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I'm assuming that the 4-sided blue component dispenses washer detergent.

  1. Ought laundry detergent be poured into that detergent dispenser, or directly onto clothes in the washer?

  2. What are the pros and cons of each method?

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  • you might stain the clothes if you pour directly on to them - depends on the fabric etc – Solar Mike Jul 10 '20 at 12:39
  • Voting to close. Laundry operation is not home improvement as defined by this network. – isherwood Jul 10 '20 at 14:16
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Look closely at the blue plastic, it may have stamped on it it's purpose. It could be a bleach dispenser. That would hold the contents until later in the wash cycle. Not exactly what you want.

You can also look at your detergent label. Many say to pour it in the bottom of the washer BEFORE adding clothes. This dilutes the detergent as the water fills up.

If you really want to avoid concentrated detergent contact, let the machine fill a bit before adding the clothes.

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You almost certainly will stain the clothes if you do that. Concentrated detergent is very caustic, and you shouldn't put it on clothes directly. However, what you can do in place of the dispenser if you don't have a door safety switch, is pour the detergent into the cap and hold it under the water during the fill cycle. By doing this, you dilute the detergent as intended.

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    You can also pour the detergent directly into the tub as the water is filling. Once it's 1/4 full or so, you can start putting the clothes in - the detergent will be more than dilute enough by then. Source: 35 years of doing laundry this way. – FreeMan Jul 10 '20 at 13:33
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Laundry chemicals are concentrated. Putting them directly on clothing will stain the clothing.

In particular, doing this with bleach is catastrophic. Even if the clothing is supposed to be white, the bleach will attack the fibers of the clothing itself, causing it to instantly decay and soon fail.

The only exception is when the laundry chemicals’ instructions specifically say to rub in concentrate into tough grease spots or other stains, as a pretreatment. But I guarantee a bleach container won’t say that!

Speaking of instructions, you should be reading the instructions for your washing machine, and doing what they say. I realize as a consumer, 99% of the time you can use a consumer product effectively without reading a word of the instructions, which themselves are bloated with dreary lawyer-driven disclaimers and things you already know. However if you are willing to suffer/skip this 90% of content, you can use your tools better by reading the 10% that you don’t know.

I just read the 8-pager that came with my popcorn popper and actually learned stuff.

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  • It helps when the manuals are written well. Generally with major appliances that is true. Not as much with the small stuff, especially if made overseas for an overseas company. What I call "Chinglish". I remember one hot water pot where the entire manual was pure Chinglish - grammatical and spelling errors, etc., except for one page that was clearly written by the importer in New York to explain certain Jewish-law related issues, which was in perfect American English. But they didn't bother (since almost nobody reads the manual before buying) to fix the rest of the manual. – manassehkatz-Moving 2 Codidact Jul 10 '20 at 16:00
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    @manassehkatz while that’s true about Chinglish, it’s also true that UL-approval of instructions is a major cause for convoluted or confusing instructions. UL approves instructions too, and this incents manufacturers to re-use past-approved instructions* with incremental changes for the latest feature. After 60 years of this, you get “spaghetti instructions”. And then the Chinese, who ignore UL entirely, just make an interactive app / video. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jul 10 '20 at 16:45

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