What are the 3 compartments in a washing machine drawer?

What are the 3 compartments in a washing machine drawer?


I have to admit, for the longest time i was never sure where to put detergent in a washing machine. Each time was a game of Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe and picking a random cycle. My clothes came out clean, so I didn't really care!

Then baby Theo came along. With all the extra clothes washing, let alone washing of reusable nappies and wipes i decided it was finally time to learn how each compartment worked.


Front loading washing machine

Located on the front of the machine will be a drawer which you can pull out. Inside will be 3 separate compartments, each with their own symbol:

  • I - 'Pre wash'
  • II - 'Main wash'
  • Flower symbol - 'Fabric softener'

Pre-wash will be on the right, main wash on the left and fabric softener in the middle.

Washing machine drawer showing all compartments
A common washing machine drawer

I - Pre-wash

Washing machine drawer compartment - I Pre-wash icon

A pre-wash is normally a cycle that is selected in addition to the main wash cycle. Think of it as its own separate starter wash. The washing machine will fill with cold water, add the detergent present in the I - 'Pre wash' compartment, tumble and then drain, ready for the main wash.

It is used when you have particularly stained or soiled clothing and can help get rid of the worst dirt and grime before the main cycle. It's not necessary, but you can add detergent or stain remover to the pre wash compartment for maximum effectiveness.


II - Main wash

Washing machine drawer compartment - II Main wash icon

The compartment that you will use most of the time. There will be a small flap at the back. If you use liquid detergent, this flap needs to be set down so that when you fill the compartment it doesn't immediately leak into the washing drum. If you use powder, you can leave the flap up


Flower symbol - Fabric softener

Washing machine drawer compartment - Flower symbol - fabric conditioner

My mind was blown when i learned this - Fabric softener is actually added right at the end of the main wash cycled, during the rinse stage.

Why? Because the point of fabric softeners is to coat fabric in compounds which reduce static cling and keep garments feeling soft. If it was added during the main washing, most of this coating would be washed away and displaced.


Andy Smith
Andy Smith

Founder of Reco, a marketplace and community dedicated to find shift from a single-use mindset to a multi-use one. #SingleUseSucks


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