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What are the 3 Slots in Washing Machines? (Complete Guide)

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Although adding the necessary detergents to a washing machine might seem like a straightforward process at first, depending on your equipment, it might be more complex than you’d think. 

You’ll notice a tray you can pull out with different sections usually labeled with numbers or symbols on some models. For this reason, it can be hard to figure out where your pre-wash, regular detergent, and conditioner go.

One slot in your washing machine is for regular detergent, one is for pre-wash detergent, and one is for fabric softener. Each dispenses at a different time of the washing process, affecting how the clothes react to them. The three slots are also set to release differently. 

Putting your washing detergent in the right place is essential if you want to ensure your clothes come out clean and soft. In the following sections, I’ll further discuss the different slots on your washing machine and what you should do to ensure your clothes don’t fade or rip in the washer. 

What Are the Slots on a Washing Machine Meant For?

While some washing machine models are designed to be used with laundry pods, others are made with slots explicitly made for liquid and powder detergents. These trays will come out either at the front of your washer or from within the machine and will display three different sections for your detergents. 

The slots on a washing machine are meant for different types of detergent used during your wash cycle. The slots dispense at different times during the said cycle, making each of them best suited for either pre-wash, detergent, or clothing conditioner.

Your pre-wash will go first, followed by your regular liquid detergent and then your fabric softener. The detergent will clean your clothes, and then the softener will come in after to take out any stiffness.

What are the 3 Slots in Washing Machines? Detailed Explanation
I made a video explaining the three slots on my front loader.

Use Liquid Detergents With Your Washing Machine Tray

If you have a slot for detergent in your washer, you should go for liquid detergents rather than pods. Pods go directly in the drum of your washing machine, while liquids can go in the drum or the tray. 

The main difference between putting it directly into the drum and putting it in a tray is: The tray will dispense it at a certain time in the cycle, rather than mixing with your clothes right away. 

Pods cannot go into a laundry detergent tray. If you prefer pods to liquid detergents, make sure to just put the pod directly into the washer; otherwise, it will get stuck in your tray.

Does Laundry Detergent Go in the First or Second Slot?

Using too much powder detergent can clog your washer over time.

Though it may seem like the process of adding liquid detergent to your washer is intuitive.

In reality, trying to figure out the design of your machine can be more challenging than expected. 

Regular laundry detergent goes in the second slot. Usually, this slot is the furthest to the left and will be dispensed after the pre-wash slot (which is the first slot on the right or slot one). If there are numbers on your machine, the detergent should go into slot number two, or “II.”  

This can be a little confusing, as it stands that from left to right, your washer reads two, flower icon, then one. So, to summarize, you are going to start with your main detergent in the “second,” which is all the way to the right, and only add to the “first” tray, which is all the way on the left, if you have some kind of pre-wash you want to add to your load. The middle one will always be for fabric softener. 

Using a Pre-Wash

Using a pre-wash isn’t necessary but can really optimize your equipment’s performance. 

Pre-wash, which will go in slot one all the way to the right, can be used for many different purposes. Some help sanitize, like the Rockin’ Green Funk Rock Ammonia Bouncer (amazon paid link). 

Others, like the Spray’ n Wash Pre-Treat Laundry Stain Remover (amazon paid link), are good for getting stains out. This type of pre-wash would be beneficial if you have a little one playing sports or had an accidental spill on an important garment. 

Picking Between Liquid and Powder Detergent 

The detergent will clean and freshen your clothes no matter its form; however, one may work better than the other, depending on what your messes look like. 

For example, tide, which has been making laundry detergents since 1946, says on their website that powder may be better for dirt and clay.  

I’ve created a comprehensive guide on how to use all the settings on your washing machine that may interest you.

Laundry Pods 

Laundry pods are also an excellent alternative when it comes to washing your clothes. However, when using this approach, you’ll want to make sure never to put your laundry pods into your tray, as they need to be put directly into the drum. They won’t dissolve properly if you put them into your washing machine tray. 

Where To Put Fabric Conditioner in a Washing Machine?

More on how to add fabric softener here.

A fabric conditioner, also referred to as fabric softener, keeps your clothes from getting stiff or hard from the wash. Fabric softener, when used correctly, can help with the longevity of a garment’s life and make sure the fabrics you’re wearing feel comfortable. 

You should put fabric conditioner or fabric softener in the middle slot of your washing machine, which will be labeled as number three or have a little flower-like icon on it. This slot is not dispensed at the same time of the wash cycle as pre-wash or regular detergent. 

You can also put your fabric conditioner directly into the drum if you don’t have a tray option on your washer. 


Suppose you have a tray on your washing machine. In that case, you’ll have the option of putting your detergents into separate sections rather than straight into the drum. 

You should add your pre-wash all the way to the right, under section “I” or “1”. 

Then, you will add your regular detergent all the way to the left under section “II” or “2”. 

If you choose to use a fabric softener, you’ll put this in the middle. Just make sure you are using liquid or powder detergent.


Sunday 25th of September 2022

Why do modern washing machines encourage fabric softener. It's terrible for the environment and dangerous for asthmatics . I am also confused about where to put sanitizer in a front loader


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