Washing Machine Not Taking Fabric Conditioner? (here’s why & what to do)

If your washing machine isn’t using the fabric softener in the dispenser drawer, your clothes are likely to be stiff and rough and you’re probably considering buying a new appliance.

However, there’s often a simple reason why the fabric conditioner isn’t being used and it can usually be solved quite easily. In this article we look at all of the reasons why the fabric conditioner remains in the dispenser after the cycle has ended.

As well as offering solutions to this annoying problem.

Why Is The Fabric Conditioner Left In The Dispenser After The Cycle Has Ended?

There are several reasons why the fabric conditioner is left in the dispenser after the cycle has finished which include;

Reason For fabric Conditioner Left In The DispenserSolution
Conditioner dispenser drawer is cloggedClean the dispenser drawer
Blocked syphon tubeClean the syphon tube
Blocked water jetsClean the water jets
Uneven machineLevel the washing machine
Fabric conditioner too thickDilute fabric conditioner with water or change to a thinner brand
Low water pressureCheck the water pressure, check the inlet hose, inlet tap, inlet valve
Interrupted cycleContact a technician

The Fabric Conditioner Drawer Is Clogged

This is the most common cause of fabric conditioner remaining in the drawer. In many cases, you won’t notice that this is a problem at first because the laundry will still feel soft and smell of fabric conditioner.

The problem is every time you use fabric conditioner in your washer, small drops get left behind in the dispenser drawer. Over time, these small drops build up and turn into a sticky lump that eventually clogs the syphon tube preventing the conditioner from leaving the dispenser.

To solve this problem, all you need to do is clean the dispenser drawer.

Washing Machine Drawer Compartments

How To Clean The Dispenser Drawer

As both front loaders and top loaders have dispenser drawers, let’s quickly run through the best way to clean them both.

Cleaning The Dispenser Drawer On A Front Loader

To clean the dispenser drawer on a front loader washing machine all you need to do is;

  1. Remove The Drawer
    Slide the drawer out of the machine by pressing the release catch (consult your user manual for model specific instructions).
  2. Wash The Dispenser Drawer
    Run the dispenser drawer under hot water and clean away any tough stuck on bits using a toothbrush.
  3. Rinse The Drawer
    Run the drawer under hot water again to ensure all of the debris is gone.
  4. Clean The Dispenser Housing
    Using a toothbrush, clean out the housing where the dispenser drawer sits.
  5. Wipe The Drawer And Housing
    Using a clean cloth, wipe down the drawer and housing before replacing the drawer.
Cleaning The Dispenser Drawer On A Top Loader

To clean the dispenser drawer on a top loader washing machine all you need to do is;

  1. Locate The Dispenser Drawer
    Consult your user manual to find your washer’s dispenser drawer.
  2. Open The Dispenser Drawer
    Slide open the dispenser drawer and pull the wing distributor and rinse cap out.
  3. Clean Under Warm Water
    Wash the wing distributor and rinse cap under warm running water.
  4. Clean Thoroughly
    Using a toothbrush, clear away all of the debris.
  5. Wash The Dispenser Drawer
    Using a toothbrush, clean the dispenser drawer as well.
  6. Dry All Components
    Using a soft cloth, dry all of the pieces before replacing the wing distributor, rinse cap and drawer.

Please Note: The set up on different models varies, consult your user manual for model specific cleaning instructions.

Blocked Syphon Tube

open washing machine door

The fabric conditioner is dispensed via a Pythagorean syphon which can become blocked with fabric softener gunk over time. This will prevent the conditioner from syphoning into the drum at the required time.

To fix this you will need to clean the syphon tube.

How To Clean The Syphon Tube

The syphon tube is situated underneath the conditioner flap. To clean it all you need to do is;

  1. Remove The Dispenser Drawer
    Slide the drawer out of the machine by pressing the release catch (consult your user manual for model specific instructions).
  2. Clean The Syphon Tube
    Locate the syphon tube and rub it with warm water.
  3. Clean The Dispenser Drawer
    Clean the rest of the drawer.
  4. Fill The Detergent Drawer With Water
    Fill the whole of the detergent drawer with warm water and start a warm wash cycle.
  5. Check The Tube
    Allow the cycle to finish, this should draw all of the remaining fabric conditioner from the syphon tube. Check the tube and repeat if necessary.

Please note: This should be done on a regular basis, especially if you use a thick fabric conditioner.

Blocked Water Jets

Above the dispenser drawer, water jets are positioned to flush detergent and conditioner from the drawer. Over time, these jets can become clogged with limescale or mould. To clean these jets all you need to do is;

  1. Locate The Water Jets
    After removing the dispenser drawer, look at the inside top of the compartment. You should see a few rows of holes, these are the water jets.
  2. Wipe The Jets
    Using a solution of white vinegar and water in a 50/50 mix, spray the jets and allow the solution to penetrate.
  3. Manually Unclog The Jets
    After allowing the solution to soak into the jets, it should be easy to gently prise any blockages out using a needle or toothpick. Take care to prise the clog out and not force it further into the jets.
  4. Test The Jets
    Run a wash cycle and open the dispenser drawer to check that the jets are flowing freely.

Unlevel Washing Machine

If you have recently purchased a new washing machine or have moved home recently, the reason the fabric conditioner isn’t being used could be as simple as the machine isn’t level. 

If the appliance isn’t completely level, it could prevent the fabric conditioner from draining out properly. This would leave a remnant in the drawer at the end of the cycle.

The way to solve this is really simple and won’t cost you a penny. All you need to do is place a spirit level on top of the washer and adjust the feet accordingly.

Your washer should of course be on a solid hard floor and if not we recommend placing a thick piece of plywood under the machine to level the ground.

Check the machine is stable by trying to wobble it and adjust the feet accordingly. Then run another wash and check the fabric conditioner compartment when the cycle has finished.

You’re Using A Fabric Conditioner That’s Too Thick

person using fabric softener on laundry

If there are no blockages in the dispenser drawer or jets and the washer is level, there’s a possibility that the fabric conditioner you are using is too thick.

This is another easy one to fix, all you need to do is change to a thinner fabric conditioner. Or water down the one you’re already using. Simply pour half as much conditioner as is required into the dispenser and fill with water.

Taking care to not fill above the fill line. The thinner the conditioner is the easier it will travel through the syphon tube.

Low Water Pressure

Insufficient water pressure could be preventing the fabric conditioner from leaving the dispenser. There might be enough water pressure to wash and rinse the clothes, but not enough to dispense all of the fabric conditioner.

The first thing to check is that your home is receiving water at the correct pressure. You can do this by filling a 1 gallon (4.5 litre) bucket with cold water from the kitchen tap. 

If it takes 30 seconds or less to fill, your water pressure is adequate. If not, you need to contact your local water authority.

If the water pressure into your home is OK the problem must lie somewhere within your washing machine. Check the inlet hose for twists or kinks and straighten if necessary. If this isn’t the problem, ensure the water inlet tap is fully open and then check the screen on the water inlet hose for any grit etc blocking the water from flowing freely.

If all of these are fine, it could be the water inlet valve is faulty and will need to be replaced. We recommend contacting your manufacturer or a technician to do this for you.

Run A Service Wash

Before you contact a professional, try giving the machine a hot (90°C) service wash using 1 to 2 cups of white vinegar placed in the drum. This could be enough to remove any clogs or blockages and ensure your washer is running at optimum performance again.

Wash Cycle has Been Interrupted Or Stopped

This problem is more common than you might think, you set the machine up, press start and the machine starts to fill with water. You then walk away and do something else and assume that the washer is doing its thing.

When you return, you remove the laundry and assuming that the clothes have been washed, notice the fabric conditioner still in the dispenser drawer and think that the problem is with the conditioner.

The reason could be that the machine had a glitch which prevented it from completing the full wash cycle. If you can’t find any reasonable reason why the machine would stop mid-cycle and there’s no error code displayed, you’ll need to contact the manufacturer.

If the appliance is still on warranty they will be able to advise you on your next course of action. If not they might still have a recommended technician to come and solve this problem for you.

Is There An Alternative To Fabric Conditioner?

white vinegar going into washing machine

If you are now unsure about using a fabric conditioner because it could clog up your dispenser drawer, you’ll be pleased to know there is a natural alternative. You can add ½ to 1 cup (120ml to 240ml) of white vinegar to the fabric conditioner compartment to naturally soften your fabrics.

The exact amount depends on the amount of laundry you’re washing and the drum capacity of your machine.

SEE ALSO: How to use white vinegar in the washing machine

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does my washing machine not dispense fabric conditioner?

If your washing machine fails to dispense fabric conditioner, the most likely cause is that the dispenser draw may be blocked. If not it could be a blocked syphon tube, insufficient water pressure, the fabric conditioner is too thick or the machine has stopped mid-cycle.

Why is my fabric softener drawer full of water?

If your fabric softener drawer is full of water it could be because the washer isn’t level. Use a spirit level to establish the correct level for your appliance.

Can I put fabric softener in the drum?

You should never put fabric softener in the drum because it is too concentrated and could damage or stain some fabrics. It should always be put in the dispenser drawer where it is diluted with water at the correct time in the cycle.

Does fabric softener clog washing machines?

If you use too much fabric softener it can build up and clog the hoses and pipes of a washing machine.

What can I use instead of softener?

Instead of using fabric softener in the washing machine, you could use 1 cup of white vinegar to the wash cycle.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *