How To Add Fabric Softener To Whirlpool Washer Without An Agitator

Ryan Womeldorf
by Ryan Womeldorf
Whirlpool washers are a game changer when it comes to home appliances. Adding fabric softener when the washer won’t agitate, on the other hand, can be annoying. Follow along as we explore how you can easily add fabric softener during the rinse cycle.

It really is incredible to think how far something as simple as laundry has come. Thanks to washing machines, we can now handle a week’s worth of dirty clothes in just a few hours. Moreover, modern washing machines have made it easier than ever to simply start a load and go back to our day.

One of the key components of a washing machine is the agitator. For Whirlpool washing machines, and many others, the agitator – which is in the middle of the barrel – is where you load in the fabric softener. The simplest explanation is to simply add the fabric softener during the rinse cycle so that it does not get washed away.

Normal Application: Using the Agitator

The vast majority of washing machines out there are of the top-loading variety. That means there is a hatch that opens up on the top of the machine, allowing you to put the laundry down into the barrel of the washer.

Most of the time, there will be an agitator – a long cylindrical component – in the middle of the barrel. You can add fabric softener here to ensure that it is deployed at the right time. The process is actually pretty straightforward, too.

Make sure that you measure out the correct amount of fabric softener and then pour it down into the dispenser. The point of loading it here is that the fabric softener gets released later on in the cycle for optimal fabric treatment.

Front-Loading Washers

That said, not every washing machine – even those offered by Whirlpool – is a top-loading washing machine. There are some that have a door on the front of the appliance instead. The process for adding your soap and fabric softener is a little different here.

For front-loading machines, there will be a specific tray for fabric softener. Locate the tray, measure out the necessary fabric softener, and make sure the tray is closed securely. Like the top-loading machines, this tray is designed to release the fabric softener at a specific point in the cycle.

Check out this unique use for fabric softener: Can Vinegar and Fabric Softener Remove Wallpaper?

What To Do if There is no Agitator/Dispenser

Depending on the type of washing machine that you have, there is a chance that there is no agitator/dispenser in the middle. Some Whirlpool models simply do not have them. Or, if you have a used or older washing machine, the model may see the agitator/dispenser removed.

Don’t worry, though, because there are still a few alternatives. For fabric softening during the wash cycle, you will either need to add in the fabric softener manually or use a Downy ball.

Adding During the Rinse Cycle

There is a trick to using fabric softener in a machine that doesn’t have a dispenser. You cannot add the fabric softener at the beginning of the cycle because it can simply wash away. Instead, you will have to add it during the rinse cycle.

Wait until the wash cycle has concluded. Open the top on your washing machine and add in the softener. On most Whirlpool models, opening the lid at any point will pause the cycle. This will give you the ample time that you need to add in the fabric softener.

It is also imperative that you follow directions and add only the recommended measurement of fabric softener. Too much fabric softener can stain your clothes, so be careful. Since it can stain your clothes, avoid dumping the softener right onto the clothing.

Instead, try to pour the fabric softener into pockets of the water from the wash cycle. Doing so allows the fabric softener to spread evenly so that it does not stain your clothing. When done, close the lid and let the cycle move through the rinse phase as it normally would.

Downy Ball

Detergent and fabric softener manufacturer Downy has thought of this issue, too. They created the Downy ball as a way to apply fabric softener without having to add it in manually following the wash cycle.

The Downy ball comes in handy when you have a washing machine that does not come equipped with an agitator/dispenser. Simply pour the measured amount of fabric softener into the top of the downy ball. Then, pull the ring on the top of the ball, pulling the lid shut tightly.

With the ball secure, you can add it into the washing machine tub before starting the wash cycle. The ball is designed to slowly open during the wash cycle so that the fabric softener releases during the rinse cycle as intended.

Alternatives to Fabric Softener

Fabric softeners definitely help to get your clothes feeling softer and smelling cleaner. But when there is no agitator/dispenser, it can be a real hassle to add fabric softener to your wash. So, what if there were alternatives?

Thankfully, there are a variety of ways that you can go as an alternative. Whether you use dryer sheets, a dryer ball, or white vinegar to do the job. These are cheaper than using the Downy ball and also less of a hassle than waiting for the rinse cycle.

Dryer Sheets

Some people like to use both, but if you can’t use fabric softener or don’t want to deal with the hassle, dryer sheets are a perfectly fine alternative. Dryer sheets are mostly meant to get rid of any static that your clothes might pick up during the tumble dry phase.

Dryer sheets have a coating of stearic acid on them. When you put one in the dryer with your clothes, that stearic acid then melts away, coating the clothes as the cycle progresses. It not only works for removing the aforementioned static, but it is quite good at softening your clothes, too.

Dryer sheets are also quite easy to use. Simply place a dryer sheet on top of the laundry after loading in your clothes. Make sure you only use one or two dryer sheets per load, however. Too many can potentially stain your clothing due to all of the stearic acid. That would defeat the purpose of washing your clothes to begin with.

Dryer Balls

Dryer balls are very similar to dryer sheets in that they are primarily meant for removing static from your laundry. They are not quite as effective at softening clothes as fabric softeners but will work to some degree as an alternative.

Dryer balls work by absorbing the heat from the dryer, improving the overall efficiency of the dryer itself. When the balls are heated, they separate the damp clothes that might normally stick together, getting them dryer quicker.

The most effective use is anywhere between 3 and 6 dryer balls. You can just toss them in prior to the cycle, though you should make sure to remove them when done. Depending on the type that you buy, you may be able to re-use them later on.

White Vinegar

There are so many household uses for white vinegar that you really should have it available anyways. In addition to being an excellent cleaning agent, it is also great for softening clothes when you are either out of fabric softener or can’t deploy it for the aforementioned reasons.

You would use white vinegar in much the same way as you would a fabric softener. Simply add it in to your clothing the way that you would a fabric softener. Let the washing machine tub fill with water, then add in the vinegar.

By adding vinegar prior to the rinse cycle, you reduce the risk of bleaching. Furthermore, it reduces the chances that your clothing will come out smelling like vinegar. All while working to soften the fabric as well.

What Clothes Are Not Ideal for Fabric Softeners?

While we know that softening our fabric makes them more comfortable to wear, they cannot be universally applied. There are actually some clothes that do not play well with fabric softeners. The softeners could potentially damage these clothes, wearing them down at an accelerated rate.

There are four types in general that you should be aware of: towels, microfiber cloths, children’s sleepwear, and athletic sportswear.


Towels are naturally made to be quite absorbent. Using a fabric softener when you wash towels actually reduces their ability to take in water. Separate your towels so that you can avoid using fabric softeners on them.

Microfiber Cloths

Using fabric softeners on microfiber clothing actually reduces their ability to trap dust and absorb spills. Given that this is their primary function, fabric softener can strip away their usefulness with each passing wash.

Children’s Sleepwear

What you may not have realized is that most children’s sleepwear is designed to be flame resistant. Fabric softeners, however, reduce the flame resistance in clothing like children’s sleepwear. Like towels and microfiber clothing, keep your kids’ sleepwear separate.

Athletic Sportswear

The main selling point in athletic sportswear is that it is more breathable than other forms of clothing. It is what creates the cooling effect while you sweat. Fabric softeners reduce their efficiency with each wash.

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Ryan Womeldorf
Ryan Womeldorf

Ryan Womeldorf has more than a decade of experience writing. He loves to blog about construction, plumbing, and other home topics. Ryan also loves hockey and a lifelong Buffalo sports fan.

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