Washing Machine Detergent Drawer Full Of Water? 3 Steps To Fix5 min read

A washing machine detergent tray that remains full of water after the cycle can be concerning and inconvenient. Fortunately, there are simple actions homeowners can take to prevent excess water, and the problem isn’t usually serious. 

Washing machine detergent draws commonly remain full of water due to a faulty drawer cup (or fabric conditioner lid). The cup uses a self-draining siphon to remove water but when the cup is dirty or broken, water will remain in your tray even after a wash. Clean the cup or replace it. Other causes relate to excess detergent buildup.

Within this article, I will walk you through the exact steps you should be taking to prevent your washing machine tray from filling with water and remaining full after a cycle. I’ve started with the most common causes and have moved systematically through a step-by-step guide to ensure you can fix your washing machine in the shortest amount of time possible.   

Why is there water in your fabric conditioner drawer? 3 steps to fix

Water can remain in your detergent tray for a few reasons and fortunately, none of these reasons present a serious concern to your washing machine. More often than not, giving your drawer a good cleaning and ensuring you’re using your washing machine correctly will prevent issues. 

I’ve gone through a step-by-step checklist to ensure you can easily fix the issue and I’ve started with a couple of simple things: running an empty cycle and leveling the washer (Samsung recommends this as a starting point too).

Running empty rinse and spin cycles helps flush water through the detergent drawer and siphons, clearing them out. If you spot soap bubbles in the washing machine even though you haven’t put any detergent in, this is likely due to the system clearing out accumulated residue. Keep running the cycles until the soap bubbles no longer appear.

If, like me, you have a Samsung washing machine, then run the ‘self-clean’ option. 

Not only do the cycles keep things clean, but they also improve the washer’s performance and help prevent odors. To avoid residue buildup in the future, stay within the manufacturer’s recommended detergent amount for your load size.

Secondly, if your washing machine isn’t level, it will cause the detergent drawer to slant, which can affect how the siphons work. To prevent this, ensure the washer is level when installing it and check periodically that it hasn’t become misaligned.

The following are a few common causes for water filling up your fabric conditioner drawer:

1. faulty detergent drawer cup (fabric conditioner lid)

The most common cause of your washing machine tray remaining full with water after a cycle has finished is due to a faulty detergent tray cup. They look like this: 

Washing Machine Detergent Cup

Washing machine detergent container assemblies use a particular siphoning system called the ‘Pythagorean cup’ or ‘greedy cup’ to siphon water and detergent into the washing machine. 

(it’s actually quite interesting, if you want to nerd out on the siphoning system check out this awesome video. If not and you just want it fixed, keep reading!) 

Where the detergent cup becomes dirty or worn out, water and detergent won’t siphon out of the cup as it’s supposed to. The design of the self-emptying cup allows for almost all of the water to drain from the cup once the cup reaches a certain level. So whilst it’s normal to find a little bit of water in your detergent drawer after a cycle, it’s defective to find a substantial amount of water. 

Note: For most washing machines, the cup is removable but for others, the siphoning system is built into the drawer, underneath the soap dispenser. If yours is built in, you’ll need to either wash the entire drawer or replace the entire drawer. 

You can test to see if the cup is at fault by removing the cup from the drawer and slowly filling it with water from the sink. Once the cup reaches a certain level, all the water should drain out. If it doesn’t, or if only half drains, you know the cup is at fault. 

You have two options: clean the cup, or simply replace it (they are cheap bits of plastic so many homeowners simply opt for this as cleaning it doesn’t guarantee a fix). 

Remove the drawer from the machine and clean it thoroughly to get rid of all traces of old or hardened detergent or fabric softener. It would be best to do this with hot water and soap. Use a scrubbing brush or sponge to clean off stubborn debris and get into tighter spaces.

If you want to replace the cup entirely, I found these products on Amazon that’d be useful (also check the description on the product before ordering!): 

LG cup (on Amazon)

Samsung cup (on Amazon)

Kenmore cup (on Amazon) 

Bosch cup (on Amazon)

I could only find these brands on Amazon so if your brand isn’t listed I’d recommend checking out partselect.com

2. detergent build-up on the detergent drawer and dispenser housing

Once you’ve checked that the detergent cup is functioning as it should, move your attention toward the tray and housing. 

The spray jets (or nozzles) on the top side of the washing machine detergent tray dispense water into the detergent drawer during certain stages of the cycle. Their purpose is to dissolve and evenly distribute the detergent and laundry additives, resulting in effective cleaning.

Over time, the jets can become clogged with either limescale or congealed detergent resulting in your washing machine failing to dispense detergent and water remaining in your tray at the end of the cycle. 

I try and clear my drawer and housing out every few months. It’s surprising how much detergent can quickly build up if left alone. 

Washing machine detergent drawer

Luckily the fix is simple: I’ll show you how to clean your detergent tray and housing. 

  1. Remove the drawer by releasing the button lock and pulling the drawer fully out. On some machines (mainly soft water machines) the release mechanism may be to the side of the drawer. 
  2. Soak the entire drawer in warm water before rinsing and cleaning with a nylon brush. Don’t use bleach. 
  3. Clean the dispenser housing with soap and a nylon brush. Pay particular attention to the spray jets (on the top of the dispenser). Make sure you clean all fabric conditioner buildup. 
Washing Machine Drawer Housing

Once you’ve ensured the cup is siphoning as it should, and that the tray and housing are clean, try your washing machine again. If it’s still leaving water in your drawer, move on to step 3. 

3. blocked drainage pipe

Once you’ve checked that the detergent cup is functioning as it should, and you’ve given both the drawer and the housing a good clean, move your attention to the tube at the back of the dispenser housing. 

After removing the drawer, you’ll see a small tube at the back of the compartment which is used for draining water and detergent. 

The washing machine drawer is equipped with a tube at the back intended to remove the water from the drawer once all the detergent or fabric softener has been pushed off the sides and into the drum. If that tube isn’t working correctly, it’s likely that the water will be stuck in the drawer and won’t drain out. This could create further problems if left unresolved.

The primary reason for the obstruction is that the detergent or fabric softener has begun to congeal within the pipe, preventing the water from flowing through it.

Sometimes the first advice I gave can clear blockages, which is to run an empty cycle without detergent. Many washers (Samsungs in particular) have a self-clean cycle which is effective.  However, if this hasn’t worked you’ll need to clear the tubes manually. 

Pull the rubber tube out, remove the cap, and let it drain. Also, make sure it’s clear – even the tiniest bit of lint can clog the system. The other thing you can do is blow out the tube with compressed air to get rid of the blockage.