How To Clean A Fabric Softener Dispenser

Doing laundry is a regular chore for most households. While washing machines do most of the hard work, it’s still important to maintain different parts of the appliance, including the fabric softener dispenser.

If soap scum, residue, and buildup aren’t cleaned out regularly, your laundry may not get fully softened and you could end up with stained clothes.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Mix equal parts vinegar and hot water and pour the solution into the fabric softener dispenser. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes, then scrub with an old toothbrush. Finally, run a rinse cycle without any clothes.

Why it’s Important to Clean the Dispenser

Keeping your fabric softener dispenser clean is an essential part of maintaining a clean and efficient washing machine. Neglecting to clean the dispenser can lead to a buildup of residue and impurities, which can affect the performance of your fabric softener and the cleanliness of your clothes.

Let’s explore the reasons why it’s important to regularly clean your fabric softener dispenser.

Removes Buildup and Residue

Over time, fabric softener can leave behind a sticky residue that accumulates in the dispenser. This residue can clog the dispenser and impair its functionality. Regular cleaning ensures that any buildup is removed, allowing the fabric softener to flow freely and evenly distribute during the wash cycle.

By removing the residue, you’ll prevent any potential issues and ensure that your clothes come out soft and fresh every time.

Improves Softening

A clean fabric softener dispenser is crucial for achieving optimum softness. When the dispenser is clogged or dirty, the fabric softener may not mix properly with the water, resulting in uneven distribution and reduced softening effects.

By cleaning the dispenser regularly, you’ll ensure that the fabric softener is dispensed as intended, leaving your clothes feeling great and smelling fresh.

Prevents Mold and Mildew

A neglected fabric softener dispenser can become a breeding ground for mold and mildew. The combination of moisture and leftover residue creates an ideal environment for these fungi to thrive. Cleaning the dispenser regularly helps prevent the growth of mold and mildew, which can cause unpleasant odors and potentially contaminate your clothes.

It’s essential to keep your dispenser clean and dry to maintain a hygienic laundry routine.

Extends Life of Washing Machine

Regular maintenance, including cleaning the fabric softener dispenser, can help extend the lifespan of your washing machine. The residue that accumulates in the dispenser can also find its way into other parts of the machine, potentially causing blockages or damage.

By keeping the dispenser clean, you reduce the risk of clogs and ensure that your washing machine continues to function optimally for years to come.

Remember, a clean fabric softener dispenser not only improves the performance of your washing machine but also enhances the softness and freshness of your laundry. Make it a habit to clean your dispenser regularly to enjoy great-smelling, soft clothes every time you do laundry.

Supplies You’ll Need

Before you start cleaning your fabric softener dispenser, it’s important to gather all the necessary supplies. Here’s a list of items you’ll need:

1. Warm Water

Warm water is essential for effectively cleaning a fabric softener dispenser. It helps to loosen the residue and grime that may have built up over time.

2. Dish Soap

Dish soap is a gentle yet effective cleaner that can help remove any sticky or greasy buildup in the dispenser.

3. Soft Brush or Toothbrush

A soft brush or toothbrush will allow you to scrub the hard-to-reach areas of the dispenser, ensuring a thorough clean.

4. Vinegar

Vinegar is a natural cleaning agent that can help remove any stubborn stains or odors from your fabric softener dispenser.

5. Cotton Swabs

Cotton swabs are perfect for reaching into the dispenser’s nooks and crannies, ensuring a deep and thorough clean.

6. Microfiber Cloth

A microfiber cloth is ideal for wiping down the dispenser and leaving it streak-free and shiny.

7. Bucket or Sink

You’ll need a bucket or sink to mix your cleaning solution and soak the dispenser parts.

8. Optional: Bleach

If your fabric softener dispenser has stubborn stains or mold, you may want to consider using bleach. However, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and take necessary precautions when handling bleach.

Once you have gathered all these supplies, you’ll be ready to start cleaning your fabric softener dispenser and ensuring it functions optimally.

How to Clean the Fabric Softener Dispenser

Fabric softener dispensers are notorious for collecting residue and becoming clogged over time. Regular cleaning of the fabric softener dispenser is essential to maintain optimal performance and prevent any issues with your washing machine.

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to clean the fabric softener dispenser effectively:

Step 1: Unplug Washing Machine

Safety first! Before starting the cleaning process, make sure to unplug your washing machine from the power source. This will prevent any accidents or electrical shocks while cleaning the fabric softener dispenser.

Step 2: Remove the Dispenser

Locate the fabric softener dispenser on your washing machine. Most machines have a removable dispenser that can be easily taken out. Gently pull the dispenser drawer until it comes off completely.

Step 3: Mix Cleaning Solution

Prepare a cleaning solution using warm water and a mild detergent. You can also use a mixture of equal parts water and vinegar for a natural alternative. Mix the solution well to ensure it is properly diluted.

Step 4: Soak the Dispenser

Submerge the fabric softener dispenser in the cleaning solution. Make sure that all parts of the dispenser are fully immersed. Allow it to soak for about 15-20 minutes to loosen any built-up residue.

Step 5: Scrub with Toothbrush

After soaking, take a toothbrush or a small cleaning brush and gently scrub the fabric softener dispenser. Pay extra attention to any stubborn stains or residue. The bristles of the toothbrush will help to dislodge and remove any remaining buildup.

Step 6: Rinse Thoroughly

Once you have finished scrubbing, rinse the fabric softener dispenser under warm water. Make sure to remove all traces of the cleaning solution and any loosened residue. This will prevent any residue from clogging the dispenser in the future.

Step 7: Reinstall Dispenser

After rinsing, dry the fabric softener dispenser with a clean towel. Once it is completely dry, reinsert the dispenser back into its original position in the washing machine. Ensure that it fits securely and is properly aligned.

Step 8: Run Rinse Cycle

Finally, run a rinse cycle on your washing machine without any clothes or detergent. This will help to flush out any remaining residue or cleaning solution from the dispenser and the washing machine itself.

Once the rinse cycle is complete, your fabric softener dispenser should be clean and ready to use!

Tips for Preventing Future Buildup

Use Less Fabric Softener

One effective way to prevent future buildup in your fabric softener dispenser is to simply use less fabric softener. While fabric softener can leave your clothes feeling soft and smelling great, using too much can lead to residue buildup in the dispenser.

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the recommended amount of fabric softener to use per load of laundry. By using the appropriate amount, you can reduce the chances of buildup occurring.

Dilute Fabric Softener

If you find that your fabric softener dispenser is prone to buildup, another solution is to dilute the fabric softener before adding it to the dispenser. This can help to prevent the concentration of the fabric softener from causing excessive buildup.

Simply mix the fabric softener with water in a separate container, following the recommended dilution ratio on the fabric softener bottle. Then, pour the diluted fabric softener into the dispenser. This can be especially helpful if you have a dispenser that is smaller in size or prone to clogging.

Clean Dispenser Regularly

Regular cleaning of your fabric softener dispenser is crucial in preventing future buildup. Over time, residue from the fabric softener can accumulate in the dispenser, leading to clogs and a decrease in its effectiveness.

To clean the dispenser, remove it from the washing machine and rinse it thoroughly with warm water. Use a soft brush or toothbrush to scrub away any stubborn residue. For a deeper clean, you can also soak the dispenser in a mixture of warm water and mild detergent.

Be sure to dry the dispenser completely before reattaching it to the washing machine.

Leave Dispenser Open to Dry

After each use, it’s important to leave the fabric softener dispenser open to dry. Moisture can contribute to the buildup of residue in the dispenser. By allowing it to air dry, you can reduce the chances of mold or mildew growth, as well as prevent the fabric softener from becoming sticky and causing blockages.

Additionally, leaving the dispenser open can help to eliminate any lingering odors. Consider leaving the washing machine door or lid open as well to promote proper ventilation and drying.

By following these tips, you can prevent future buildup in your fabric softener dispenser and ensure that it continues to function effectively. Remember to always read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your specific washing machine and fabric softener to maintain optimal performance.

When to Call a Professional

Cleaning a fabric softener dispenser is a relatively simple task that can be done by most homeowners. However, there are certain situations where it may be necessary to call a professional for assistance. Here are some instances when it is best to leave the job to the experts:

1. Persistent Odor

If you have cleaned your fabric softener dispenser multiple times and still notice a strong, unpleasant odor, it could be an indication of a more serious problem. A professional can identify and address any underlying issues that may be causing the odor.

2. Mold or Mildew Growth

If you discover mold or mildew growth in your fabric softener dispenser, it is important to take immediate action. Mold can be harmful to your health and should be dealt with by a professional who has the necessary tools and expertise to safely remove it.

3. Damage to the Dispenser

If your fabric softener dispenser is damaged or malfunctioning, attempting to clean it yourself may cause further harm. A professional can assess the damage and determine the best course of action, whether it involves repairing or replacing the dispenser.

4. Lack of Time or Resources

Cleaning a fabric softener dispenser can be time-consuming, especially if you are unsure of the proper techniques and products to use. If you are short on time or do not have the necessary cleaning supplies, it may be more convenient to hire a professional who can quickly and efficiently clean the dispenser for you.

Remember, it is always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to your home and your health. If you are unsure about cleaning your fabric softener dispenser or if you encounter any of the aforementioned issues, don’t hesitate to call a professional for assistance.


Keeping your washing machine’s fabric softener dispenser clean is an important part of appliance maintenance. With just some basic household supplies and a little bit of elbow grease, you can easily remove built-up residue and prevent potential issues like staining, mold growth, and premature breakdown of parts.

Get into the habit of cleaning the dispenser once a month or so, and your laundry routine will benefit.

Hopefully this comprehensive guide has provided everything you need to know to thoroughly clean your fabric softener dispenser. With these simple steps, you’ll keep this part of your washer running smoothly for years to come.

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