Fabric Washing – 2018 Update

I keep learning new things! The last time I wrote about fabric washing was in August 2017. (Click here, and on the link in that post, to read about why I always wash my fabric.) Since then I’ve made changes to my washing routine.  FYI: I never use laundry detergent or fabric softeners on my quilts or quilt fabric.


  • I now use Retro Wash instead of Orvus Paste as the “soap” in the washer. Both work, but Retro Wash is easier to use.

Retro Wash is a powder. The instructions on the package are clear. Use 1 tablespoon per load in a top-loading HE machine. I don’t mix it with water first, but you probably could. I use the same amount of Retro Wash, no matter the size of the load, which might be wrong, but it works for me.

  •  Retayne is the chemical that sets the dye into the fabric. There is new, much improved, information on the label now.

The label says is to use 1 teaspoon of Retayne per yard of fabric in a HE machine, with warm water. It turns out that I wasn’t using near enough Retayne before! I mix the Retayne in a half-cup of water and pour it into the detergent receptacle.

Click here to find Retro Wash and Retayne.

  • Add 1 Color Catcher to pick up excess dye, just because.

Color Catchers catch the excess dye from the water. (I very much suspect that they have Synthrapol in them, but I don’t know that for sure.)

Since I changed my washing routine, the Color Catchers are coming out white, even in dark loads. I am happy!

When I wash quilts, I will use Retro Wash, at least 1 Color Catcher, and Synthrapol. Synthrapol keeps dye that has migrated into the wash water from re-depositing into the fabric. I haven’t done that yet — I’ll let you know when I do.

I do have one more bit of (mildly disturbing) news that I learned from a student who works for US Customs. There’s not a nice way to say it, so here goes: ships, and the containers on them, are often infested with vermin. Who leave droppings. ICK!!!!

I don’t know how fabric is wrapped for travel inside the container. It starts on rolls and later is folded, wound onto cardboard bolts, and then shrink-wrapped in plastic. That might happen here in the US, or overseas. Either way, the contamination is probably small. But still, that got my attention. (FYI: Most of our clothes are also imported so I’m now washing new clothes before I wear them.)


28 thoughts on “Fabric Washing – 2018 Update

  1. I have a quilting friend who has been working in shipping her whole career. She says if you ever saw what is in the containers (scorpions! shudder) or the filth on a loading dock you’d be sure to wash your fabric. She washes all hers in hot water and puts in a hot dryer.


  2. I wash my fabric with plain old detergent and iron dry with a very hot iron, When I finish my quilt it goes straight back into the washer with detergent and then the dryer. I’ve never had a problem with fabric running. Sometimes I will test it first especially reds. Because I make my quilts to be used they will be laundered again at some point without any special soap.


    • Regular detergent has additives that do more than clean the fabric. It feels different, softer.

      If you like that feel, go with it. There is room in this world for different views. That said, I don’t like working with softer fabric so I’ll continue to avoid regular detergent.


  3. I wash all new clothes since last year when I got a rash all over my body from a new pants and top. My derm doctor said it was from the chemical on new clothes that keeps them looking fresh when hanging in the store. Took medication and a few weeks to get rid of it. I’ve always washed, used Retayne or Synthropol, and a Color Catcher so do you think I should be washing older fabric that I’ve washed in the past with the Retro Wash again?


    • I am not washing my old fabric, even though I’m pretty sure I didn’t get all of the dye out of it before I switched to this new regimen. But when I wash quilts, I’m going to be very careful and use Retayne, Color Catchers, and maybe Synthrapol, along with Retro Wash.

      And, really, an all-over body rash! I’m sorry about that but thank you for sharing what your doctor told you.



  4. My HE toploader barely has any water in it and I can’t increase the amount. I am afraid to wash anything that may bleed. I go to my friends house instead. Does your toploader fill up?


    • Color Catchers are made by Shout. They are little sheets impregnated with something that catches and holds excess dye in the wash water.

      You can buy them next to the dryer sheets in many grocery stores.


      • They have fragrance which is very toxic so I have never bought them. Please let us know if you find fragrance free.


      • I’m not sure which of the products has a scent because I don’t smell it. Let me know what product it is that you have detected a fragrance in and I’ll see what I can find out.



  5. Do you always prewash lights & darks separately or wash everything at once, since they will all be in the final quilt?
    I just bought the retro wash, excited to use it.


  6. Becky, do you sent the fabric through the washer three times, first with Retro, then with retayne and then with the color catcher or do you put all three in and run a single cycle?


    • Nope, I’m not that good. I put the Retro Wash, Retayne, and Color Catchers in all at once. I’m not following the instructions exactly but there’s a limit to my time and patience. This seems to be working in my water.



  7. Becky, I am so grateful to you for this expert advice which I’ll print out so as not to lose a word of it. I do not like pre-cuts even a little bit but tried using them a couple times. My pre-laundering method was to put them in a basin of very hot water and let them soak until the water was cool.. Then hung the pieces on a drying rack in my shower stall and let them drip dry and was shocked at how much some of the pieces shrank! Cannot for life of me imagine spending countless hours making a quilt and not preshrinking and (de-bugging) everything!
    Always enjoy your Wednesday “visits” and please give Jim a pat-pat for me!


    • I don’t use precuts either because of the laundering issue. I understand their appeal to people who don’t wash their fabric but I can’t make myself use unwashed fabric. On the upside, my studio is not cluttered with a bunch of unused precuts :-).



  8. Another reason to wash is how the quilt store treats the bolts. Some are short on space and stack them on the floor, you know where the pest man sprays for crickets and roaches.


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