks so much for sharing that with us, Ashley! We LOVE WONDERing with great Wonder Friends like you! We will see you soon! :)

    • You must be excellent at cleaning your belly button, Ashley! Today’s Wonder made some of our Wonder Friends say “Yuck!” but we are glad to learn something new today with you! :)

    • We think you should take a look next time, Swizzy1999! We are glad you have been WONDERing with us today– have a SUPER day! :)

    • WOHOO, we’re glad you enjoyed WONDERing about the belly button with us today, Jazmin O! We hope to see you soon, Wonder Friend! :)

  6. I think today’s wonder was a little too gross I sort of think that Wonderopolis shouldn’t do that gross stuff I did not really like today’s Wonder.

    • Thanks for your thoughts about today’s Wonder, Blakeleigh! We’re sorry to hear today’s Wonder made you say “Yuck!” but we are glad that you were WONDERing with us! We really appreciate your comment, Wonder Friend! :)

  7. We think it is wild that a scientist studied belly button lint for 3 years. What a crazy discovery about the hair!!!
    3 people in our class have outie belly buttons and don’t have to worry about belly button lint.
    Thanks for the hilarious wonder today!

    • It’s pretty crazy isn’t it, Mrs. Thomas’ Tigers!! We bet he was the first scientist to study such an unusual but common area of the body! :)

      We’re glad we made you smile today! Have a terrific Thursday, Wonder Friends! :)

  8. I know you guys said everyone has had lint in their belly button but I never had. I loved the article though. The fact that you get lint from hairs on your belly taking cloth from your shirt is fascinating. I never knew anything about this until now. When you said that towels and clothes get thinner that has never happened to me but I am wondering how does it get smaller? So I think that would be a really good wonder someday. Why do your clothes get thinner? Well thanks for letting me learn new things and for a great wonder.

    • Hey there, Wonder Friend Jake L! We’re so excited that today’s Wonder made your imagination get up and dance! We were curious about the fibers that make up fabric (which are sewn together to make clothes), too! The little fibers that get caught in your belly button from time to time get thinner and thinner each time you wash and dry your clothes. However, there are so many fibers that the thinning is hardly noticeable. If you looked at the fabric under a microscope you might be able to see the change! :)

  9. I think this topic was really gross but its was kind of interesting. I don’t ever get lint in my belly button!!!!!!!!!!! :)

    • We’re glad that you found today’s Wonder fun, even if it was kind of gross to imagine, Ashley! :) You must keep your belly button extra clean if you haven’t found any lint in it! :)

  10. I think that the wonder was pretty ODD and WEIRD because what story talks about BELLY BUTTONS This is the weirdest thing I ever heard LINT IN YOUR BELLY BUTTONS. That is pretty weird WHO AGREES?!!!!!!! Comment if you do think that Having lint in your Belly Button!!!!

    Thank you for the people who commented
    Thank you for looking at my comment

    • Hey there, Andre’yanna, we are sorry to hear that today’s Wonder wasn’t your favorite! But that’s okay, we have plenty of cool Wonders available on our site. We really appreciate your comment and respect your opinion on the topic of belly buttons! We may not always agree on Wonders, but at least we all have belly buttons! We’ve got one thing in common today! :)

  11. Our class thought today’s Wonder was cool and disgusting! We love Wonderopolis and read it every day. We think that tomorrow’s Wonder will be about toasters, chefs, or racecars.

    • We like your comment, Wonder Friends in Mrs. Miller’s Class! We know that belly button lint is not the most appetizing subject, but could you imagine researching it for three whole years?! :) We also really enjoy your guesses for tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day®! Thanks for always joining us to read, watch and Wonder! :)

    • You’re a lucky duck, ZZ! Some of our Wonder Friends have to check for lint each and every day! We are glad that today’s Wonder made you think… and we’re proud of you for WONDERing with us, even if it grossed you out a bit! :)

  12. I never understood this until I read about the clothes and static electricity. I find it funny. I think tomorrow’s WONDER will be about hot and ready pizza!

    Emily

    • Welcome back to Wonderopolis, Emily! We’re glad you’re here! Way to go- you’ve learned something new today! We can’t wait to Wonder with you again– thanks for sharing your SUPER guess with us! Now we’re hungry!! :)

    • What a great, logical guess! Our Wonder Friends in Mrs. Davis’s Class are on a roll! We hope this belly button Wonder made you smile… and think! Have a SUPER day! :)

  13. Hahahahahahahahaha!!! Stop drop and roll!! That would never happen in real life though. I have never got belly button lint, so i must be really lucky or something. :)

    • You’re right, Arista, we are glad to know that you wouldn’t have to stop, drop and roll! You must be a lucky duck to be lint-free! :)

    • What a great guess, Dan! You’re right, fast food is not the best option for maintaining a healthy lifestyle! What’s your favorite homemade meal? :)

    • We agree, Talia M! Luckily, we know that the Wonder video was not real, but just a funny way to picture belly button lint! We hope you have a SUPER day! :)

    • We really appreciate your comment, Romey! We’re sorry to hear that WONDERing about your belly button isn’t one of your favorite things, but we’re glad you shared your thoughts about it! Thanks so much, Romey! :)

    • We appreciate your comment, tristavanous! We’re sorry to hear that our belly button Wonder wasn’t one of your favorites, but we appreciate your thoughts! :)

    • We’re glad you’re WONDERing with us today, Tess and Sabrina! Do you ever find lint in your belly buttons? We do from time to time! We learned that the fibers in the clothes we wear can leave little bits and pieces (very itty bitty) and sometimes they are trapped by tiny hairs in our belly buttons! Isn’t that interesting?! :)

    • We’re sorry this isn’t your favorite Wonder, Robert! Belly button lint isn’t the most appetizing thing to think about, but we’re glad you WONDERed with us today! :)

    • Great question, Christine! George asked for lots of samples of the lint from other people’s belly buttons! There were lots of people who were test subjects in this study! :)

    • Great Wonder, Koko#12! Lint can get stuck in your belly button if you don’t keep it clean! Also, the hairs in your belly button collect tiny bits of fabric and they can get stuck in your belly button! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Why do you get lint in your belly button?
  • What is lint?
  • Which collects more lint: “innie” or “outie” belly buttons?

Wonder Gallery

cute baby_shutterstock_69598747Vimeo Video

Try It Out

So what other uses can you think of for your belly button? Sure, it’s good for storing lint. But is that the only thing it’s good for? We think not!

You tell us what other uses you can think of for your belly button. What about a handy storage spot for a bit of cheese to have with the lunch you packed for school? Need a spot to hide the pearl you just found inside an oyster? The belly button is a perfect pearl protector!

Have your own ideas? Share them with your Wonder Friends by posting them on Facebook. Perhaps you can even create and share a funny video about what you use your belly button for. Have fun and use your imagination!

Still Wondering

Science NetLinks’ Annoying Sounds, Washer Lint, and Pushing Objects With Light audio podcast answers some pretty interesting questions about lint, light and irritating sounds!

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