Washing Machine Detergent Drawer Full Of Water? 4 causes6 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 or a dripping water inlet valve.

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. With over a decade of hands-on expertise, professional appliance repairman Andy Fulenchek has meticulously vetted this article to ensure you receive the most accurate and reliable guidance.    

The MAX fill line on the washer is just that… the maximum. The vast majority of homeowners use entirely too much detergent. Excess detergent can cause mildew, clogged lines and other issues.

Andy Fulenchek – Professional Appliance Repairman and owner of Grace Appliance.

Why is there water in your fabric conditioner drawer?

Water can remain in your detergent tray for a few reasons and fortunately, most of these reasons are not serious. Often, 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. 

Affresh makes cleaning tablets which are highly recommended. I believe this is primarily citric acid, which could be bought in bulk for far cheaper.

Andy Fulenchek

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.

4 steps to fixing your detergent 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 use a 1:1 vinegar/water mixture to clean these parts – the acidity is helpful for cutting the detergent.

Andy Fulenchek

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. Use a scrubbing brush with hot water and soap 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 give 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. 

4. a dripping water inlet valve

Some washing machines have a specific valve that will activate the fabric softener valve (also known as the fabric softener valve, detergent valve, or bleach valve). If these valves drip slowly when not in use, you’ll find that water is “left” in the dispenser after the washer has not been in use.

Washing machine water inlet valve
This is what a water inlet valve looks like, and it controls the flow of water into your washing machine.

A telltale sign of this would be that there are bleach spots on clothes after use. This is because the slow drip or stuck valve is dispensing bleach at incorrect times.

In the past I’ve also discovered a pool of water under my washing machine was caused by a leaking water inlet valve, so check underneath your washer too.

Since water inlet valves are cheap, I’d recommend replacing them altogether. I’ve put together a list of the most common makes and inlet valves found on Amazon:

LG/Kenmore replacement water inlet valve (on Amazon)

Whirlpool/Maytag/Frigidaire/Electrolux replacement water inlet valve (on Amazon)

  1. Safety First: Ensure the washing machine is unplugged or disconnected from the power source.
  2. Access the Valve: Use a putty knife to release the clips holding the washer’s top panel in place.
  3. Remove the Old Valve: Once the top panel is lifted, locate the water inlet valve. Disconnect the wire harness and the water supply hoses attached to the valve. Take note of where each hose connects for reassembly.
  4. Install the New Valve: Connect the water supply hoses to the new valve in the same order they were removed. Attach the wire harness to the new valve.
  5. Reassemble the Washer: Lower the top panel back into place, ensuring the clips lock it securely.
  6. Test: Reconnect the washer to the power source and run a test cycle to ensure there are no leaks and the machine fills correctly.

I’d also recommend watching this video, which shows you. how to replace a water inlet valve (your model may vary, but the method is normally similar):

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Hi, I'm Ed, and I run BuildFanatic! I enjoy providing the best possible information on a range of home improvement topics.

Andy Fulenchek
Owner at Grace Appliance | Website | + posts

Andy is a professional appliance repairman and business owner with years of hands-on experience. He co-authors and reviews appliance articles, ensuring accuracy and top-notch information for readers.

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