How Does a Fabric Softener Dispenser Work on a Washing Machine?

When you rely on fabric softener to reduce static cling and keep clothes feeling smooth, it's important to understand how your washing machine works. Adding fabric softener to the wrong part of the appliance or at the wrong time in the wash cycle can result in clothing and linens that fail to rinse properly or are filled with static. Fortunately, most machines have a dedicated dispenser just for fabric softener. Depending on whether you have a top- or front-loading washer, this part may be located in a different area of the appliance.

Woman looking at fabric conditioner for washing machine laundry at laundrette
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How Does a Fabric Softener Dispenser Work on a Washing Machine?

Fabric Softener Dispenser

On a top-loading washing machine, the fabric softener dispenser may be located in a special dispenser cup at the center of the agitator. This is the tall cylinder that sticks up from the bottom of the washer tub. To use fabric softener in your top-loading machine, fill the dispenser with the amount of product recommended by the manufacturer. Then, add water to the tube until you reach the fill line. Place your clothes or linens and your detergent into the machine, and then select and begin your cycle. The fabric softener will be released at the appropriate time depending on the cycle you've selected.

If you have a front-loading machine, you most likely have a washing machine softener dispenser drawer located somewhere near the top of the appliance. Within this dispenser, there might be compartments for detergent, fabric softener and bleach, which should be labeled. Before beginning your cycle, fill the section marked fabric softener with the amount of product recommended by the manufacturer. Then, add water to the compartment until it reaches the fill line.

Fabric Softener Balls

If you use a fabric softener ball rather than just liquid fabric softener for your laundry, you should follow the manufacturer's instructions. For instance, it's not generally advisable to use this sort of product in a high-efficiency washer.

A fabric softener ball looks like a small cylinder with a rubber stopper. Detergent can be added to the fill line and the entire ball is added to the wash. Put the softener ball on top of your clothing in the washing machine, being certain that it's not covered by clothing. It needs to be atop the pile in order to work properly.

As the wash cycle is underway, the ball will float on top of the water in the machine. When the rinse cycle is reached and your clothing begins to spin out, the softener ball's stopper is designed to move so that the product comes out into the wash and takes effect.

How to Remove Fabric Softener Stains

If your fabric softener has left a stain on your garment, don't put the item in the dryer until you've removed the stain. Doing so can cause the mark to set in the fabric. If you aren't sure what caused the mark on your clothing or linens, note that fabric softener stains will likely appear to be greasy and splotchy.

To remove the stain, first dampen the fabric with water. Then, add some liquid laundry detergent or rub a bar of soap over the stain. Use your fingers to work the soap into the fabric. You may also wish to use a brush to work the detergent in, but don't apply too much pressure while doing so. Rinse the fabric to get the soap out and then blot the item with a towel to remove excess liquid. Let the fabric air dry. If the stain is still visible once the item is dry, repeat the process. You can continue to follow this process until the mark is gone.