Make Your Own Laundry Color Catchers

Someone asked me via email recently if I had made a “homemade” version of those laundry color catcher sheets. I had to admit I hadn’t ever TRIED those before, let alone made my own! I honestly didn’t know what the appeal was. But I’m always open to new ideas…so I looked into it. Turns out there’s some pretty darn good reasons for utilizing these little laundry helpers!

A color catcher catches loose dyes found in the wash water and prevents the dye from running or bleeding onto other clothes. By using a color catcher in your washing machine you can wash darks and lights together which saves you time by reducing the need for sorting, and money by reducing the need for half-size loads. Makes sense!

So I took the challenge.

At first I was kinda stumped! It wasn’t hard to find homemade recipes for color catchers, but there definitely wasn’t a consensus. Some called for soaking cloth in salt water…some in washing soda & water. Some said you had to use fabric stabilizer (interfacing for you sewers out there), some even suggested dried out baby wipes.

These little color catcher things were so confusing! ;-) But when I stumbled across this comment on a sewing website I knew I was on to something. When a person refers to “Grandma” in their post…you know there’s got to be some merit to it! :-)

Here is what Erica had to say:

The color catcher is a piece of white something with soda ash solution dried onto it. You can make your own with soda ash, usually sold in swimming pool supply areas of hardware stores. (Grandma called it washing soda.) Just put a tablespoon of the dry soda into a cup of hot water until it dissolves. Put in a yard of white junk fabric, or ratty toweling, and let it become saturated. Let it dry. Cut off a piece and wash it with your bleedable fabric. The soda ash grabs and holds the dye. You can make a lifetime supply of color catchers with a buck or two of soda ash. For those of you who tie dye, this is exactly the technique for pre-treating fabric before applying dye. Soda plus cotton grabs loose dye molecules. Cheers!


Cheers to YOU Erica! I love the voice of reason in this crazy, mixed-up world. :-)

homemade color catchers

I decided to give Erica’s method a go. I cut up a couple of pieces of white felt I had on hand, soaked them in a solution of water and washing soda, and hung them to dry on my mini indoor clothesline (someday I WILL have an outdoor line!)

homemade color catchers

When they were dry (which doesn’t take long in Utah!) I washed two brand new washcloths together, one red, one white, and threw in a color catcher.

Here are the results (which are a little hard to see because of my less-than-brilliant idea to photograph white on white):

homemade color catchers

Not a hint of red on the white washcloth…and a fair amount of red on the color catcher. Convincing!

I then tried a single sheet of my homemade color catchers in a load of dark clothes. None of these items were “new”. They had all been washed plenty of times before, but the color catcher still managed to pick up some of the color from the wash water. Impressive!

Bottom line: I would definitely recommend trying these for yourself. They couldn’t possibly be EASIER to make…and saving TIME and MONEY is One Good Thing!

homemade color catchers


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  1. Maegan says

    You can also use about a cup of salt to keep colors from running in a like-color load. I do this when we get new clothes at Christmas and I am washing dark’s together so they won’t “share” their colors with each other. It has worked every time!! I have never mixed whites and colors before so this little trick will be good to know!! :)

  2. Mandy Brown says

    Is there a post somewhere about the adorably awesome curtains you have in your laundry room? I want them!

  3. ten vaz says

    what kind of fabric did you use for the color catchers it looks just like the real ones? thanks tenny

  4. says

    Hi Miss Jillee my hair is falling tremendously do u have any home made receipe for me. I really need to do something about it or soon I might go completely bald. I have tried nearly all of the most expensive shampoos out there. None of them worked. Also I went to the hospital on many occasions where they did many tests on me and found nothing is wrong with my general health. Still my hair is falling. Please I need your help. Thank you.

    • Mary says

      I have alopecia (I’m only 25, but it can happen early). It isn’t horribly noticeable right now BUT add in a some stress or any other little factor that goes into hair loss and I lose so much hair that I can’t hide my scalp. First check to see if things that aren’t generally tested or can’t be tested can be a culprit. A good list is here:
      See a dermotologist if you get pimples in your scalp (the ones near your face don’t count), if you find chunks of dried skin, if you find multiple scabs, if you have sore spots, or if you find spots of raw skin. Those problems don’t tend to come up in blood tests, but are reasons for hair loss and there are topical treatments for them. Remember that it takes about 3 months to see a difference because the hair has to stop falling out, start growing, and then grow long enough for you to see it.
      The link I gave has some home remedies but what I’ve found works the best is stopping all use of heat products, mixing in rosemary and tea tree oil with my shampoo, and always using conditioner. Massage thr shampoo in and leave it on for 5 minutes. If you have long hair, squeeze the excess out of the hair falling on and past your neck to lessen the amount of oils on the hair where it won’t help and can make it flat , which makes the hair loss look worse.
      Rosemary can help start hair follicles that are in the dormant phase so you have extra hair growing while trying to get the others to stop falling out. Tea tree oil has antibiotic and antifingul properties so it will help make sure there isn’t a bacterial problem. However, tree oil is drying. The rosemary will be enough to even things out on the scalp, but my hair always needs conditioner too.

      • Sandy says

        This is getting off the subject of color catchers, but I wanted to comment on your hair loss question. I love Mary’s response above, but thought I would pass this along as well. I recently read in a “natural cures” blog that consumption of dairy products (including cheese) can be a key contributing factor to hair loss. It would be worth a try to abstain for about 6 months to see if you can see a difference. It could be a “cheap” fix. Also cited as a cause for hair loss is hormone imbalance. Emu oil is suggested as a remedy for hair loss as well. Following is the blog website that tells about the emu oil. The information about the hormone imbalance and dairy products came in an emailed newsletter to me, so I don’t know how to link that here.

      • says

        Did that newsletter cite any peer reviewed sources? Hair loss due to milk consumption sounds like bunk without an allergy present. Is the article claiming that hormones cows are treated with cause hormone imbalance in people? I would be interested in reading those sources.

      • says

        I just started myself vitamins called biotin. I take 10000mcg = 10mg daily with glass of water/or milk. After 4 day I stopped shedding as much as I did before, I can count all the hair that falls out throughout the day up to 50, as before just one side brush was a dark handful. I will keep taking it for the next couple years to get the hair that i lost back and keep the ones that stayed. Google it Biotin..

    • Miss B. says

      I don’t know what this has to do with color catchers, but you might be getting too much selenium. It’s worth a look at your vitamins/hair products to see if they include selenium and maybe try a brand that doesn’t have that for a few weeks.

      • Tawnia says

        Hi. I have just been diagnosed with Alopecia in the last year. I was going in for Cortisone injections into the scalp where ever there was a loss of hair ( I was having big chunks fall out overnight in different areas) and the hair would grow back, I know this does not happen to everyone, but I stopped the injections which were painful to see how I would do and I started taking Biotin, which is a vitamin and Vitamin D along with a prenatal vitamin. Since starting these, I have had very minimal hair loss and what has fallen out has regrown. I don’t know if these really do help or just coincidence but it doesn’t hurt.

      • Anon says

        alopecia is not the same as a vitamin deficiency. alopecia can be treated with topical steroid treatments and if those fail, injections. people who suffer from alopecia areata are suffering from patches of bald spots while others can lose their whole head of hair. vitamins or lack there of are not the cause.

    • Pippi says

      Sabita, you may want to try coconut oil for your hair loss. I’ve recently started using it for my dry, over-processed hair, and it has worked wonders! It has make it unbelievably soft, and thicker in appearance. Articles I have read claim that it also helps with re-growth…. it may be worth looking in to for you, as it is fairly in-expensive. Since I have only been using it about 2 weeks, I can’t attest to it’s “re-growth” powers… but so far, I am a believer in it’s conditioning and strengthening abilities. I’ve included a link for you to check out, but any google search for coconut oil and hair loss will give you information.

      • Marianne says

        Wahing your hair with Castile soap reduces hair loss. I use it, just for normal hair loss. Maybe it would work for you too

    • Miss_Darcee says

      Use a comb instead of a brush always. Brushes actually are very bad for your hair they pull it out. (Always comb from bottom to top) Also don’t use a lot of heat (iron, dryer, exc.) biotin is great to use it is in prenatal vitamins as well. I am loosing my hair as well. I also try to comb my hair 3 times a day. Don’t wear hats or anything that can cause your scalp not to get oxygen. Using tea tree does help because it is a great cleanser for your scalp. If you use a lot of hair spray and gunk make sure you wash your hair nightly and once a week use a daily clarifying shampoo (suave makes one) make sure that you use a good conditioner because the clarifying removes everything from your hair. I have been doing scalp massages at night. (you can basically use anything like the vibrating back massagers) I bought a scalp massager for like $3 at bed bath and beyond, I do it nightly. I personally have noticed since I have been using Mane and Tail Shampoo and Conditioner my hair is gradually getting longer and thicker. I also bought a spray bottle and put the conditioner in and water an use it as a leave in conditioner. Best of Luck- Remember Stress can do it as well… Use aroma therapy at night to help you relax.

      (I am also a cosmetologist which is where I have learned a lot)

    • Linda says

      do you have low iron? I am iron deficient and my hair was falling out a lot. You will probably need a prescription iron pill from your doctor.

    • Maria De says

      Sabita, I just saw this site and I hope you are getting results from the good advice you got. Nothing was mentioned about gluten allergies as a cause and autoimmune, low thyroid function that is linked to it. Gluten allergies or sensitiviy will sometimes only show up w. genetic testing as proof positive, as there is a high percentage of false negatives in the antibody, or biopsy tests. Any part of your body can turn on itself from gluten-caused inflammation, including hair follicles. Steroids help because it tones down the body’s hyperactive immune response, but is damaging to the immune system ultimately. The cure is avoidance of gluten and supplementation of certain nutrients that you don’t absorb due to intestinal damage. There are funcional medical practictioners who work with you on an individual basis, as each person responds differently, who can help you to heal over a period of time. Look the organization up and get a list of them in your area. My hair is again thick and healthy after years of hair loss after finally being diagnosed with gluten issues. Although I continue to take Synthroid for low thyroid function, my dose is now lower,( it has damaged the gland as I’ve been on it for over 30 years). I have a new lease on life, live painfree and allergy free, and get complemented on my healthy hair, and as a bonus I now have much improved nails. Hope this helps.

    • Patti says

      So, basically they’re good for one use and then soak them again? I hate to sound dense…
      I used a flour sack dishtowel I bought at WalMart. I cut it into 16 squares. Not sure how it’s going to work, but I’ll find out when the washer quits!

      • Patti White says

        My color catchers made from flour sack dishtowel came out white, so I guess the fabric has a lot to do with the results. I’ll buy felt next trip to WalMart and try again.

    • Erica says

      “Just put a tablespoon of the dry soda into a cup of hot water until it dissolves. ”

      It’s in the instructions above!

  5. Patti White says

    Sandy, at Walmart, it on the same aisle as the detergents, but on the opposite side, with the oxyclean, etc. I have the same question as Julie… you just reuse them or re-soak them before using again? I had never noticed washing soda until I saw your recipe for the homemade detergent.Now, I keep a supply for lots of other uses…thanks so much for all your wonderful tips! Also, how did you make that darling window dressing in the picture with the clothesline?

    • Amy says

      in the laundry detergent aisle – I found it at Walmart cheap. I think you may be able to find at your local hardware store also – under soda ash? I think folks also use for pools…

    • Donell says

      I just found out that washing soda is easy to make, I guess you just bake baking soda or something, you should look it up and see if it works for you. where I live we can not buy washing soda, so not an option, but I do not need it now so I have not tried. But, if I can reuse these sheets I will try both. Does anyone know about reusing them?