How to Troubleshoot and Repair a Washer That Will Not Dispense

If your washing machine’s dispenser is not working properly and not dispensing detergent and softener, it’s usually because of a couple of parts that can be malfunctioning or not working properly. But this could also be a case of a smaller, more isolated issue that can be fixed or resolved with some simple household items and time. The parts list below likely contains the part at fault, categorized for top-load washers and front-load washers! Each part page contains a guide with videos and diagnostic instructions to help you step through the entire repair process and help you determine whether one part is at fault, or another.



One thing to remember is that you can often reset your washer to see if that solves whatever issue you may be having! If you don't know hot to reset your washer, either look for a reset button, or disconnect your washer from its outlet and reconnect it!

Inspect These Common Issues First

Hot Water Shut Off

If your hot water is not turned on and thus going through your machine when you wash your loads, the machine’s overall cycle and cleaning ability can be affected, if it depends on water temperature for normal operation.

Front-Load Washers: Buildup of Mold/Mildew or Detergent Residue

Over time, excess water and moisture can create mold/mildew within the housing for the detergent drawer. Here’s how you can take care of it!

  1. Open your detergent drawer and locate the holding latch near the inner-most part of the tray. Pushing this tab, you can remove the tray itself and then set that aside. Inspect the ceiling of the washer’s drawer housing.
  2. If there is a buildup of mold/mildew, use a combination of pipe cleaners and a toothbrush to gently scrub the water inlet valves located on the upside of the housing.
  3. Now focus your attention on the drawer itself. Check if there is any buildup or residue from fabric softener or detergent. If there is, use hot water and a toothbrush to clean any of the built-up residue.

Top-Load Washers: Detergent/Fabric Softener Residue Buildup

As with front-load washers, excess fabric softener and detergent residue can build up detergent housing, whether within the agitator or within the sous-lid style tray, which can lead to clogs and clothes not getting cleaned.

  1. After opening your washer, locate the agitator per the diagram below.
  2. After removing the top of your agitator where your detergent or softener would normally go, take pipe cleaners or a toothbrush and clean the inside of the housing using hot water.
  3. To get a better clean, you can remove the top-portion of the agitator by either pulling it out or unscrewing it from the bottom portion.

Detergent Drawer Switch

Normally, the dispenser drawer contains a switch, or magnet, that tells the control board when the drawer is closed, so that the washer can safely begin the cycle and dispense the detergent onto your clothes. From time to time, however, the switch or magnet in the drawer can fall out or have something stuck in it, preventing your washer from operating correctly.

To find and replace your dispenser drawer switch, open your washer’s dispenser drawer and look for any sort of magnet or metallic object near the bottom/rear of the drawer.

Common Parts You May Need to Replace

The parts listed below are the most common causes for your washer not dispensing detergent or softener. More resources – such as part descriptions, 3D images, videos, and installation instructions – are available on the individual part pages.

  1. Dispenser Switch
  2. The dispenser switch communicates with the dispenser motor about when to dispense the soap and softener onto your clothes during the cycle.
  3. Dispenser Motor
  4. The dispenser motor works with the dispenser switch to dispense the soaps onto your clothes and, if broken, needs to be tested with a multimeter.
  5. Agitator Dogs
  6. Agitator dogs are used to rotate the agitator and spread detergents within your top-load washer and, if damaged or bad, can cause it to not rotate.
  7. Lid Switch
  8. A lid switch tells the control board that the lid is closed and okay to start, and a malfunctioning switch causes the washer to not start correctly.
  9. Inlet Valves
  10. The inlet valves for your washer put water in your machine at the correct time of the cycle and, if bad or clogged, can cause the detergent not to come out.
  11. Control Board
  12. The control board is used to manage the different components of your washer and, if broken or bad, can cause the washer to not start.

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