Washing Machine Drawer Compartments

What Are the 3 Compartments in Your Washing Machine Drawer For?

If you’ve just bought a new washing machine you might be wondering what all the compartments in the drawer are for… and more importantly, what slot do you put the detergent in?!

It’s really simple. The compartments are for the following things:

  1. Detergent if you’re doing a ‘pre-wash’ of your clothes
  2. The main wash’s detergent
  3. Fabric softener/conditioner

Read on to learn more about the 3 compartments in your washing machine’s drawer!


The 3 Washing Machine Drawer Compartments

If you open up your washing machine drawer, you’ll usually see 3 compartments inside.

All of these compartments have a different purpose, so it’s important that you know what section is responsible for what.

Before we dive right in, I’d advise you to check your user manual to see how your 3 compartments are labelled because every washing machine is labelled slightly differently.

Washing machine drawer compartments are usually labelled 1, 2, and 3/star/flower symbol in most cases. 

It’s also worth pointing out that the layout of the compartments can change from one washing machine to another. So, don’t assume that compartment 1 will always be in the same place, for example. 

Let’s dive in…

1. The ‘pre-wash’ compartment

So, the pre-wash compartment is where you pop in some detergent when you’re going to do a ‘pre-wash’ cycle. A ‘pre-wash’ cycle is a wash that happens before your clothes go into their ‘main wash’ cycle, and it helps to remove tough dirt from your items.

Pre-wash Compartment

This drawer needs to be filled up when you plan on giving extra dirty clothes a thoroughly good clean.

If you don’t fill this drawer up, but you select a ‘pre-wash’ cycle, your clothes will just go through a typical ‘main wash’ cycle, and they may not come out as clean as you’d like them to.

It’s crucial to note that not all washing machines come with a ‘pre-wash’ cycle feature, so this may not apply to your washing machine. 

This compartment is often labelled ‘1’ or ‘I’.


2. The ‘main wash’ compartment

The main wash compartment is the slot that you will use almost every time you wash your clothes. It’s the section that you put your detergent into when you want to clean your clothes.

Main Wash Compartment

Before you pop in your detergent you should consider what you’re planning on washing, and read the back of the packet to put the correct measure into the slot.

A powder or liquid detergent can go into this compartment. However, if you plan on using a tablet or capsule detergent then you should put that inside the drum of the washing machine.

This compartment is often labeled ‘2’ or ’II’.


3. The ‘fabric softener’ compartment

The smallest compartment in your washing machine drawer will be your fabric softener slot.

Fabric Softener Compartment

Fabric softeners help to soften your clothes as they’re being washed. It’s not essential to use a softener but it will make your clothes feel smooth, and they’ll even smell nice if you pick up a scented fabric softener.

You should not overfill this drawer. And if you’re not sure how much softener to put in, follow the guidance on the bottle, or look to see where the ‘max’ line in the compartment is and don’t go over it.

This compartment is often labeled ‘3’ or has a ‘star’ or ‘flower’ symbol.



A washing machine drawer has 3 compartments, and each of these compartments has its own purpose.

One compartment is where you put detergent in when you want to do a ‘pre-wash’, another compartment is where you put your detergent in when you’re doing a ‘main wash’, and the smallest compartment is where you add in fabric softener.

There are some drawer variations, like the layout and labels of the drawer can be different, but essentially washing machine drawers work in a similar way.



What is an auto-dispenser?

Not all washing machines come with this feature. But if you’re lucky enough to have one, all this means is that the machine auto dispenses detergent and fabric softener into the machine for you based on what cycle you’ve chosen.

What detergent should I use?

You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to detergents – there are so many to choose from! Here’s a quick list to get your started.