Lint pickers remove ‘gunk’ at Carlsbad Caverns

CARLSBAD, N.M. (KRQE) – Fifty-five pounds of lint. That’s how much of the gunk ends up in the Carlsbad Caverns every year. It’s a big threat to the natural formations. That’s why a group of volunteers known as the Lint Pickers are now cleaning it up.

“A lot of times you get a lot of chuckles. What do you mean pick lint?” said Lint Picker Event Coordinator Pat Jablonsky.

Jablonsky started the volunteer group in 1988.

“I just announced that I was going to coordinate a group of people to come down to Carlsbad to pick lint,” she said.

While it might sound odd, Jablonsky, who’s spent more than 8,000 hours lint picking, says it’s a necessity.

“Lint can actually cause damage to the formations,” said Carlsbad Caverns Public Affairs Specialist Valerie Gohlke.

If it’s not cleaned up, officials said the dust and debris can eventually alter the caves formations.

Nearly 400,000 people visit the park each year. As they hike through the caves, they unintentionally leave a mess behind.

“It’s everything we carry on our clothes that we don’t even realize that we are carrying with us and it just falls off,” said Gohlke.

Everything from dead skin cells to hair get stuck in the cave’s walls. Volunteers collected more than 50 pounds of lint from the park last week.

“To collect 55 pounds of it is an enormous amount,” said Gohlke.

This year’s event was also an enormous feat.

Jablonsky retired from lint picking and donated all of her picking tools to help the next generation of pickers.

“This has just been a goal and a loving task that I have performed for these 26-years just because I love that cavern,” said Jablonsky.

People from all over the country spend a week at the caverns each year collecting the lint.

Since the 1980’s, they’ve uncovered nearly 500-pounds of it. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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