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Can I make my own color catchers?

Color catchers are useful laundry aids that help prevent fabrics from bleeding dye onto other items during the wash. While you can buy commercial color catchers, making your own at home is easy, affordable and customizable. This article will provide complete instructions for DIY color catchers using common household ingredients.

What Are Color Catchers?

Color catchers, also known as dye magnets or laundry sheets, are small sheets of material that attract loose dye in washing machine water. When placed in the wash, they absorb dye released from fabrics before it can redeposit onto other clothing items. This prevents dye transfer, which can discolor clothing and limit the number of times items can be washed before fading.

Commercial color catchers are typically thin white sheets made of material like polyester fabric or wood pulp. Many brands contain proprietary ingredients to enhance their dye catching abilities. When placed in the wash, the white sheets turn vibrant colors as they collect dye particles. After use, the spent catchers can simply be thrown away.

Benefits of Homemade Color Catchers

While commercial color catchers are inexpensive and widely available, making your own at home offers some nice benefits:

  • Cost savings – Materials to make DIY catchers are very affordable.
  • Customization – You can experiment with materials and adjust absorbency as needed.
  • Sustainability – Can be reused instead of throwing away after each wash.
  • No chemicals – Avoid proprietary chemical ingredients used in some brands.

How Do Color Catchers Work?

Color catchers use chemical and physical properties to attract and absorb loose dyes. Understanding these mechanisms makes it easier to select effective materials for homemade catchers:

  • Adsorption – Dyes physically adhere to the catcher surface. Materials like wood pulp and polyester provide lots of surface area.
  • Absorption – Dyes are drawn into and trapped within the catcher material.
  • Ionic forces – Oppositely charged dyes and catcher molecules attract via electrostatic interactions.
  • Covalent bonding – Chemical groups on the catcher material form bonds with dye molecules.

Maximizing these interactions allows for effective dye removal. The right choice of materials and pretreatment methods can enhance adsorption, absorption and bonding.

Best Materials for Homemade Color Catchers

Any highly absorbent, porous material can be used to make reusable color catchers. Here are some of the best options:


  • Paper towels
  • Tissue paper
  • Coffee filters
  • Construction paper
  • Newspaper
  • Cardstock

Paper products provide lots of surface area for dye adsorption. Thinner paper like tissue allows for rapid absorption.


  • Old white t-shirts, socks or rags
  • Muslin or cheesecloth
  • Cotton balls
  • Poly-fill stuffing

Fabrics like cotton and polyester attract and collect dye particles. Used white clothes work great.


  • Paper towels
  • Wood shavings
  • Sawdust

The porous structure and lighter color of wood materials allows for dye adsorption. Make sure wood is clean and untreated.

How to Make Homemade Color Catchers

Follow these simple steps to make reusable color catchers for pennies apiece:

Supplies Needed

  • Paper, fabric, wood or a blend
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Baking soda (optional)
  • Spray bottle (for vinegar)


  1. Cut or tear material into 2-3 inch squares.
  2. Pre-wash material on hot using detergent and no other items. This removes any loose dye or dirt.
  3. If using paper, soak briefly in a diluted vinegar solution. This prepares the material to better absorb dye.
  4. For added absorbency, soak fabric or wood in a baking soda solution, then vinegar. The fizzing reaction opens pores.
  5. Allow to fully dry before using.
  6. To use, add 1-2 catcher squares per load along with clothes and detergent.
  7. Once spent, catchers can be reused until completely saturated with dye. Discard when no longer effective.

For best results, make catchers with thin materials no more than a few layers thick. Thicker stacks will take longer to fully saturate with dye. Blending different materials like paper and wood chips can optimize absorbency.

Troubleshooting Homemade Color Catchers

It may take some trial and error to achieve great results with DIY color catchers. Here are some troubleshooting tips if your homemade versions aren’t working well:

Issue Solution
Not absorbing dyes Use more vinegar to increase absorption. Only reuse 2-3 times before replacing.
Dye redepositing Add more catcher squares per load. Use thicker paper or fabric.
Bleeding dyes Pre-wash fabric on hot before use. Consider synthetic blends that don’t bleed as much.
Catcher falling apart Avoid fragile paper. Use fabric squares instead.


What quantities should I use?

For average laundry loads, use 2-3 catcher squares. For larger loads or with known bleeders, use 5 or more. Add sufficient catchers so water remains clear during wash.

How long do homemade catchers last?

Expect to get 2-5 wash cycles out of each catcher before it needs replaced. They can be reused until completely saturated with dye.

Can I use scraps of colored fabrics?

It’s best to use white or light colored materials so you can monitor dye absorption. Dark scraps won’t show when fully saturated.

What about dryer sheets?

Dryer sheets aren’t designed to catch dyes. However, used dryer sheets can be repurposed into DIY color catchers.

The Bottom Line

With just a bit of setup, it’s simple and affordable to make reusable color catchers for your laundry loads. Paper, wood and fabric materials adsorb and absorb dyes so your clothes stay bright and colorful. Follow the instructions in this article to make effective homemade catchers and save money over commercial products.

Experiment with different materials and let the vibrant colors collected give you satisfaction knowing your DIY color catchers are working hard to prevent dye transfer. No more surprises when you take clothes out of the wash!