Can Colour Catchers Damage Your Washing Machine?

Many homeowners swear by colour catchers to prevent their favourite white garments becoming coloured by darker coloured items in the washing machine as they clean. They can be extremely useful as they’re designed to absorb and trap any dyes that might get released by your clothes in the wash.

The question is, are colour catchers safe to use or can they cause damage to your washing machine? If you’re a fan of colour catchers and want to find out more, keep reading.

In this article I take a close look into colour catchers and explain exactly why some experts are warning against using them in the washing machine.

What Are Colour Catchers?

laundry room with pile of clothes

Colour catchers are laundry sheets that prevent dyes bleeding from bright or dark clothes in the wash and staining lighter coloured items. They allow you the freedom to wash mixed loads which can be handy if you don’t have many white or light clothes.

They are made from absorbent layers that somehow attract loose dye and dirt in the water preventing them from staining your lighter or white clothes. You might have noticed that your dark clothes fade over time, this happens because the colour bleeds from those clothes.

The colour catcher sheets trap those dyes and dirt particles before they can be transferred onto other clothes in the same wash load. If you’re washing mixed loads, it is useful to put a colour catcher sheet in with the load to prevent colours from staining your white or light coloured clothes.

This is particularly useful for washing new brightly coloured or dark clothes. The extra protection offered by using a colour catcher allows you to do mixed loads which ordinarily would cause problems.

So, What’s The Problem With Using Colour Catchers In Your Washing Machine?

If you were to read the instructions on the colour catcher packaging, you would notice that it says not to put loose colour catchers in a front loader washing machine. This is because colour catchers are made from thin fabric and are very small, which can easily end up in parts of the washer that could cause problems.

Colour Catchers Can Clog The Filter

Washing Machine Filter

What happens is the colour catcher can get forced through the small gap at the back of the door seal at the front of the drum as it spins. It then works its way into the drain filter and causes it to clog. 

This will cause problems for your washing machine, it might break down and stop working altogether or prevent it from draining. This will prevent you from opening the door or removing the laundry until you find another way to drain the water from the drum.

You will need to remove the filter before you can remove the trapped colour catcher. The drain filter is typically located at the bottom front of the appliance behind a flap.

Before unscrewing the filter, you will need to place a bowl on the floor to capture the water. It is also advisable to place some absorbent towels around the floor. Then unscrew the filter a part of the way, and allow water to escape.

Once the container is full, close the filter and repeat until the drum is empty. You can then remove the filter and the colour catcher which should solve the problem. Allowing you to run the washer again without it failing to drain.

Colour Catchers Can Jam The Drain Pump

If the colour catcher somehow makes it past the filter, it will almost certainly get caught up in the drain pump and jam it. This is a far more serious issue and could lead to the washer packing up altogether.

You will need to dismantle the panels on the washer to access the pump which can then be inspected and any obstructions or foreign bodies removed. If you’re lucky, it may just be a case of removing the colour catcher and putting the washer back together.

However, if the pump has been damaged beyond repair, you will need to get the pump replaced. As this task involves dismantling your appliance, I recommend getting a technician to do this for you.

Would It Be Best To Not Use Colour Catchers?

A person putting clothes into a washing machine

In an ideal world, you should sort your laundry into piles based on fabrics, colours and washing needs (as per the wash care label). However, in reality, you might only have one or two white or light coloured garments which would make a separate wash just for a few items uneconomic.

Under these circumstances, I can see why colour catchers have their place in the laundry. With that said, I would never recommend using a colour catcher in a front loader washing machine unless you put it in a mesh bag first.

Don’t worry, the mesh bag will not prevent the colour catcher from catching dye that’s leaked from dark or brightly coloured garments. It even advises you to use a mesh bag with a colour catcher on the product packaging.

Colour Catchers Are Not Always As Effective As You Might Expect

Whilst using colour catchers with your wash load might be useful, it’s important to understand that they’re not 100% effective. If you have a delicate item or a prized garment, you should take extra care and wash it on its own to prevent any risk of colour bleed.

Best Laundry Practices

open washing machine door

The best ways to prevent colour bleed, colour transference or fading include;

  • Always wash coloured garments in cold water if possible
  • Wash greens, yellows and blues together, but separate from other colours
  • Wash purples, reds, pinks and tan coloured garments together but separate from other colours
  • Never wash whites with any other colour and use bleach or a whitening product with whites
  • Wash dark blues and blacks together but separate from other colours
  • Wash grey items separately
  • Wash jeans separately from other garments

Is It OK To Use Colour Catchers?

If you are about to wash a mixed load and you have concerns about colour bleeds or runs, using a colour catcher can be a useful tool in your laundry routine. However, it should be placed in a mesh wash bag if you own a front loader washing machine to prevent damage to the appliance.

Colour catchers don’t replace good laundry practices like sorting your garments into colour and fabric types before washing. If you decide to use a colour catcher in your front loader, don’t forget the mesh laundry bag.

Otherwise you might be facing a hefty repair bill and some time without the use of your washing machine.

SEE ALSO: What Does “Wash With Like Colours” Mean On Clothes?

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I stop my colour catcher from blocking my washing machine?

You can stop your colour catcher from blocking your washing machine by placing it in a mesh laundry bag. This will not prevent the colour catcher from working, but it will prevent it from blocking the filter or drain pump on your washer.

Can a blocked filter stop a washing machine?

A blocked filter can prevent the washing machine from draining which can cause the washer to stop working. The sensors detect that there’s something wrong and shut the programme down.

Do you put a colour catcher in the washer?

Yes, you do put a colour catcher in the washer to prevent colours from running from dark or bright coloured garments and staining lighter or white garments. However, if you own a front loader washing machine, I recommend putting the colour catcher in a mesh laundry bag to prevent it from clogging the filter or drain pump on your appliance.

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