What the 3 Compartments in a Washing Machine Drawer are For

The 3 compartments in a washing machine drawer

You might have noticed that you have 3 compartments in your washing machine drawer but have no idea what they are for.

It’s estimated that 1 in 3 people in the UK don’t have a clue about what each of the compartments is supposed to be used for.

Let’s break it down:

  1. The first compartment is used for detergent and should be filled if you’re doing a pre-wash.
  2. The second is the main compartment where you put washing detergent.
  3. The third is for fabric softener/conditioner.

We are going to take a deeper look into each of the slots and how you can use them effectively to get the most out of your washing machine.

The 3 washing machine drawer compartments explained

All front-loading washing machines will have a detergent drawer which can be accessed at the front of the machine.

If you pull the handle on the drawer, it will slide out and you might notice the markings that the manufacturer put on each compartment. These are usually marked 1, 2 and either a 3 or flower marking.

A washing machine drawer with the 3 compartments labelled

Different washing machine manufacturers sometimes change the order in which the compartments are laid out so you should always check your user manual to confirm how your drawer is labelled.

It’s also really important to keep all of the compartments clean throughout the life of your washing machine, to prevent any blockages and filling problems.

1) The pre-wash compartment

The first compartment which is usually labelled with a ‘1’ is for filling with normal detergent for the pre-wash.

You should use this compartment if you are washing clothes that are more than dirty than usual or if you have selected a long wash cycle.

You can use normal washing powder in this compartment and it’s important that if you’re going to use this compartment, it’s not meant to act as a substitute for the main wash compartment.

Some washing machines don’t have a pre-wash cycle, but that doesn’t mean that the detergent will not be taken away. If your washing machine has a pre-wash slot, you can use it regardless of your machine not having a pre-wash cycle.

You shouldn’t put fabric conditioner in the pre-wash compartment of your washing machine, as the compartment labelled with a flower or a ‘3’ takes care of that.

2) The main wash compartment

The compartment that is labelled with a ‘2’ is the main wash compartment and should be filled with washing machine powder/detergent.

Pouring washing powder into the main wash compartment

This is the compartment that is typically used by most people instead of the prewash compartment. It should be filled regardless of the length of the cycle and if you’re using the pre-wash slot.

If you’re using washing machine pods or a powder alternative, you likely don’t want to use this compartment.

Most people overfill this section of the drawer, so we advise you to check the detergent label for the correct measurement before you go ahead and fill the slot with powder.

If you’re worried about getting the detergent drawer blocked up with powder, you can always just put the powder straight into the drum, as it acts in the same way.

3) The fabric softener compartment

This is the compartment that is usually in the middle of your washing machine drawer. You will likely see a blue or white plastic covering that you can detach.

The fabric softener compartment in a washing  machine

You should use this section to fill with fabric softener, which helps to make sure that your clothes come out smelling fresher and feeling softer.

You don’t have to use fabric softener when you’re washing your clothes, and some users report that fabric softeners can have an overbearing smell.

Make sure that you don’t overfill this slot, as fabric softener can be quite concentrated, and a small amount often goes a long way.

Unlike the first and second compartments, where you would typically see an identifiable number, you may see a range of different symbols including a flower, to signify this as the fabric softener compartment.

Why does a washing machine drawer get blocked?

Don’t you find it irritating when the fabric softener doesn’t get taken away during a wash cycle? This is because the drawer is prone to getting blocked up with washing powder and softener.

If you take a look at the roof of the detergent dispenser, you might see evidence of moulding and excess fabric softener that has gotten stuck. This is a really common problem.

When you buy a new washing machine, you need to keep on top of cleaning and maintenance, to get the most out of your washer. If you don’t, then it can result in your washing machine leaking.

The detergent dispenser drawer and the rubber door seal are susceptible to mould build-up if not correctly cleaned. We actually wrote about how to clean a washing machine seal so that you can keep your washing machine bacteria free.

If your detergent dispenser is already blocked up, it might be a good idea to use an old toothbrush to scrub the roof of the dispenser and use cable ties to get into the holes.

Just remember that prevention is much easier than repairing. When you buy a new machine, you should keep on top of the cleaning and maintenance from day one.

How to remove a washing machine drawer

Being able to remove your washing machine drawer is quite handy, especially for cleaning.

You can use the following steps to remove a soap dispenser drawer:

  1. Locate the drawer, which is usually at the top on the left.
  2. Look for the release mechanism, which can be found either in the centre where the fabric conditioner goes or on the left-hand side.
  3. Press the release mechanism while pulling the drawer out towards you. The drawer should glide out without too much force.

If you need to refit the dispenser, you can line up the grooves on either side and lean the drawer slightly up at the front whilst pushing it in.