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As a working mother of three boys, I always look for ways to streamline my life and keep household chores to a minimum. I generally wash all my laundry together in one mixed load, rather than sorting it out into whites, coloured and delicates. This not only saves time (and my sanity) but is also cost effective as it reduces the number of separate wash-loads that I need to do each week. My washing machine has a generous 8kg load capacity so I find it much easier to bung everything in together, rather than washing smaller loads more frequently.
Mixed washing is generally problem free, certainly at 40 degrees or less but I have had a few mishaps in the past with new, dark coloured items running and spoiling the entire load. I usually use Colour Catcher sheets in with every wash to prevent any colour run but recently discovered a slightly different product offered by the Dr Beckmann brand. These 'Colour & Dirt Collectors' as the name suggests, offer a slightly different benefit as they also claim to remove dirt that is loosened during the washing process and prevent it from attaching back on to clean clothing. This is in addition to its primary purpose of stopping any dyes running from stronger coloured clothing, minimising the greying effect that mixed washing can have on clothes over time, particularly on white clothing and underwear.
These Dr Beckmann Colour Collectors follow the same principle as the sheets that I've used previously. The packet contains 30 disposable textured sheets which go straight into the washing machine drum along with your normal load. One sheet is usually sufficient for each wash load but the packaging does recommend using two sheets for heavily dyed garments or those with poor colour fastness. I usually just use a single sheet without any issues, even within a large 8kg load, but would use two for items such as new jeans, particularly dark blue denim which does tend to run, even in a 40 degree wash.
After use, the sheet has clearly absorbed any loose dye and dirt which is evident as the sheet turns from a crisp white to a dingy grey colour. If the load has included any deep colours or denim the sheet tends to be a more distinctive shade of blue, so it is fairly easy to see the benefits of using these sheets within a mixed wash as otherwise all of that loose dye would be absorbed by clean clothing instead. Each sheet is single use only and can only be disposed of after use although Dr Beckmann do also produce a reusable product under the same name. I haven't tried that version as yet, but it might be worth looking for if a more environmentally product is preferred.
For a box of 30 sheets, so potentially up to 30 wash loads, I paid around the £3 mark at Morrisons which works out at a reasonable 10p per wash. I think this compares with the Colour Catcher sheets so there is no noticeable difference in price or performance. The only variation, if anything, is that these Dr Beckmann sheets appear to be slightly larger (certainly longer) than other varieties which does seem to suggest that these have the potential to absorb slightly more dirt and dye than other brands. What may be worth considering is that some of the packets have a 'Try Me Free' promotion available - offer ends October 2012- so it could be worth giving these a go even if you are not already totally convinced about their effectiveness.
I will continue to use colour catching sheets in the wash and these are certainly a brand that I will consider although, given the lack of difference in performance, my choice will be dictated by price and availability.
In our house I always seem to find that I have a half load of darks and a half load of whites and of course you always need something clean that doesn't have a full load to go in. Originally I saw Colour Catcher sheets in home bargains and I gave them a go, after finding that they do work I decided to look around for a cheaper version and this was the product I found. The colour catcher sheets are £2.90 for 20 but these are £3.05 for 30 sheets and are often 2 packs for £4 in Tesco as they are now.
The product comes in a white cardboard box with a flap in the middle which you have to peel up to release the first time you open it to get to the product. On the front of the box is the Dr. Beckmann logo and then underneath that is the name of the product which is written across the box in a rainbow effect using about 7 different colours which I find very eye catching. Underneath the name is the claim that you can wash mixed colours with confidence and there is a picture of a machine load of washing with a red and white striped shirt and a sheet coloured with red stating sheet locks in stray colour and dirt.
On one side of the box there is a little bit of information about the makers such as the company is family run and has been around since 1919 and that this product has been on the market for over 30 years which I found very surprising as I had never heard of this concept until Colour catchers were released.
So a little of the science then, "stray molecules of colour and dirt end up sticking to your clothes which mean your colours become dull, your whites become grey and you are always at risk of a colour run. The sheets are made from a special ultra absorbent material that collects and locks in stray colour and dirt during the wash cycle so it doesn't end up on your clothes."
To use the sheets you simply place to the back of your washing machine drum and then load in your clothes, before adding your usual detergent and setting off your wash. When your wash finishes you will find that any colour that has loosen is locked into the sheet.
There are a couple of warning to using these, new items should always be washed separately first and use two sheets for heavily dyed clothes or those with poor colour fastness and lastly the warning for near enough everything, keep away from children.
When I was first trying these I had one colour catcher sheet left so I put one of each sheet into my wash to see how they would do, this particular wash had two bright red dresses that had never been washed before in it, I figured that as the dresses had white spots on they shouldn't really run. Well the dresses did run and both sheets absorbed plenty of colour each so I can honestly say that this product is just as good as Colour catchers and nearly 50% cheaper.
This product is easy to use and makes my life as a working Mum much easier as if I can't mix colours and whites I then end up inundated with washing at the end of the week. The product works and really that's all that matters so I can certainly recommend this product and will certainly be carrying on using it.
If you have lots of bright coloured clothes, you probably worry about washing them together. You can buy disposeable colour catcher cloths, but if you worry about their eco-friendliness or find them fiddly, then you will be interested in the Dr Beckmann Colour & Direct Collector.
*** What is it? ***
The Colour and Dirt Collector is a bit like a flannel (slightly narrower and longer but a similar size). It feels like soft towelling and is made of lots of looped cotton. It has a fabric bias binding type edging sewn on, so does not fray or shed with use.
It is pure white when you buy it and comes in a cardboard box (see picture). The back of the box contains a 1-30 chart so you can tick off each use as it is said by Dr Beckmann that you can use it for 30 washes.
The cost is around £3-5 for one cloth (Spring 2011).
*** What is good about it? ***
The simple packaging. I like the fact there is no plastic wrapping so I can just put the cardboard box straight in the recycling.
It is not adding any chemicals to the wash and helpd you put larger loads together, being more eco-friendly.
You just throw it in the washing and it works - very easy for busy people. As it is more robust than the disposeable sheets you only need one cloth for the wash, and can reuse it many, many times (up to you if you go for the 30 washes it suggests).
You will be amazed (and almost scared) by how much colour it absorbs. I actually wash my coloured clothes in coloured loads so keep Colour Collectors that are dyed blue, green, red etc and throw the relevant one in.
When you no longer use it in the washing you can use it as a spare mopping up or cleaning cloth.
*** What is not so good about it? ***
I wish they sold multi-packs. Mine absorbs so much colour I don't like to put the red one in blue loads, for example, just in case.
Mine gets so full of colour after relatively few washes of my very bright and deep clothes. I tend to replace the cloth when the whole thing is a uniform bright colour. You might get closer to 30 washes if you are braver than me.
White fluffy cloth that goes in with laundry / Lasts: for up to 30 washes