How Does the Bleach Dispenser in Your Washing Machine Work?

Got a bleach dispenser washing machine? Find out how the bleach dispenser in your machine works as well as how to clean it to avoid unwanted bleach stains.

So you’ve poured the bleach in the dispenser – then what happens? Most bleach dispensers automatically add the bleach to the wash water at a preset time in the cycle. When it’s time to add the bleach, the compartment holding the bleach is flushed with water. All the bleach goes into the washer, and no bleach residue is left behind in the dispenser. This ensures that bleach doesn’t carry over to the next load. 

Newer high efficiency washers have bleach dispensers that are actually flushed with water at a specific time during the wash cycle to add the bleach. If you can see the bleach in your dispenser after you have filled it, then you should be able to check at the end of the cycle to see if all the bleach was added. Or, if you can’t see into the compartment, you hopefully can remove the entire dispenser (usually they come out to allow for cleaning) and check to see if any bleach remains that way.  

Older traditional deep fill washers with the bleach dispenser inside the lid sometimes have plastic tubing that simply directs the bleach in between the basket (where you load the washer) and the tub to the bottom. This helps you avoid pouring any bleach directly onto the clothes.

Troubleshooting your bleach dispenser

Sometimes things don’t always work the way they should. Here are some common issues you may encounter with your machine.

In very old standard machines, a problem can occur if you add the bleach to the dispenser after the washer has finished filling with water. The bleach just stays in the dispenser and is never added to the washer during the wash cycle since the tubing was filled with water when the machine filled. The dispenser only drains the bleach when the washer drains at the end of the wash portion of the cycle, but it’s pumped out of the washer at the same time. There is a limited chance of carryover from this type of dispenser to the next load. This is avoided by adding the bleach to the dispenser before starting the washer. You could also add the bleach manually 5 minutes after the washer has begun agitating; just be sure to dilute the bleach in a quart of water first, before pouring it into the washer. 

With newer machines, it can be frustrating when a dispenser malfunctions only some of the time, making it harder to know for sure there’s a problem. Adding bleach without using the bleach dispenser is much more difficult in these washers since they tend to lock you out once the cycle has started. Fortunately, some washers will unlock after a few minutes if you stop the washer mid cycle. If you can access your washer this way, and you determine your dispenser definitely doesn’t work properly, then you can skip using the dispenser for bleach and instead try rinse cycle addition of bleach. 

If your machine has a removable bleach dispenser, it’s always a good idea to take it out and rinse it with water to avoid any residue in the next cycle.

Steps to add bleach to the first rinse

  1. Stop washer

    Listen as the washer fills with water for the first rinse, and when it stops filling, stop the washer and wait for the door to unlock.

  2. Add bleach

    Add ⅓ cup bleach to 1 quart of water, and add it to the tub with the wet laundry.

  3. Restart washer

    Close the door or lid and restart the washer.

Alternatively, our dry bleach products are a spill-free solution for a bleach dispenser that no longer works properly or washers with no bleach dispenser. Clorox® Zero Splash™ Bleach Packs™ and Clorox® Concentrated Bleach Powder can be added directly to the drum before you add the laundry and will dissolve fully in the wash. For best results, add the pack 5 minutes after start of wash cycle. 

And if your washer has an “extra rinse” option, be sure to always select it – not just when you are washing a bleach load – because it’s always good to make sure every load of laundry is thoroughly rinsed.