Should I put detergent in the soap dispenser or straight in the drum?

Drawer Washing machines have always had soap dispensers to place the detergent in. For most people this is the best place for it. However, if you have problems with it not getting flushed down properly it might be better to try placing it inside the drum instead.

For a short while it seemed to become quite fashionable to use the drum instead. It’s less popular now because it doesn’t offer any functional advantages unless you have a problem when it’s placed in the soap dispenser drawer. You might prefer to put the detergent in the drum if your washing machine doesn’t flush it away properly, or maybe you just hate how the dispenser drawer gets clogged with detergent.


Placing it in the drum

If you do use the drum you need to use a proper container for the detergent. Do not just place the detergent on top of the clothes as this can mark or bleach the laundry. You can usually buy a specific detergent dosing ball, or most detergent manufacturers can supply one free if you contact them.

If using the drum it’s also even more important to make sure you don’t overload the washing machine. This is because detergent may get trapped inside laundry and be unable to disburse properly. That can not only prevent proper washing, but it also causes a potential safety issue (Detergent capsules danger to children).


One positive side effect of not using the soap dispenser is a cleaner soap dispenser drawer. But a side effect of placing detergent in a container on top of the washing is the noise of the container being tossed around the drum if it is made of plastic.

White marks or streaks on clothes can be caused by issues related to detergent being flushed from the soap dispenser drawer during rinsing under certain conditions. See this article for more details – white streaks on laundry.

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10 thoughts on “Should I put detergent in the soap dispenser or straight in the drum?”

  1. Powder detergent has to go into the soap drawer. If you put washing powder into the drum (even if you put this powder into a plastic “ball” on top of the clothes), then you will be left with white “streaks” on dark clothing after the final spin. Even after many rinses, there will be visible white marks on dark clothes; lights and whites will also have these marks, even if you can’t see them!

    I can definitely say that these white marks stopped appearing when I put the washing powder into the drawer.

    Pouring hot water into the soap drawer, when the washing machine is filling, will dissolve and flush-down the powder, to make sure none stays behind and sticks to the drawer (take care not to get the water on the floor – it happens easily and when you pour the hot water into the drawer too quickly). This is a good tip for anyone who has the washing machine connected to low water pressure.

    Yes you will need to occasionally clean the soap drawer tray and the inner surrounding, but it’s easy to clean with a brush. I leave the soap drawer slightly open after every wash to prevent mould.

  2. Thank you. :)

    If the soap drawer is being used and there are still white streaks on dark clothes, I could be right in saying that extra rinses are needed? If there’s no obvious “extra rinse” button, the instruction book may explain how you can change the default rinse settings; most likely seen on more expensive machines, with their electronic controls and “menus” of options.

    Maybe pouring hot water into the soap drawer will help? The hot water dissolves the powder residues and this should avoid bits of powder being flushed into the rinse water. It works for me. I can’t guarantee it would work for everyone else though. Also, it’s never a good idea to add too much water into the machine, as the electronics could think something’s wrong and display a cryptic error code. It should be okay to add hot water at the beginning of the wash though, since the clothes are soaking up the water and the machine will top-up the water level until no more is needed.

    Don’t be surprised if you occasionally see a white mark on the odd item of dark clothing. I don’t know why this happens.

  3. I need a plastic ball to put my washing powder in along with the clothes in the drum, having great difficulty in finding this, can you advise, Many thanks, Mrs T Holdway

  4. When my washing is on a cycle, their isn’t any sign of the soap suds even though the water enters the dispenser and removes the powder

  5. Hello Isabel. Modern detergents don’t tend to make many suds. Soap suds cushion laundry from each other and laundry gets clean mostly by rubbing against each other in the same way that we used to bash the against rocks in the river. Having said that, if you are used to seeing a certain amount of suds and now they’ve totally gone without changing the detergent something must account for it. If the the detergent is going into the machine it can’t really disappear.

    One thing that could account for it is if some fabric conditioner is trickling into the drum. Fabric conditioner can suppress suds. Make sure you don’t spill any when filling up the fabric softener compartment and make sure you don’t overfill it and slam the drawer shut. That can allow some to spill over into the drawer and get washed down with the detergent.

  6. Hello, I have a front loading Electrolux washer. I misplaced my liquid detergent tray and I have used liquid detergent in the powder detergent compartment. Does this mean my laundry was not washed properly?

  7. Andy Trigg (Whitegoodshelp)

    Hello Sonia. Most washing machines accommodate the use of liquid detergent in the soap dispenser. But they usually have a special compartment for it, or you have to slide a plastic blocker in place. Otherwise, most of the liquid will just immediately run down into the drum when you place it inside the soap dispenser.

    The problem is that much of it can end up inside the sump hose underneath the drum, which is sealed off during the wash with a plastic ball. So potentially most of the liquid detergent could have been wasted.

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