Where to put liquid laundry detergent in the washing machine – and the drawbacks of getting it wrong

Laundry experts explain where to put liquid laundry detergent in a washing machine for optimal laundry results

bottles of liquid laundry detergent outside of a washing machine
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Every washing machine is different, making knowing where to put liquid laundry detergent in a washing machine more complicated than it needs to be. 

This is made harder by the fact that every laundry detergent brand is different too. While many of us can get by guessing the basic rules of doing laundry, experts warn that getting the placement of your detergent wrong could be resulting in a subpar wash. 

Here, laundry experts explain where to put liquid laundry detergent in your washing machine, and why it makes a difference. 

Where to put liquid laundry detergent in the washing machine 

Using your washing machine properly is important to help extend the life of your machine, to ensure your clothes are clean, and to help with cleaning the washing machine too. This guide demystifies where to put liquid laundry detergent – ticking off one more laundry lesson standing in the way of optimal results.  

When to put liquid laundry detergent in the drum

Someone pouring liquid laundry detergent into a cap

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The most common place laundry experts put liquid laundry detergents is straight into the drum of the washing machine, with the dirty clothes. 

Although this can vary a little depending on the type of washing machine you have, or sometimes the type of liquid detergent you're using, more often than not liquid detergent works best when applied directly to clothes, says Hugo Guerrero, certified cleaning technician. 

Johanes Godoy, laundry and cleaning expert at Liox Clean agrees: ‘I suggest adding liquid laundry detergent directly to the washing machine drum instead of the detergent drawer. This approach ensures the detergent dissolves properly and spreads evenly throughout the wash.’

'Adding liquid laundry detergent straight to the drum is also a good idea if you are not sure how the drawer works on your machine,’ Hugo adds. ‘Some machines may have a designated compartment for liquid detergent in the drawer, while others may have a dispenser on the top of the agitator that is specifically designed for liquid detergent,’ he says. 

‘It is important to check the manufacturer's instructions to determine the best method for your washing machine – although adding liquid detergent to the drum is always a safe bet.’ 

What’s more, adding it directly into the drum rather than guessing which drawer compartment is best helps save time on laundry too.

Hugo Guerrero
Hugo Guerrero

Hugo Guerrero is a certified house cleaning technician and reinstallation consultant from New York. He has years of experience in working with home owners and businesses to provide cleaning services and advice from general house cleaning to specialized care such as upholstery cleaning and carpet repair. 

When to put liquid laundry detergent in the drawer

Someone pouring liquid laundry detergent into a cap

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Most of us likely put our liquid laundry detergents into the drawer of our machines. However, this may not be the best place to add liquid detergents, experts explain, because rushing water dilutes the detergent before it reaches your dirty laundry. 

On the other hand, the drawer is where you should be putting powdered detergents. This does not mean that you can't put your liquid detergent in the drawer, but it does mean you need to get its placement right. 

‘If you must use the detergent drawer for liquid detergents, I recommend putting the liquid detergent in the main wash section of the drawer,’ says Johanes Godoy, laundry and cleaning expert. ‘Look for a flower or II symbol to find this section. Avoid adding detergent to the pre-wash or fabric softener compartments which often sit beside it.’ 

If you are still unsure, consult the user manual for your make and model. 

How much laundry detergent to use

Someone pouring liquid laundry detergent into a drawer

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Regardless of whether you put liquid laundry detergent in the drawer or directly into the drum, you should use the same amount of detergent. However, one of the most important cleaning tips to heed when doing laundry is to cut back on laundry detergent to save your clothes and your machine from greasy build-up, says cleaning technician Hugo Guerrero. 

Finding the limit on how much detergent to add varies widely depending on your washing machine's capacity, the degree of soiling, and the hardness of your water. 

‘As a general rule of thumb, a medium-sized laundry load requires ¼-⅓ cup of detergent in the drum of your machine,’ he says, ‘but you can experiment using less.’ There are plenty of measures and dispensers available online, such as this dispenser set from Amazon, that can help you to get the same amount for every load.

It is possible to use too little liquid detergent, and it's not possible to wash clothes without detergent if you want a proper clean. Working out exactly how much to use can prevent build-up and save you money on laundry.  


Do you pour liquid laundry detergent on top of clothes?

When adding liquid laundry detergent to the drum of your washing machine, add it in first, followed by the clothes on top. This will help to ensure that it is evenly distributed once you turn the machine on and is not trapped in only one area. You should always check the instructions of your detergent first to ensure they do not specify differently.  

Does powder detergent go in the same place as liquid detergent?

When using the drawer on your washing machine to add detergent, liquid and powdered detergent go in the same main compartment. The difference arises when it comes to adding detergents to the drum. 

Liquid detergent can go into the drum with no problem, but this should be avoided with powder. Adding powder to the drawer ensures it will dissolve before hitting your clothes to prevent powdery marks and white stains. Adding it to the drum may result in an uneven wash and oily residue.

When adding liquid laundry detergent to your washing machine, it is best that it goes into the drum directly rather than into the drawer for an even wash. That being said, so long as you use the right compartment in the washing machine drawer, it is possible to use this function instead if you are at all concerned about the type of detergent you have, or exposing your clothes to undiluted detergent in the drum.  

Chiana Dickson
Content Editor

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for two years, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.