Best Laundry Pods of 2020
Tide is arguably the most trusted brand in laundry, and they did not disappoint with the Tide Pods 3 in 1. This product is perfect for every load use due to 90% active ingredient formula, moderate scent, and color protection. The pod was tough on most stains, removing almost 50% of a deep grass and red wine stain. In our severity-based grading scale, the grass stain was rated a 10, and this product reduced it to a 4. After drying, our clothes had a mild fresh and natural aroma. The 3 in 1 design of these pods has a color protector that should help protect the integrity of your clothes.
If you're a laundry bargain shopper, you might be better served by other options. Tide's enzyme and cleaning agent packed formula comes with a high price per load. Fortunately, it's ideal for families, college students, and anyone who often has moderately soiled loads.
Laundry pods are generally a more expensive detergent option. However, the market still contains options for the bargain shopper. The All Mighty Pacs 4 in 1 proved to be competitive in our stain removal tests while maintaining a very approachable per load price. This formula doesn't sacrifice cleaning power to obtain its attractive price, and was one of the best performers when put to the test against set in grass, mud, wine, and oil stains. We also appreciated the built-in odor cleaner for our sweat-soaked shirts after days of playing in the mountains. While not all odor is created equal, we found it effective against body odor.
The lid is easy to get off through a trial and error process even when simulating a smaller hand size by only grabbing the side of the cover. Line up the arrows of the top, and it will pull right off. This style of lid was the fastest to open both with eyes closed and with movement limitations. It's excellent for value-minded, active families that need high performance against stains and body odors.
Every launder's nightmare. Grass stains. The Tide Impossible Stain Pods became a secret weapon in the laundry room for notoriously tough stains, and proved to have the most cleaning power against our deeply stained test strips. The pods have almost twice the amount of detergent when compared to the industry standard, and the added detergent seemed to help its performance against the tough stains we used. The grass stain was the most notable and impressive result of this detergent. The stain was initially rated a ten, which means the fabric was fully covered and had limited opportunity to worsen. After washing, the stain received a grade of 4, which was the best result of any detergent against the grass. The childproofing of the packaging was intuitive for adults but was resistant to a trial and error approach that a child may employ.
This detergent might be overkill for light to medium soiled loads based on the pack's price per load and detergent quantity. If you have a noticeably smelly and dirty load, then this the right call; however, it's one of the most expensive products when quantified in price per load. This is based on the amount and concentration of cleaning agents in the pod. Our freshly laundered clothes had a strong fresh, and detergent-like aroma that may not be for those with a sensitivity to fragrances. If you're looking for peace of mind when approaching tough stains, the Tide Pods Impossible Stains are a great option to keep in your cupboard.
The All Free and Clear Pods are designed for families or individuals looking to avoid any strong scents or potential skin irritations. The formula has a slight yellow tint and lacks the cobalt blue dyes that may irritate some people's skin. All claims it's the number one dermatologist, pediatrician, and allergist recommended brand; this is an internal claim and does not have a third-party seal for more credible verification. These are designed to prevent reactions in most people, but everyone's skin is different, and we recommend doing research based on your skin characteristics. These pods performed well to remove stains and did well when it came to cleaning power.
These containers are easier to get into through trial and error than other options on the market, which could mean the little ones have a higher chance of opening the lid. All in all, this product pack plenty of cleaning power and provides the benefit of being an affordable dye and perfume free option.
Gain is well known for its line of tantalizing scents. The Gain Flings incorporates Febreeze to improve its odor-fighting abilities. These have a strong floral and citrusy scent. Gain claims these pods provide 50% more fragrance due to the aroma booster (versus their regular detergent). Gain also states that your garments will retain their fresh scent for up to six weeks from washed to worn. While we cannot speak to the six-week promise, that is an impressive claim, and shirts we washed a week ago still have remnants of fragrance. In our cleaning power tests, it performed well, especially when used on oil stains.
The 35-count option comes in a childproof ziplock that is easy for adults to get into and may delay a child from gaining access. This packaging method is advantageous to reducing storage impacts. The 41 count (and higher) come in a tub that can be challenging to get into, even for adults. These pods are great for people who love the fragrant detergent and or have odor-ridden laundry.
The Amazon brand Solimo kept up with the name brands in our stain removal tests, maintaining an average level of performance across the eight stains we tested. The price per load of these pods is amongst one of the most affordable in the review.
We love the price and ability of the Solimo, but would love to see this pod offered with some color protector in the future. These pods only contain detergent but lack any color protection or additional benefits. We would expect below-average color maintenance after extended use of this pod. This product is excellent for families or students looking for no-frills, and affordable laundry detergent to get the job done.
Pods have become popular based on their inherent convenience. The Arm and Hammer 4 - 1 use a powder formula that helps reduce the risk of being ingested while maintaining the convenience of packs. The powder inside consists of 99% active ingredients, making for an effective clean. While this product wasn't our strongest performer, it provided adequate cleaning power for most stains. If you take the time to pre-treat difficult stains, this pack should be sufficient for the average family's needs.
The Arm and Hammer packs struggled to remove coffee and mud stains. These stains were both graded a 10 before washing; after washing, they scored an 8. With some pre-treating, these stains would have had better outcomes. The Arm and Hammer 4-1 is a solid choice for value-based shoppers looking for a good clean or avoiding liquid packets.
The Seven Generation Free and Clear Packs fight stains, yet remain gentle on the environment and your skin. This free and clear laundry option has no dyes or fragrances, making it a notable consideration for most people with sensitive skin. This product is Certified by the EPA Safer Choice Program, and is a certified USDA Biobased product, which requires the product to contain at least 94% plant-based ingredients. Third-party verification brings confidence in the sustainability and accountability of Seventh Generation. Its impressive environmental resume doesn't hinder its ability to clean, as it could keep up with most mid-tier detergents. It struggled with oil stains, which hurt its cleaning power score, leaving it with a 6 out of 10.
The Seventh Generation Pods handled our stain strips well. However, it particularly struggled with vegetable oil and unused motor oil stains. If we pre-treated these stains, we would expect a better outcome. We recommend these pods if you're looking to replace your current laundry detergent with an environmentally friendly alternative with capable cleaning power.
The Tru Earth Eco Strips has taken an innovative approach to convenient laundering, doing away with the plastic jug and the pod itself. They are dissolvable sheets shipped inside a recyclable cardboard sleece. The sleeve's footprint is remarkably slim, and the lighter weight and smaller package drastically reduce the carbon footprint associated with transportation based on the efficiency of each trip. Tru Earth claims the packaging reduces emissions by 94% based on fuel, which will lead to a decrease in the 900 million jugs discarded in North America. Most laundry containers are 100% plastic, while the Tru Earth Pods contain zero plastic. The strips are suitable for moderately soiled loads with superficial stains, and they earn an average performance score for cleaning power.
We are excited to see Tru Earth continue to refine and strengthen their plant-based strips. This product's main limitation is its effectiveness against challenging stains such as mud, cocoa, grass, and oil. It eliminated a wine stain and removed most of a mustard stain to the same degree as the top tier detergents. Tru Earth provides an innovative option for people willing to pre-treat stains, and for those seeking to reduce their carbon footprint.
Grab Green 3-1 pods are tough on stains, but the company uses naturally derived enzyme-based cleaning agents and essential oils for a lightly scented final product. The natural components of the pod function as a stain remover, detergent, and color brightener. We found the formula to provide adequate cleaning power for the average load of laundry, earning an above average score for cleaning power.
Our machine has two size options — small and super. We tested on super to support our six pound loads, which used enough water to fully dissolve this product. It's advisable to select one size larger than your load, especially if two pods are placed in the drum. This product is ideal for those looking for a natural option in laundering their moderately soiled loads.
Why You Should Trust Us
Our lead tester Isaac Laredo has read more case studies about laundry products than he cares to admit, thanks to a college professor that had previously worked in product development at Procter and Gamble. He has reviewed over a hundred products, from home to outdoor products, and his background in environmental science has been essential to designing and conducting these tests.We spent many painstaking hours researching the ins and outs of today's most popular laundry pods. We then purchased the top products and put them head to head in cleaning power, laundered garment quality, packaging, and price per load. These tests were designed to provide information about each contender's strengths and weaknesses, and to identify their ideal application.
Analysis and Test Results
We've spent tens of hours comparatively testing these laundry pods. We then purchased each one to put through a gauntlet of side-by-side tests, evaluating a series of metrics.
Cleaning power refers to the ability of a laundry pod to remove stains from your garments. This is a principle function and key distinction of a laundry pod; some can handle the toughest of stains while others leave much to be desired.
To test cleaning power, we were closely guided by the International Association for Soaps AISE laundry detergent testing guidelines when selecting stain types, fabric types, load size, washing temperature, and other procedures. We used a mix of stains on our 100% cotton test strip, including cocoa, vegetable oil, unused motor oil, mud, mustard, grass, and red wine. To evaluate the effectiveness of each pod, we scored each stain on a severity-based grading scale from 0-10. A score of 0 indicated that the stain was completely removed, while a 10 meant the fabric was completely and thoroughly stained. For the stain strips, we made each stain as similar, so all stain woulds start as a 10.
After washing, we put each strip side by side and had a panel of judges blindly score each stain both comparatively and with a photo comparison of before and after to come up with the post-laundering stain score. The scores were then tallied up to create a total cleaning power score for each pod. Lower scores indicate better cleaning power than higher scores. We washed with six pound loads of different materials — all in cold water. We air-dried each strip in consistent lighting; to avoid any heat impact in stain removal, we did not use a dryer.
Due to this pod's size and increased enzyme concentration, our most effective stain remover was the Tide Impossible Stains. It was the most well-rounded stain remover, as it reduced the severity of each stain by at least half. Tide was a strong performer in this metric; the Tide Pods 3 in 1 Pod proved an effective stain remover, doing well in this metric. It struggled with coffee stains but performed well against oil stains.
The All Mighty 4-1 Pacs, All Mighty Pacs Free and Clear, and Gain Flings had impressive performance. The All 4-1 performed well against wine, coffee, and oil stains, while the Gain Flings had well-rounded performance across all stains; most notably, grass.
Our testing showed that environmentally friendly cleaners do not have the same cleaning power as other detergents; this is mostly due to the different enzymes and chemicals found in each. However, the environmentally friendly pods in this review provide enough cleaning power for medium soiled loads. The Seventh Generation Free and Clear Pod offered similar cleaning power to the Arm and Hammer 4-1, both offering similar performance.
A primary concern with pods is ingestion by small children or adults with dementia. According to Reuters, the poison control center received 73,000 reported cases of laundry pod related poisoning between 2012 to 2017. Thus, we felt the need to test the efficacy of the childproofing found on each package. To test packaging, we conducted time trials, one-handed attempts, and had numerous people try to open each package.
The Tide products offered the most secure childproofing system. It has two discrete push tabs on the sides of the lid to push simultaneously and then turn. This system was challenging to open with one hand, indicating that children with small hands should have a hard time opening the lid.
The All and Solimo have a two-stage lid that provides decent childproofing. However, we found these lids to be the easiest to open through trial and error or merely fiddling.
Our favorite packaging and product concept is the Tru Earth Strips. Its strip design provides the convenience of pods without the potential dangers, and there is no plastic involved.
Laundered Garment Quality
Everybody loves to pull clothes out of the dryer and see them looking brighter and whiter than before. This metric focuses on the fabric and the pod. We looked for color changes, smelled the fragrance's strength and notes, and felt each batch of clothing. We made sure to note if each pod dissolved fully in our cold-water wash. Every pod in this review dissolved fully in each of our test washes.
Many laundry pods offer 3 in 1 or 4 in 1 designs that allow them to act as a color booster, detergent, stain remover, odor-lifter, and/or fabric softener. The Arm and Hammer 4 in 1, Grab Green 3 in 1, and Tide 3 in 1 provide these features that enhance the load quality. If you want your clothes to radiate bright colors and be soft to the touch, seek out a laundry pod with that particular function listed under "pod functions".
If you love strong scents, the strong floral and citrusy aroma of the Gain Flings provide the most powerful scent found in this review.
If you prefer zero fragrances in your freshly washed clothes, we recommend the Seventh Generation Free and Clear or All Free and Clear; both will provide you with clean, bright clothes — minus the aroma.
Price Per Load
We evaluated each price per load to highlight how much you are paying. The price per load is determined by dividing the price by the number of pods. Because pricing can be very fluid depending on the time of year and quantity purchased, we will be speaking on a scale of affordable to expensive.
The most affordable options per load are the All 4 in 1, Solimo, All Free and Clear, and Arm and Hammer 4 in 1. The middle tier of price per load includes Gain, Seventh Generation, and Tide 3 in 1. The upper end of the spectrum includes Grab Green, Tru Earth, and Tide Power Pods for Impossible Stains. At the scale we use laundry pods, a small increase in price can add up. However, if you find a pod that you're invested in, price may not be a major hinderance toward spending the extra money.
Laundry pods were invented to bring convenience to our laundering, yet the sheer number of options can be overwhelming. We hope our comprehensive review has helped restore the convenience in your search to find the perfect laundry pod for the needs and budget of your family.
— Isaac Laredo