The detergent dispenser in your washer is relatively straightforward. Unlike, for example, the detergent dispenser in your dishwasher, there aren’t really any parts that can malfunction. If your clothes aren’t coming out spring fresh because there is no detergent released, this is actually pretty good news. There is really only one thing that can go wrong, and it is very easy to fix.
If your washer isn’t dispensing detergent or fabric softener, the only real malfunction that can manifest is that detergent has built up inside the dispenser. Over time, residue from detergent or fabric softener can remain in trace amounts in the dispenser. Unfortunately, it tends to thicken over time as well into a very thick gel that only attracts more detergent build-up. Eventually, it will clog the dispenser completely. No detergent will be dispensed and you will be left with a still full dispenser after your load.
The detergent dispenser can be detached by pulling it out and depressing the locking tabs. Once done, you may wish to give it a long soak in hot water, but this may not mean your troubles are over. If the clog happened near, but not in, the dispenser, then it will still prevent the detergent from releasing.
Instead of removing the dispenser, it is better to add white vinegar to the detergent dispenser and then run a long, hot wash. The vinegar will break down the detergent build-up throughout the washer. At the end of the wash, not only will you have a clean detergent dispenser, but you will have a clean washer as well.
To prevent this from happening again, you will want to engage in regular cleaning and make sure you are using proper products. One common example is washers that are set up for liquid detergent only. If you use powdered detergent in it, you will find the dispenser is clogged much more often as it struggles to make due.