What Are the 3 Compartments in a Washing Machine Drawer?

A new appliance can come with more buttons, drawers, and parts than we know what to do with. The manual contains model specific information, but many types of appliances have features which are quite common. The compartments in a washing machine drawer are a notable example of this.

Most front-loading washing machines have a small drawer with three compartments near the top of the machine. These compartments are the Pre-Wash Compartment, the Laundry Detergent Compartment, and the Fabric Softener Compartment.

Do All Washing Machines Have Multiple Drawer Compartments?

Not every washing machine has multiple compartments, but most of them do. Those that do not are often older models.

What Are the 3 Compartments in a Washing Machine Drawer?

They are often marked with the symbols II, I, and a *. Each compartment is for a different laundry product, and the symbols correspond to which product goes in which compartment. The II is for detergent, the I is for pre-wash, and the * is for fabric softener. If you are unsure, or if your machine does not have these symbols, then check the user manual for clarification.

1. Pre-Wash Compartment

Pre-Wash Compartment

The Pre-Wash Compartment is the first to release its’ contents into the washing machine. This is the least used compartment.

What is the Pre-Wash Compartment?

The Pre-Wash Compartment is for products that are designed to treat the laundry before washing. This compartment is not compatible with all the cycles on the washing machine since it requires a pre-rinse to work properly.

What Can Go in the Pre-Wash Compartment?

Some examples of products you might put in the Pre-Wash Compartment are stain treatment products, starch, or lesser amounts of detergent. Think of it and a mini wash for your clothes before the main event.

How to Use the Pre-Wash Compartment?

To use the Pre-Wash Compartment, put a small amount of your chosen pre-wash product into the drawer, select a cycle with a pre-wash or pre-rinse and then load the other compartments as normal before starting the machine.

2. Laundry Detergent Compartment

Laundry Detergent Compartment

This is the most frequently used compartment and is often in the center of the other two. Your user manual should tell you for sure. This is often also referred to as the Main Wash Compartment.

What is the Detergent Compartment?

The Detergent Compartment is the compartment where you put the washing powder or liquid for your laundry. It releases product into the washing portion of the cycle and is responsible for the majority of cleaning your clothes.

What Can Go in the Detergent Compartment?

Liquid or powder detergents can go into the Detergent Compartment, although the powder formulas work best in drawer model washing machines. This is because they are less likely to stick to the drawer and/or leave residue. If you have a liquid or pod detergent, simply throw it in the drum.

How to Use the Detergent Compartment?

To use the Detergent Compartment, follow the measurement directions of your detergent. Most come with a scoop or cup to measure the proper amount of product for a load of laundry. Once you have measured the right amount, simply pour it into the Detergent Compartment, close the drawer, select your cycle, and press start.

3. Fabric Softener Compartment

Fabric Softener Compartment

The Fabric Softener Compartment used to be standard for every wash. However, recent buying trends suggest that fewer people are buying fabric softener on a regular basis.

What is the Fabric Softener Compartment?

The Fabric Softener Compartment is the place you would put fabric softener if you are one of the households that uses it.

What Can Go in the Fabric Softener Compartment?

A variety of fabric softeners are on the market. They come in a variety of scents and formulas. Any of these can go into your Fabric Softener Compartment. However, refrain from putting detergent, bleach, or anything else in the compartment because it can clog the drawer.

How to Use the Fabric Softener Compartment?

You do not need to select a specific wash cycle to use the Fabric Softener Compartment, as every wash cycle on your machine is designed for fabric softener. Instead, simply follow the measuring instructions on the back of the bottle and pour the fabric softener into the correct compartment on your machine before starting the washing cycle.

Why are there Different Compartments in a Washing Machine?

The reason for the different compartment in your washing machine is that they release the product at defined times in the washing cycle. For instance, you would not want your detergent to be released last, as it would wash away the fabric softener and not be rinsed fully from your clothes. The drawers release in the following order: Pre-Wash, Detergent, then Fabric Softener.

Are All Washing Machine Compartments Alike?

Unfortunately, while it would be helpful if the Washing Machine Industry standardized features such as the layout of the washing machine drawer, there is wide variation between models and brands. Therefore, it is important to refer to your specific model to determine which compartment is which in your machine. This information will be in the user manual included with the machine. If you have lost the manual, you can find most manuals online by searching the model of the machine on the maker’s website.

How to Find Out What Washing Machine You Have

The make and model of the machine will be written on it somewhere by the manufacturer if you are not sure what machine you have. The make is frequently displayed front and center of the machine near the display. The model number can be put in a couple of places:

  • On the inside of the door
  • On the door frame
  • On the front outside of the machine
  • On either side of the machine
  • On the back of the machine

The Model number will be a string of numbers, or a mixture of letters and numbers in a small font. It is usually written on a paper sticker or metal plate.

What Happens if You Use the Wrong Compartment by Accident?

The Detergent Compartment (also known as the Main Wash Compartment) is resistant if you have accidentally put something else in it. The other two compartments are easier to clog up with the wrong product. If you are worried about mixing your products into the wrong compartments, you can flush it by filling the drawer with vinegar and running the machine on a short cycle.

Can You Put Bleach in Any of the Compartments?

When you want to keep your clothes bright and colorful, you may opt to use a white only or color safe bleach. However, you will notice none of the compartments in the drawer are the bleach compartment. So, where do you put the bleach? That is a great question – do not put it in the drum of the washing machine or in with the prewash as this can damage your clothes. The best place to put the bleach is in the Main Wash or Detergent Compartment.

Final Thoughts

If your washing machine has a drawer, hopefully this article has helped you make sense of the often poorly labeled compartments inside. Remember, the three compartments are the Pre-Wash Compartment, the Detergent (or Main Wash) Compartment, and the Fabric Softener Compartment.

It is important to use them properly to avoid clogging, and you can refer to your machine’s manual for specific information. If you have a clog in the drawer, then filling it with vinegar and running the machine on a short cycle will often be enough to flush it.

Read Related Laundry Articles: