can you pour detergent on clothes

Can You Pour Detergent Directly on Clothes?

Maybe you can’t open your detergent drawer. Maybe you have a top loading washing machine that doesn’t have a detergent drawer. Maybe your clothing isn’t coming out as clean as you’d hoped and you’re wondering whether pouring detergent directly onto your clothes might help.

Whatever the reason, we’ve all wondered at some point whether we can just pour detergent directly into the washing machine drum.

In this article we find out whether pouring detergent onto clothes can make for an efficient wash and whether it can be damaging to fabric.


Can You Pour Detergent on Clothes in the Washing Machine Drum?

liquid detergent and washing machine drum

It’s best to avoid putting detergent directly onto clothing as it’s highly concentrated and needs to be diluted before coming into contact with fabric.

Pouring detergent directly onto your clothes could cause stains as it may build up and leaves behind a soapy residue that water can’t dilute.

In addition to this, pouring detergent directly onto your clothes makes it difficult for the machine to evenly distribute the detergent.

Finally, the machine can become dirty or even damaged if detergent isn’t able to be rinsed away, instead it builds up inside the machine.

The same applies to both liquid and powder detergents. However, in a pinch, if you need to add detergent directly to the drum, choose liquid over powder, because powder needs to come into contact with warm water to dissolve.

Some liquid and gel laundry detergents are designed to be used with a dosing cap that you put directly in the drum rather than in the drawer.

In this case, the dosing cap will protect your clothes from being oversaturated with laundry detergent, so it’s better than simply pouring the detergent directly onto your clothes.


Should You Put Detergent in the Drawer or Drum?

Front-loading machine

hand pouring liquid detergent in washing machine drawer

For all the reasons mentioned above, you should put your detergent into the dispenser drawer unless the instructions on your laundry detergent say otherwise. It’s there for this reason and it’s best to use the machine for its intended purpose.

The water washes into the dispenser drawer, diluting the detergent and fabric softener. It’s then distributed evenly throughout your machine, ensuring that all of your clothes are coated in detergent.

If you have a detergent pod, check the instructions on the packaging, as manufacturers often recommend placing them directly into the machine and not the dispenser drawer.

Placing a pod directly into your machine is different from pouring liquid detergent directly on your clothes because the pods dissolve in water, diluting the detergent before it comes into contact with clothing.


Top-loading machine

hand pouring detergent powder to washing machine drum

If you have a top-loading machine, you most likely don’t have a dispenser drawer.

If possible, start the cycle before adding your clothes and once the drum has filled with water, add the detergent first to dissolve it.

Alternatively, hold a cap full of detergent under running water so that the detergent is diluted and evenly distributed.

When these two options are not available, and you have to add the detergent to the drum before the cycle starts, be sure to pour the detergent into the drum, rather than directly onto your clothes.


How to Get the Most Effective Wash

laundry sorting basket

If your laundry loads aren’t coming out squeaky clean, try these tips before pouring detergent directly onto clothing:

  • Use the correct amount of detergent. Too little and your clothes won’t get clean, too much and they may become grubby or stained because of product buildup.
  • Use the correct cycle for your load. You may need to adapt the cycle, temperature and spin speed, depending on the materials and how soiled your clothes are.
  • Use a higher temperature with powdered detergent to make sure it dissolves.
  • Use a lower temperature with liquid detergent, as higher temperatures can reduce its effectiveness.
  • Don’t overload your washing machine. Check if you can slide your hand onto the top of the load easily.
  • Separate your loads. Mixing light and dark laundry can cause your whites to become drab. Mixing heavier and lighter clothing may cause lighter fabrics to be damaged by heavier items.