Occasionally fabric softener gets left in the soap drawer even after a full cycle. This causes your clothes to not be washed properly and could further damage your washing machine. Luckily the fix is straightforward and can be done easily at home.
Washing machines not taking fabric softener is often due to a mold buildup or detergent residue in the detergent drawer. Remove the drawer and soak it in vinegar, then scrub it with a brush. Also, scrub the water inlets in the drawer cavity, then run a hot cycle. Prevent the issue by leaving the drawer open when not in use.
It’s quite normal for your washer to have a small amount of fabric softener in the detergent drawer after a wash cycle, but if the machine fails to remove a significant portion of it, there’s probably an issue. I’ll take you through the most effective solutions when your washing machine won’t take a softener.
This article has been expert reviewed by Andy Fluenchek, a professional appliance repairman with 10+ years experience, and owner of Grace Appliance. Watch out for firsthand experience quotes from Andy!
how to fix a washing machine not taking softener: 5 Common Causes
If your washing machine isn’t taking softener correctly, you probably have some stiff clothes already and are thinking of replacing the washer. You may also find that the fabric softener slot is always full of water and that the softener doesn’t always empty.
Using too much detergent is the primary reason for mildew/mold build up in washing machines. The MAX fill line is just that, the absolute maximum amount. It takes far less detergent than most homeowners realize.Andy Fulenchek
I love the smell of fabric conditioner on my clothes and for me, there’s no point in even running a wash without conditioner. That’s why I’ve put so much effort into making this guide as comprehensive as possible!
I’ll go into the most common reasons here and afterward, I’ll explain how to fix your washing machine so that it starts taking softener again. I’d encourage you to read the whole article to stand the best chance of fixing this annoying problem!
1. The most common cause: a buildup of mold in the conditioner drawer
The most common reason for your washer not taking softener is that you’ve got a buildup of fabric softener sludge in the conditioner’s slot. Over time, this leads to a formation of mold which blocks water jets causing blockages in your fabric softener drawer.
Most homeowners use entirely too much detergent which causes blockage issues along with mold growth as you mention. Leaving the door open when not in use helps mitigate odours/mold/staining with front load washers. This helps dry out any excess water left after the cycle completes.Andy Fulenchek
The build-up of mold is particularly prevalent in hard water areas and is caused by your conditioner drawer being an ideal environment for mold formation. The damp environment combined with organic residue and a lack of cleaning makes for the perfect breeding ground for mold and mildew.
When mold clogs the water jets in the fabric softener drawer, it can interfere with the proper functioning of the washing machine. Mold buildup can block water jets and drainage, meaning the flow of water into the fabric softener compartment may decrease or stop entirely.
This can prevent the fabric softener from being properly diluted and drained into the washing machine during the appropriate cycle. Consequently, the fabric softener may not effectively mix with the rinse water or reach the clothing, resulting in inadequate softening of the fabrics.
Note: to avoid mold buildup in the future, you need to dry out your drum and your fabric softener draw after usage. Use a small towel to wipe away water and leave the door open to let it fully air out.
2. Faulty Water Valves
Water dispenser valves in a washing machine control the flow of water into the detergent and fabric softener compartments during the washing cycle. They release the appropriate amount of water to mix with these products and ensure they are distributed effectively in the wash.
A faulty water valve will fail to dispense water at the right time during the cycle. This is how siphoning is initiated at the correct time.
The most obvious sign of this is where water is left in the dispenser after the cycle is complete, and occasionally it’ll leak even when the machine is not in use (or perhaps it doesn’t dispense at all). Also look out for error codes, and visually inspect the water dispenser valves for any damage or clogs.
This can either be the water inlet valve responsible for this function has failed in not opening. Or, in certain circumstances, it can stick open or drip into the tray continually which would overflow the dispenser cup over time.
3. your fabric softener could be too thick
If you’ve checked that your washing machine drawer is all clean and there’s no blockage, the issue could be with the fabric softener itself.
While the issue doesn’t lie with all conditioners, some are notoriously too thick to be taken up at the desired rate by the washing machine. In the end, it won’t be taken up at all or it will just go in at a slow, unhelpful rate.
Occasionally cold days can also cause fabric softener to stay too thick and will prevent it from readily diluting with water and moving.
Try pre-mixing thick fabric softener with some water before putting it in the tray. You may find it flushes through the system more readily.
4. your washing machine isn’t level
If you only recently bought a new washing machine and it’s not taking fabric softener, there’s a possibility it’s not level on the floor. If that’s the case, the fabric softener won’t leave its compartment easily.
Here are some other common signs of an unlevel washing machine:
- Uneven spinning
- Uneven draining
To check and fix the level of your washing machine, ensure it’s empty and use a bubble level on the top. Also, check side to side and readjust the feet so everything is level.
Verify stability by shaking the machine, then tighten the feet to secure them in place.
5. the water pressure could be too low
Once in a while, water may be getting into your washing machine at a lower pressure than it should. Your clothes may still be washed, but the fabric softener won’t easily leave its compartment. So in the end, you’ll be left with a drawer of unused conditioner.
You’ll most likely notice other signs such as slow filling, incomplete rinse cycles, error codes, and extended cycle times too.
If you suspect low water pressure in your washing machine, you may consider checking the water supply, ensuring the water valves are fully open, checking for any blockages or restrictions in the water lines, or contacting a professional plumber if necessary.
6. the wash cycle has randomly stopped
For some uncanny reason, this can happen once in a while – you pop the washer onto your preferred cycle, put in the detergent and fabric conditioner, press the start button, and walk away.
But when you return later, you’ll be surprised that the washing machine had stopped the cycle automatically. In this case, the fabric conditioner and its slot may be working perfectly okay, it’s just that the machine ran into a technical glitch. Your best bet is to restart it, or unplug it and plug it back in before initiating the process again.
Whilst this can often be a random glitch, occasionally your wash cycle randomly stopping can be caused by a faulty component…
For example, washing machines have water level switches that monitor water intake. Slow water entry can trigger a cycle pause as a flood prevention measure. Similarly, if the drain pump malfunctions, the machine’s level switch expects water to decrease during the drain cycle. Detergent residue in the air tube of the water level switch can disrupt accurate readings, leading to problems.
How to Unclog a Fabric Softener Dispenser That Won’t Drain?
The most effective way to fix a fabric softener that won’t drain is by removing all the gunk and mold in the siphon and water jets. And to ensure you don’t run into the problem too often, you should clean every compartment in the drawer.
These are the simple tools and supplies you’ll need for the job:
- Baking soda
- Distilled white vinegar
- Bottlebrush (On Amazon)
- Interdental brushes (On Amazon)
- Microfiber cloth (On Amazon)
- Toothbrush (optional)
Here I’ve outlined the most common way to unclog the fabric softener dispenser. Afterward, I’ve given some brand-specific information (for Bosch, Hotpoint, LG, and Samsung).
- Remove the fabric softener drawer from the washing machine. Normally you need to press the blue button to do this, and then dissemble the drawer for easier cleaning.
- Soak the detergent drawer in a mixture of hot water, baking soda, and distilled white vinegar. (Note: none of these are harsh chemicals). This combination helps to remove mold and residue.
- While the drawer is soaking, clean the roof of the detergent drawer cavity using a microfiber cloth dampened with a mixture of water and vinegar. Wipe off any visible mold or residue. For hard-to-reach areas use the bottlebrush (or interdental brush) to scrub the water inlets and remove any mold or blockages.
- Once the detergent drawer has soaked for a sufficient amount of time, scrub it with a toothbrush or a small brush to remove any remaining mold or residue. Rinse thoroughly.
- Dry the detergent drawer and reassemble it back into the washing machine.
- Check the rubber seals on the door for any blockages or dirt. Clean them with a microfiber cloth or a toothbrush if necessary.
Finally, Set the washing machine to the hottest possible setting without any detergent or clothes. Add a cup of distilled white vinegar to the detergent drawer and start a wash or rinse cycle. The vinegar helps to remove any remaining residue and freshen the machine.
You may also want to check out this really useful video that I found:
Bosch washing machines usually come standard with self-cleaning detergent drawers. They have smooth walls and jet sprays in each corner to automatically flush the chambers and remove lodged residue.
But if you need to remove stubborn gunk from the detergent drawer, you’ll need to do a manual thorough clean. Follow these steps:
- Slide out the detergent drawer and press the middle lock to remove it completely.
- Soak the drawer in a basin of warm water for about 30 minutes then use a small brush to remove the sticky residue.
- Reinsert the drawer in its compartment.
If you run a rinse cycle and the softener dispenser still doesn’t work, use a bottle brush and interdental brushes to clean the jets at the top of the dispenser housing. Wipe them with a wet microfiber cloth and retry the process.
- Slide out the dispenser drawer and rinse it with warm soapy water in your sink to remove larger debris.
- Use a toothbrush or bottlebrush to scrub away tough bits of gunk. You can mix a reasonable amount of baking soda and white vinegar into a paste to help with the mild abrasion.
- Clean the drawer slot using a bottle brush to remove black mold and grime. Give it a gentle rinse with a wet microfiber cloth.
- Rinse the drawer with clean water and dry it with a clean microfiber cloth.
- Reinsert the drawer then run a rinse and spin cycle without adding any detergent or fabric conditioner.
LG recommends you first check if there’s a problem with the water supply. If there’s nothing wrong with that, you should remove the dispenser drawer and clean it.
Follow these steps:
- Press and hold the center of the cover cap and pull out the drawer carefully.
- Remove the fabric softener and check if the siphon hole is clogged.
- Use an old toothbrush and interdental brushes to clean the hole and the water jets on the roof of the dispenser drawer slot.
- Rinse them thoroughly with warm soapy water and wipe with a microfiber cloth to remove all residue.
- Reinsert the dispenser drawer and fill the fabric softener just below the MAX line.
- Select “Rinse” and press the “Start” button. When the cycle completes, check if the fabric softener has been dispensed correctly.
Pro Tip: Softeners with high viscosity may not be dispensed, so be sure to dilute it with water and fill the compartment just below the MAX line.
The auto dispenser function in the latest Samsung washing machines usually turns OFF by default when the washer is first shipped or if it gets no power for over 5 minutes. You must, therefore, turn the settings ON before the machine can dispense fabric conditioner or detergent.
Go to the options menu and turn on “Dose per rinse” to activate the softener compartment and set the desired dosage size.
Tips for Troubleshooting a Samsung Washer that Won’t Take Softener
If you’ve tweaked the settings already but the fabric softener still won’t dispense, check if your washing machine is level. Any incorrect slant negatively impacts how the siphons work.
Another fix would be to take out the detergent drawer and clean it. If you have a front-load washer, remove the drawer by gently pushing it on the ends of each side while simultaneously pulling it. For a top-loading washer, gently pull the drawer up as you tip it up to remove it.
Use a toothbrush to gently scrub off the gunky mess on the drawer and rinse it with warm, soapy water. If the residue is too much, mix a reasonable amount of baking soda and white vinegar into a paste and apply it to the affected areas of the drawer.
Scrub nicely with a bottlebrush and rinse thoroughly with clean water. Wet a microfiber cloth and use it to wipe away the gunk you can see in the slot where the dispenser drawer goes.
Insert interdental brushes in the jets that bring water to the dispenser drawer and clean them in repeated, circular motions.
Once you’ve completed these steps, it’s time to run a rinse and spin cycle without adding detergent or softener. This will flush water through the detergent drawer and siphons, clearing the lodged residue from them.
You’ll see bubbles in the wash even if you didn’t add anything, and it’s okay because it shows the residue is being cleaned out of the system. Run a couple more cycles until you can’t see soapy bubbles.
When to contact a professional
If you’ve successfully unclogged the softener dispenser, it’s important to observe the MAX line and ensure you don’t exceed it while adding detergent or softener for future washes. But if you’ve tried these fixes and none of them work, there may be a defect with your detergent drawer.
Can You Put Fabric Softener Straight Into the Drum?
The short answer is NO. The fabric softener should go into the small compartment with a flower or star symbol, which indicates it’s the conditioner slot. Remember, fabric softener always needs to be diluted, so you can’t put it directly into the drum.
Depending on your washing machine model, you’ll find the conditioner slot either at the center or the right-hand side.
Measure out the fabric softener into a detergent dosing cap or the cap of its own bottle as specified. Generally, you want to go with 1.2 oz (35 ml) of softener per 5 kg of laundry or about 1.8 oz (55 ml) per 6-7 kg of laundry. Follow the label instructions of your conditioner to be sure.
Pop the fabric softener into the conditioner slot at the same time you put in the detergent before the beginning of the wash cycle. The washing machine takes over from this point, releasing the softener during the final rinse cycle.
But if you’re using an older washing machine or one at a laundrette, you may have to add the fabric conditioner manually just before the rinse cycle.