Make Your Own Laundry Color Catchers

homemade 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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    • 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?

  1. 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?

  2. 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.

    • 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.

    • 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)

    • 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.

  3. 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!! :)

  4. Mary Malone says


    I buy the Shout Color Catchers all the time because I am a quiter. They aren’t cheap, either! Thanks for this brilliant post. ~! One More Thing I’ll have to try!

    Mary Malone

    • says

      I have a front load washer and I love the color catchers. Works great. My washer is so big that it’s easier to throw all my dirty stuff lights/darks/towels in one load every other day with a color catcher. I definitely need to try making my own.

    • Melanie E. says

      I can tell you that colors will mix in a front loader, even though the clothes don’t really sit in the water. I did a lot of mixed loads this summer while I was stuck at my mother’s house taking care of her after an accident, and mine and my daughter’s undies got quite discolored during those three months! I really, really wished for some of the color catchers.

    • Jon Whale says

      If you choose to bleach the cloths then I suggest you use hydrogen peroxide 35% used for hair bleaching. It breaks down into water and oxygen. All other bleaches are toxic and harmful for the environment.

    • kate says

      I just used a front loading washer while on vacation, and put in a new Color Catcher. When I took the clothes out, I could see that the “catcher” had been pushed against the front, and sort of folded, instead of floating all around the clothes, like my top loader at home. The color (in this case, pink) was only in the folds. The color catchers I have used at home, area 100% of the time, evenly colored with the dye they suck up. I thought “reason about 25, now, why I never want a front loading washer!”

      • kate says

        I’ve used the Color Catchers since the week they came out, and always use the hottest water I can. I learned, along the way, that you can cut them in half and get just as good results, as with a whole sheet. However, once they are brightly saturated, I toss. Maybe three loads, and I always fish them out of the clean clothes and just put them back into the washer, where they air dry. I do NOT dry them, as that seems to kill the “finish”, and now I know why :))

  5. trudy says

    You always seem to answer my un-posted questions! How DO you do that??!! I’m buying washing soda today, having just purchased a new batch of white t-shirts for youngest son. Thanks, Jillee.

  6. says

    Okay, I use color catchers like crazy and even give talks to women’s meetings about time management and how I use these to save time. I will bookmark this page and continue to mull over your ‘recipe’ until I get the courage to try this. Kudos for being brave enough to experiment on your own clothes!

  7. Kristine says

    This is a fantastic idea!!! I’m about out of the color catchers but too cheap to buy more! What type of felt did you use? Was it the thin felt (usually really cheap at Michael’s) or another type? I would love to know your method for reusing these to save even more money! *cheers*

  8. says

    You can make your own washing soda by baking everyday baking soda at 400 degrees until it becomes opaque and grainy. It’s simple and you can make as much or as little as you need at a time. Comes in handy when your making homemade soaps and cleaners.
    You said you liked things that grandmas teach us. Your going to love me, I was raised by my grandmother until I was a teen. I can make homemade Biore` strips using beaten egg whites and tissue paper and I guarantee they work as well or better than the store bought ones, and just so the yolk doesn’t go to waste beat it with two to three tablespoons of warm olive oil and massage through your hair. Leave for 10 minutes, wash as usual, you’ll notice an immediate difference in texture and shine.

  9. Crista Jeske says

    It’s that simple, huh?
    Wow, it really ticks me off that I’ve been spending $4 a box on those!@#%!

    Thanks for answering my question, Jillee, and doing all this great research!

  10. Julie Ann Friedemann says

    SO awesome that this blog post came when it did since I had color catchers on my shopping list for the first time. As someone else mentioned about using color catchers when quilting, I am a new quilter and am just about finished with my first quilt so my teacher said to get a box of Shout! color catchers and use three or four each time washing the quilt for the first couple of times. Now, I’ve got a much easier and seemingly eco- and pocket-friendly solution.

    Thank you so much for ALL your posts but especially for this one!


  11. Linda says

    Yeasrs abo I bought a color catcher cloth and it lasted for many washings. Then I could not find it at the store any longer, but they came out with the disposable sheets. I did nto buy them but wondered if they lasted more than one wash. I did not like the “trash” the disposible ones contributed to the land fills, I like your idea and will give it a try. I am sure the companies make more money with the sheets than the original cloth I bought 20 years ago.

  12. Julie Ann Friedemann says

    By the way – I just called my local Walmart and they have white felt on the bolt for $3.97/yd. Imagine all the catching cloths you can cut out of a yard and even if you only get two to three “dunks and dries” per cloth, that’s a great bargain!

    I just wonder now if I should launder the felt before I treat it with the solution? Any thoughts?

    • Suzie says

      Hi Julie Ann,

      I sew a good bit and have found it best to ALWAYS wash ANY fabric before I do anything with it. Alot of fabric is stored in warehouses for extended periods and is NOT packed air-tight…I will just let your imagination fill in the rest…Also, many fabrics are treated with chemicals during and after manufacturing – these should ALWAYS be washed away before use…Hope this helps!!

      • crazywoman/Billie says

        Another reason for washing the fabric before using it, is that some fabrics (not as many now) will shrink. If you was it before using, then you have “pre-shrunk” it, so that it won’t (or not as likely – some denims continue to shrink almost forever) shrink after you have made your article (clothes, quilt, whatever). You can also then see how well it washes before you go to the trouble of making whatever.

  13. Jennifer E. says

    I occasionally use the Shout Color Catchers but always cut them in half and they still seem to work just fine, but these homemade ones are surely more economical!
    I do wonder, though, if using the homemade laundry detergent that includes washing soda, is adding a color catcher really necessary? Any thoughts?

    • Jon Whale says

      I would suggest that it probably is still necessary. The washing soda doesn’t neutralise the dyes, it only captures them and makes them stick to the cloth. You still need the cloth to absord them.

  14. AnnW says

    Jillee, you are a genius! Is there anything you can’t figure out? I just figured out that your own eBooks can be sold on Amazon. Why don’t you put all these tips together and write an ebook? Then people will have them all in one place. You can get $10 a piece for kindle books. I would like to figure out how to make some beauty products. I guess I could mix the rubbery pore cleaner with some other things. I am also thinking about a cuticle cream. Just need the time. I have had two packages of Rit dye remover in my laundry rooms for years. Someone always mixes up the laundry and you need to whiten up a load. I do have these dye sheets, but now I’. making my own, thanks to you. Ann

    • says

      Thanks Ann! I’m so glad you like the tips. :-) Just an FYI….I am currently working on a book/ebook, a yearbook of One Good Thing By Jillee posts! Look for it within the coming months! Thanks for asking. And thanks for the support! ;-)

      • Mychal says

        That is great news! I just very recently found your blog, but have been thinking how handy it would be to have a book of all these amazing ideas! My husband thinks I’ve gone crazy– making my own laundry detergent and whatnot. :]

        I’d heartily suggest that if possible you make a paper-version of the book, for those of us non-kindle readers.

        Oh, I don’t think anyone asked this yet, but how big do the color catchers need to be? I cut mine to baby wipe size or so…

        • Judy L. says

          Book! Book! Book! Yes I know, we could just print out our favourite recipes…BUT I would MUCH rather show my support and thanks to you, Jillee for everything you’ve done! I would want to give a book to my mom and children, with YOUR name on the cover, not some computer print-out. If I AM going to spend money, I want it to be in support of all your work, and as a way of saying thanks. :) I believe in giving credit where credit is due…so if you ever start a book sign up list…I’ll be on it!!!

  15. Cynthia says

    Thanks for this, Jillee! I’ve seen the color catcher commercials for awhile now, but I’ve always been skeptical about them. I just couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that this one little dinky piece of fabric somehow absorbed all the running colors in the wash. But, your test with the brand-new washcloths has me intrigued. I might have to try these!

  16. Jenni says

    I am so excited to see this post! I definitely had these on my shopping list for a few weeks, but kept waiting for a sale and/or coupon because I hate that they are so expensive. I also had washing soda on my list for homemade laundry detergent, but thanks to these comments I remembered you could make it from baking soda (which I have plenty of). Yay!

    • crazywoman/Billie says

      I really don’t think so! The fabric softeners go in the dryer. They are not washed. I would think that they would come all to pieces if put in the washer! They are paper after all!
      Never thought about using them for the fabric softener. But then, I’d rater use an old rag, or at least cloth, so as not to be throwing it away. (Tho if it works, you could use it a few times, but it would still have to go to the trash eventually.)
      Just my thoughts.

  17. Gill says

    Jillee – I LOVE your blog – I’ve made a few things, my personal favorite being the shaving cream which I use even when I’m not shaving sometimes as its faster than putting on lotion after :-) I use color catchers all the time so will have to try this post too.
    When I was reading it I thought ‘hmm, I’m sure I’ve read about washing soda before’. Would it be possible to categorize your blog post by product used? Just the most popular ones ie Dawn/essential oils/vinegar etc. I love to save money, and I love the idea of buying a product to make two or three cool things rather than just one!
    Keep up the good work!

  18. says

    Great info! I use the color catcher sheets for my quilting fabrics, and am eager to make my own.

    Especially appreciate the tip to look for “washing soda” at the hardware store in the pool sections as “soda ash”! Many cleaning formulas I’d like to try call for “washing soda” and have shopped all over town for it, without success (even at WalMart)… I do have plenty of baking soda, but it’s too steamy to run my oven at 400 for even a minute this time of year.

    Aldine, that’s a great idea to use coffee filters! I have a box of wrong-size ones in the pantry, am gonna try them.

  19. Sheila says

    I was thinking if I squeeze the liquid out of a plastic container of baby wipes .. mix ” 2 tbl” washing soda and 1 cup hot water .. replace the baby wipes .. then pour the mixture into the box .. pull 1 out as needed.

  20. spitefulilsprite says

    THANK YOU! I hate washing my kitchen throw rugs because they bleed all over anything else. They are small so washing them alone irks me, although I do do it when they are in need. The disposable ones were on my list of “Ridiculous Things I Will Not Waste Money ON” as I couldn’t imagine they’d work. But we all know that if Jillee says it works, it’s worth a shot. And what is there to lose when I have all the products on hand? Hmm… wonder what those rugs are looking like…
    Only this site can get me excited about doing laundry lol.

    • spitefulilsprite says

      FYI: instead of felt, I’m thinking an old white cotton t-shirt would do the trick just as well, and who doesn’t have one of those laying around? And if you already have WS (or BS and make your own WS) on hand, the price for color catchers becomes essentially nothing. I might do a little happy dance….

  21. Briana says

    Haha this may please my fiance when I decide to throw things in the wash without separating. Now I CAN without irritating her :D Btw, I’m curious if you have any wedding-related money savers you’ve posted before? I’ve been reading your blog for a good year (I think). And I’m in love with your window shades. SO CUTE. I’ll be making one as soon as I get scissors that actually cut fabric.

  22. Jill Curry says

    Can Arm N’ Hammer Super Washing Soda be used? Is it the same as soda ash? Or is it more like baking soda? I just looked at the box of it on my dryer but all it says is “contains sodium bicarbonate.” Thanks!

    • crazywoman/Billie says

      That is what Jillee used (see her pics). The soda ash for pools (etc) is just an option.
      That is what most people are talking about looking for or using in this thread. You’ve got it!! :>)

  23. Angela Edge says

    Thanks so much for the cost saving recipe! I use those color catchers daily! One tip…when you’re finished w/ the color catcher, they make cool additions for crafting!

    Thanks again!

  24. Jess says

    Bake baking soda at 200F and it becomes washing soda!! So easy, and the different is visible! Baking soda is crystals and reflect light, once baked it becomes dull in appearance and powdery.
    Handy to know when it’s something sooo simple :)

  25. says

    I absolutely LOVE this! A guy at work was talking about these, and I told him you could make your own, he scoffed and challenged me to prove it. I knew it could be done, just couldn’t find WHERE. Thank you!!!! Now I can go rub it in his smug face.

  26. g says

    You don’t need to turn on the oven to make washing soda from baking soda. Just heat it in a dry saucepan on the stovetop, (with the exhaust fan on). I stir it occasionally as it heats, but doing so may not be necessary. It’s also kinda fun to watch the carbon dioxide escape during the process.

  27. Sunita says

    Thanks for the info, tried this using all the above info and doesn’t seem to work for me, what have I done wrong, I used a pure fabric as well as a non woven fabric, both didn’t work… Any suggestions?

  28. JuJu says

    I tried this today with coffee filters. I also made a batch with salt. I washed a load of mixed colored towels with a real Shout color catcher, a washing soda prepared coffee filter and a salt water prepared coffee filter. The original Shout Color Catcher is the only one that caught colors. Darn.


  1. […] Make your own Color Catchers from One Good Thing I always use color catchers when I wash the quilts I make the first couple of times. The store bought Color Catchers can get expensive so you can bet I will be making my own from now on using pieces of white fabric, soda ash or washing soda (sodium carbonate), and these directions. […]

  2. […] looking around and found this link to making your own color catchers. Sounds like a great idea. Make Your Own Laundry Color Catchers | One Good Thing by Jillee Bob (If all the pieces fit perfectly, people will think it was made by a machine!) LOL […]

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