Washing Machine Drawer Compartments Explained (with drawer symbols)

If you’ve opened up your washing machine’s drawer and seen a bunch of compartments, and you aren’t sure what goes where, this guide is for you.

We’re about to show you exactly what each compartment is used for, as well as where detergent and fabric softener should go.

Read all the way to the end to make sure you really understand this once and for all (plus we’ll give you some great tips that’ll help you get the most out of your washing machine)!

washing machine drawer

Key Takeaways

There are usually 3 compartments inside a washing machine’s drawer. These are:

  • The Main Wash Compartment (II)
    The symbol for the main wash compartment is usually “II” or “2”. This is where you put the laundry detergent. It is often the largest compartment inside the drawer.
  • The Fabric Softener Compartment (flower)
    The symbol for the fabric softener compartment is usually a flower, a star or a “3”. This is where you put the fabric softener. This is usually the smallest compartment inside your washing machine’s drawer.
  • The Pre-Wash Compartment (I)
    The symbol for the pre-wash compartment is usually “I” or “1”. This is where you put the detergent if you are going to run a pre-wash cycle.

What Are The 3 Washing Machine Drawer Compartments For?

When you open up your washing machine’s drawer, you’ll usually see 3 different compartments.

You’ll usually see: a wide compartment with a “II” or “2” symbol, a slightly narrower compartment with a “I” or “1” symbol, and a very narrow compartment with a flower/star or “3” symbol.

It’s important to learn what each of these symbols mean as washing machine manufactures don’t have a consistent ordering of their compartments.

At a glance, it’s not exactly obvious what these do, so we’re now going to go through each one to make it clear.

PLEASE NOTE: Although what we’re about to share is true of most washing machines, some manufacturers do things a little different, so it’s always worth double checking in your user manual first.

The Main Wash Compartment

Washing Machine Main Wash Compartment

The main wash compartment is the one you put your detergent into during every wash (unless you’re using pods of course, they go in the drum).

This could be a liquid or powder detergent – either can be put in here depending on your preference/requirements.

Generally speaking, the main wash compartment is larger than the other compartments inside your drawer.

With that being said, it’s important to note that you do not always have to completely fill this up with detergent. Different wash loads will require different amounts of detergent, so you should always read the instructions on your detergent and your machine’s user manual for best results.

Using too much detergent in the main wash compartment can cause your machine to develop bacteria and mold. It can also leave your clothes stiff and uncomfortable to wear too!

This compartment is also where you’d put stain remover, if your load requires it.

Symbol To Look For

Here’s the main wash symbol you need to look for:

Main Wash Symbol

Please note: This is also sometimes depicted by the number 2.

The Pre-Wash Compartment

Washing Machine Pre Wash Compartment

The pre-wash compartment is where you put detergent if you’re running a “pre-wash” cycle. If you’re not running a pre-wash cycle, do not put anything in here.

Again, you could use either liquid or powder detergent in here, just like you could for the main wash cycle. The purpose of this drawer (and wash cycle) is that you can get a more thorough clean, making it great for heavily soiled garments.

It works by giving your load an extra wash before the main wash starts, which is why you put detergent in this compartment as well as the main wash compartment when using pre-wash.

If you select a pre-wash cycle but do not put detergent in the pre-wash compartment, your laundry will just go through the main wash cycle – which will likely mean they don’t get as clean as you wanted them.

This compartment is usually slightly thinner than the main wash compartment, but wider than the fabric softener compartment.

With that being said, some machines don’t come with a pre-wash cycle and so won’t have a pre-wash compartment.

Symbol To Look For

Here’s the pre-wash symbol you need to look for:

Pre Wash Symbol

Please note: This is also sometimes depicted by the number 1.

The Fabric Softener Compartment

Washing Machine Fabric Softener Compartment

The fabric softener compartment is, as the name suggests, where the fabric softener goes.

You do not have to use fabric softeners during every wash cycle, it’s only if you’re wanting your clothes to feel a bit softer. It can also make them smell better if you get a scented fabric softener, and can make your clothes easier to iron too.

However there are 2 main things you need to watch out for when using fabric softeners, and that’s:

  1. It Can Cause Residue Buildup
    Fabric softener can leave a residue on your laundry which can lead to reduced absorbency in items like towels as well as a less breathable feel in your clothes. This residue can also build up inside the washing machine too, causing bacteria and mold.
  2. Some People Are Allergic To It
    Some people may be sensitive to the chemicals and fragrances present in fabric softeners, which could lead to skin irritation or allergic reactions. If you or anyone in your house experiences this, there are natural alternatives that might suit you better. We like distilled white vinegar as an alternative.

When it comes to fabric softener, less is often more. So make sure to read the product’s recommendations, as well as your machines user manual.

Symbol To Look For

Here’s the fabric softener symbol you need to look for:

Fabric Softener Flower Symbol

Please note: This is also sometimes depicted by the number 3 or a star.

Are Fabric Softeners & Fabric Conditioners The Same Thing?

The terms “fabric softener” and “fabric conditioner” are often used interchangeably, so for the most part they are considered the same thing.

However some manufacturers do actually differentiate them in the following way:

  • Fabric Softener
    Liquid used to make fabrics feel softer.
  • Fabric Conditioner
    Liquid used to make fabrics feel softer, smell better and last longer.
Washing Machine Drawer Compartments

Do You Have Any Questions?

We hope this article has helped you, if you have any questions do not hesitate to ask in the comments section below!

SEE ALSO: What Temperature Is Best To Wash Clothes At? (& when to use each)

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is the detergent drawer?

The detergent drawer is usually located on the top left corner of your washing machine. When you open the drawer, you’ll usually see 3 compartments. The compartment you should use for detergent is the main wash compartment, which usually has a “II” or “2” symbol.

Where does fabric conditioner go?

Fabric conditioner should go in the the fabric softener compartment, which is in your washing machine’s drawer (usually located on the top left corner of your appliance). Inside the drawer you will see a thin compartment that has either a flower or star symbol. This is your fabric softener compartment. Please note, some manufacturers also use the number 3 as the symbol for this compartment.

Where do you put detergent in a washing machine?

To put detergent in a washing machine, use the main wash compartment, usually marked with a “II” or “2” symbol in the drawer.

What are the 3 compartments in a washing machine drawer?

The washing machine drawer usually has three compartments:
Main Wash Compartment: Put detergent here for every wash. It’s the big one with “II” or “2” symbol.
Pre-Wash Compartment: Use if you’re doing a pre-wash cycle. Smaller and marked with “I” or “1”.
Fabric Softener Compartment: For fabric softener to make clothes softer. Look for a flower, star, or “3” symbol.
Remember, symbols might vary, so check your manual.

Which drawer for washing powder?

For washing powder, use the main wash compartment with the “II” or “2” symbol in your washing machine’s drawer.

Does fabric conditioner go in drawer 1 or 2?

Fabric conditioner shouldn’t go into drawer 1 or 2, it should instead go into compartment 3 inside your drawer, which is often symbolised by a flower or star, and sometimes by the number 3.

Where is the washing machines powder tray?

The washing machine’s powder tray is usually located on the top left corner of the machine. Look for a drawer with compartments inside – that’s where you put your detergent. The main wash compartment, often marked with a “II” or “2” symbol, is where the detergent goes.

Where do I put stain remover?

Stain remover should be put in the main wash compartment inside your washing machine’s drawer. This is the same spot where you’d normally put your detergent. Just make sure to follow the instructions on your stain remover and machine’s manual for best results.

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