3 Compartments in the Washing Machine Drawer (Explained)

In General, a washing machine has 3 main compartments – The main compartment, fabric softener compartment, and pre-wash compartment.

The Main Wash compartment is where you pour the detergent to wash your clothes, whereas the fabric softener compartment helps to apply the softeners on clothes, and the Prewash compartment is usually used before running the main wash cycle.

Let’s look into each of the compartments in detail.

Prewash Compartment

Washing machines are designed to clean your clothes, but getting them fully fresh and clean may require an extra step, especially if your laundry loads are heavily soiled.

Prewashing the clothes before the main wash helps to loosen the dirt and soil from the fabrics.

This compartment is not meant for the main wash instead it just helps to soften up tough stains, dirt, and soil so that when it goes through the main wash cycle, it’s easier to remove the dirt and stains on the fabric.

In most washing machines, the pre-Wash Compartment is labeled as “ I” OR “1” indicating that you can use this compartment to pour an extra amount of stain remover OR detergent to run the pre-wash cycle.

Also Read: What is Soil Level in the washing machine?

How to Use the Prewash Compartment?

Using a Prewash compartment is a fairly simple process.

Follow the below steps:

  • Open the pre-wash compartment and pour in the detergent (Preferably half of what you will pour in the main wash).
  • Close the compartment door
  • For the best experience pre-soak the clothes.
  • Load clothes into the washer.
  • Choose a wash cycle depending on the fabric type (e.g., Mix Load, Synthetics, wool, OR Silk)
  • Tap the Pre-wash button, if this button is available (this will increase the wash time).

After your washer completes the pre-wash, it should automatically drain the water and then start the main wash cycle.

So you can either pause the washer after the pre-wash cycle completes and then pour the detergent in the main wash compartment OR you can pour the detergent in both compartments at the same time.

Pouring the detergent in both compartments at the same time helps the washer to automatically proceed with the next cycles, therefore you don’t need to manually pause the washer every time a cycle completes.

Main Wash Compartment

All three compartments are located next to each other.

The main wash compartment is usually larger than the other 2 compartments and is labeled as “II’ or “2” indicating that this compartment is for the main wash and you should pour the detergent for the main wash into this compartment.

The large size of the main wash compartment does not mean you pour a lot of detergents.

In fact, pouring excessive detergents may make your washer inefficient and also prolong the wash cycle.

The quantity of detergent completely depends on the laundry load.

If you take a look at the detergent labels, you should be able to find the appropriate dosage.

How to use the Main Wash Compartment?

Since most of the task is automatically handled by your washer, you simply need to pour the detergents into the relevant tray and select the wash cycle depending on the fabric type.

Your washing machine will automatically go through Pre-wash, Main Wash, and then the final rinse cycle where fabric softeners are applied.

Alternatively, you can manually pause after each cycle and then place the detergents and softeners post-completion of each cycle (Not recommended unless there is a valid reason).

Fabric Softener

Once your washing machine completes the wash cycle, it releases the fabric softeners during the rinse cycle.

A fabric softener compartment is generally the smallest.

It is usually indicated by a star OR flower symbol, meaning the compartment is specific to softeners and you should not pour any other liquid or detergents on it.

Note: Pouring an excessive quantity of fabric softener may ruin the clothes in long run. Instead, stay within the MAX limit indicated in the compartment.

How to use the Fabric Softener Compartment

You can either pour the fabric softener and detergent into their relevant tray at the very start OR you can manually pause after the main cycle and deploy the softeners.

It’s always best to pour the detergent and fabric softeners into their relevant tray so that your washing machine can handle each cycle without any interruptions.

So, In order to use the fabric softener compartment effectively, follow the below process.

  • Add Detergent to the Pre-wash and Main wash tray (Skip Pre-wash if you don’t need it).
  • Add Fabric Softeners depending on the laundry load.
  • Add Clothes
  • Set an appropriate wash cycle and allow the washing machine to go through the wash cycles.
  • Once the washing machine completes the main wash cycle, it will proceed with the rinse cycle.
  • The fabric softeners will be deployed during the rinse cycle.

Types of Drawer that accommodate 3 compartments

There are mainly two types of drawers that accommodate all the 3 compartments.

Type I – Also known as Type 1 drawer

Type II – Also known as Type 2 drawer

Depending on the make and model of your washer, the design may vary.

Let’s take a detailed look into it and understand the difference.

Type I vs Type II Detergent Drawer

The main difference between a Type I and Type II detergent drawer is their design. Type I detergent drawer is divided into 3 parts, whereas type II detergent drawer is divided into two parts to accommodate all the 3 compartments.

Let’s take a quick look at the diagram below to understand the main difference.

In both Type I and Type II Drawers you will find below functions:

  • Main Wash – This is where you pour the detergent for the main wash, it’s generally higher than what you pour in the pre-wash compartment.
  • Pre-Wash – This is where you pour a small amount of detergent to pre-wash your clothes before moving towards the main wash cycle.
  • Fabric Softener – Pour the desired quantity of fabric softeners, so that your clothes come out soft and fluffy post-wash.

Also Read: 11 Things you must know about High-Efficiency detergents

Which drawer do you put detergent in the washing machine?

One way to find out which drawer to put your detergent in the washing machine is to first check the instruction manual that came with your washing machine.

Every manufacturer will state which drawer you should use for detergents.

Alternatively, look for the symbols on the detergent tray, most likely you will have one.

The one that says “II” OR “2” is where you generally pour the detergent.

Also, the main wash detergent tray is large as compared to the other compartments, so that too can be a good indicator.

Which drawer do fabric softeners go in?

Fabric Softeners should always go into the fabric softener compartment.

Pouring fabric softeners into some other compartment may damage your washer in many ways.

Always look for a sign or symbol in the drawer that indicates that the tray is for fabric softener.

Usually, you will see a Star OR flower symbol on the tray, indicating that it’s designed for fabric softeners. 

Cleaning and Maintenance of Pre-wash, Main Wash, and Fabric Softener compartments

Depending on the washing machine model, you can detach the tray and clean it using either a homemade cleaning solution OR ready-made washing machine cleaners.

In almost all the washers, 3 compartments are attached as a single unit, so detaching them is a simple process.

For example in a bosch front-load washer, you simply need to press the unlock button located on the tray itself and pull it outwards.

Here’s what the button will look like in a bosch washer.

If you are using a different brand of washer, there should be clear instructions to detach and clean the dispensers in the product manual itself.

We have seen in many cases, that product manuals are not thorough, in such scenarios always reach out to the service center or manufacturer for guidance.

Also Read: How to clean a portable washing machine?

Common Washing Machine Issues and Troubleshooting Tips

Detergent Not Dispensing Properly

Check for detergent buildup in the drawer or dispenser. Clean it thoroughly with warm water and a soft brush.

Ensure the drawer is inserted correctly and not misaligned, hindering the proper flow of detergent.

Use the right type of detergent for your washing machine and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines on detergent quantity.

Fabric Softener Not Dispensing or Stains on Clothes

Clean the fabric softener compartment, as it may be clogged with residue. Use warm water and mild detergent to clean it.

Dilute the fabric softener with water as per the manufacturer’s instructions to prevent stains and buildups.

Avoid using fabric softeners with bleach or excessive additives, as they may cause issues.

Pre-Wash is Not Effective in Removing Stains

Check if the pre-wash compartment is clogged or has detergent residue. Clean it thoroughly.

Use a high-quality stain remover or pre-wash detergent for heavily soiled clothes.

Soak the clothes in water before starting the pre-wash cycle for better stain removal.

Detergent Leaking from the Drawer

Make sure the detergent drawer is securely closed before starting the wash cycle.

Check for any cracks or damage in the detergent drawer and replace it if necessary.

Ensure the washing machine is level to prevent uneven distribution of water and detergent.

Compartments Not Dispensing at the Right Time

Verify that you have selected the correct wash cycle that includes pre-wash, main wash, and fabric softener phases.

Avoid overloading the washing machine, as it may affect the timing of the compartments’ dispensing.

If the issue persists, consult the washing machine’s user manual or contact the manufacturer’s customer support.

Fabric Softener Compartment Fills with Water

Check if the fabric softener compartment is clogged with detergent or debris. Clean it thoroughly.

Make sure the washing machine is properly leveled to avoid any water seeping into the fabric softener compartment while it’s running.

If you come across any problems, with the compartments it’s advisable to consult the manufacturer’s manual or get help, from a technician to prevent any additional damage.

Frequently Asked Questions

Some common questions that are frequently asked.

Where do I put liquid detergent?

To use liquid detergent, pour it directly into the washing machine drum. Doing this ensures that the liquid detergent dissolves properly, increasing efficiency.

How much washing powder to use?

For optimal results, follow the manufacturer’s guidelines on the washing powder packaging for the recommended quantity based on your laundry load size.

Hemant Sarkar is a seasoned techie with a diploma in computer science and an impressive track record of over 15 years in dealing with speakers, kitchen appliances, and various home appliance-related issues. He is widely recognized for his exceptional expertise in repairing dryers and washing machines from all major brands. In addition to his appliance repair prowess, Hemant maintains engaging blogs on topics related to music and speakers. For any inquiries or assistance regarding appliances or tech-related matters, you can reach out to him at: hemant (at) theportablelaundry.com.