Skip to Content

How To Add Detergent to Washer (When, Where, and How)

Even though washing your clothes is an everyday activity, and most people are assumed to know how to do it, there are some people who struggle to understand precisely how a washing machine works. It can be because washing machines come with complex instructions, which can sometimes get confusing. 

You should add your detergent to your washer before the clothes go in if you have a front-loading washing machine. If your washing machine is top-loading, you can add your detergent after the clothes are put in the drum. 

In the rest of this article, I will go through the fundamentals of when detergent should be added to the machine, where you should be putting it (depending on the type of machine you have), where to put your detergent if there’s no dispenser, and if it’s ok to put detergent straight inside the drum. 

When Should I Add Detergent in the Washing Cycle?

A man preparing a washing machine for use

It can be hard to know precisely when you should add your laundry detergent to the washing cycle. It all boils down to what type of washing machine you have – and in a rented apartment, you might not even know.

You should add your detergent at the beginning of the cycle before your clothes go in if you have a high-efficiency, front-loading washing machine. If you have a traditional, top-loading machine, then you can add your detergent after you’ve filled it with water and the clothes have gone in.

High-efficiency washing machines always have a door in the front of the washer – that’s where your clothes go inside the machine. There’s usually a little drawer made especially for detergent, bleach, and fabric softener in a front-loading machine.

For top-loading washing machines, you need to add the water in, then the clothes, then the washing detergent. This ensures that all your detergent has dispersed uniformly across all your clothes.

Putting detergent in the machine also depends on the type of detergent.

Suppose you’re using laundry capsules to do the washing. In that case, you can just put it straight in the drum – regardless of whether you have a high-efficiency machine or a top-loading machine. Put it in before or after your clothes – it doesn’t matter too much.

I wrote a guide on the top 13 laundry detergent alternatives that may interest you.

Where Should I Put Detergent in the Washing Machine?

It can be hard to know exactly where to put your detergent in the washing machine – especially if there doesn’t seem to be a special drawer for that purpose.

You should put your detergent in the little drawer or compartment in a high-efficiency washing machine. In a top-loading machine, you can either put it straight in the drum with the clothes or use a mesh bag to place on top inside the machine.

The drawer is built-in for ease of use in a front-loading washer and can be filled with all kinds of liquid detergent, fabric softeners, and bleach. This way, it can be diluted before making contact with the clothes in the machine. 

If you’re using a tablet, you can put it straight in the drum, and you’re good to go. Here are a few things you shouldn’t do with a high-efficiency washer drawer:

  • Never use both liquid and powder in the drawer together. It will get clogged up in the drawer and prevent the soap from reaching the clothes.
  • Make sure you don’t use more detergent than needed. There should be a little line inside the drawer to indicate the maximum level.
  • Never use a detergent that wasn’t made for a high-efficiency washing machine. It will prevent your clothes from being appropriately washed.

In a top-loading washer, you’ll need to dissolve the detergent a little before introducing it to the machine. This way, you’ll increase the chances of it dissolving completely and cleaning your clothes thoroughly. You can do this by adding it after you’ve filled it with water.

Where Should I Put Detergent If There’s No Dispenser?

Even if you have a front-loading washing machine, the older machines don’t necessarily have a dispenser drawer for the detergent. In these cases, you’ll have to put the detergent elsewhere in the machine.

If there’s no dispenser on your washer, you should use detergent in the form of a powder. You can place it inside a special bag and put it straight inside the drum. If you want to use liquid detergent, you need to use the correct dose.

If there are any stains on your clothes, you can put a little laundry powder or liquid directly on the stain – provided you don’t use too much. If you’re using a liquid detergent, just make sure you dilute it properly beforehand.

You may have a dispenser drawer, but it’s just clogged up, and you wonder if you can put the detergent in the drum. In that case, you’ll need to remove it entirely from the washer and clean it. Soak it in hot water and soap for a couple of hours, and you should be able to get all the residue off in no time.

Learn if pods, liquid, or powder detergent is better in this article I wrote.

Can I Put Liquid Detergent in the Drum?

If it’s easier for you to use detergent in the drum itself, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t. However, you should be aware that there aren’t any real advantages to doing this, especially if your washer has a detergent drawer.

You can put liquid detergent in the drum, as long as you use a mesh bag and a dosing ball. If you decide to do this, just ensure that you’re not putting too many clothes inside the machine because they won’t get washed properly, and the detergent won’t distribute itself evenly. 

There’s only one advantage of putting liquid detergent in the drum – a clean dispenser drawer. However, it’s always better to use the drawer for the proper distribution of the liquid in the machine. 

Learn if liquid detergent is bad for your washing machine here.

Final Thoughts

Knowing when to add detergent to your machine, where to do so, and how to manage all the options correctly can be complex – and it’s entirely dependent on the device you have.

Next, you can learn how to add fabric softener to your washing machine or learn more about the 3 different slots here.

Sharing is caring!