Best Dishwasher Pods of 2021
The Cascade Platinum Plus excels at removing grease from dirty dishes. In our testing, it not only whisked away food particles effectively but left the dishes spot-free with almost no detergent residue. The three liquids included in the pod complement each other, contributing a degreaser, water softener, and rinse aid, all in addition to the powder detergent. The phosphate-free formula claims to work with both hard and soft water. These pods come in a dissolvable pack, so there is no unwrapping involved.
The primary drawback is that these brand-name pods tend to be significantly more expensive than generic products. They leave dishes cleaner than average, but whether the premium is worth the performance is debatable. We also took note of the strength of the fragrance of this pod. For us, it only lingered as long as it took to open the container, remove a pod and insert it into the dishwasher, but if you are sensitive to strong smells, you may want to consider a fragrance-free option. However, if your goal is clean, spot-free, and residue-free dishes, this is the pod for you.
The Finish Powerball Deep Clean is a surprisingly effective low-cost pod. It removed almost all dried-on food particles. And though we aren't fans of the individual wrappers for environmental and convenience reasons, we appreciate that they keep the smell of the tab in check. The three-stage cleaning powder is some of the best that we tested and left almost no visible residue on glassware.
For better or for worse, these pods are individually wrapped. The benefit is that they aren't susceptible to humidity when stored, and you won't ruin the entire container if you pull one out with slightly damp fingers. On the downside, they come with extra packaging that doesn't need to be there. In any case, this is our top choice for a solid clean at a reasonable price.
The Solimo Dishwasher Detergent Pacs is effective and usually inexpensive. This pod cleans food residue off of dishes without leaving behind the opaque film that some of its competitors do. Despite being a powder-only formula, it contains both traditional detergent and a rinse aid, producing clean dishes with no visible streaks.
The worst thing that we can say about these pods is that they just don't clean quite as well as products with liquid. There were a few instances where we found residual dried food bits on plates. We didn't experience this during testing but are aware of several anecdotal reports that the pods sometimes do not dissolve entirely once the detergent cup opens. However, if you are willing to forgo a fancy formula with additional gels, this product will serve you right.
The Ecover Automatic Dishwashing Tablets is an excellent option for those with fragrance sensitivities. They have one of the least aggressive smells of any of the products that we tested. These tabs provided a thorough clean with minimal residue. The biodegradable formula is also a nice plus if you strive towards being an ecologically conscious consumer. They can typically be found for around the average cost of dishwasher pods overall, so if the (relatively) straightforward formula is appealing, they can offer decent value as well.
Though the ingredients could conceivably be eco-friendly, the packaging is not. Each tab is individually wrapped, which ultimately produced a bunch of plastic that doesn't seem entirely necessary, given that these are solid tabs rather than liquid pods. In any case, there is still plenty to like about this product.
The Dapple Baby Dishwasher Pacs is a specialty pod specifically designed to clean baby products. The formula claims not to contain any parabens, phthalates, synthetic dyes, synthetic fragrances, or chlorine. The low-odor tabs are also nice if you are sensitive to fragrances. Even for food debris for our adult dishes, it offered above-average cleaning power, and the dissolvable pod wrapper is a plus as well, so there are no small pieces of plastic to contend with.
One drawback is the moderate amount of film left behind on glassware, which of course, is not what we would have expected or hoped for. In any case, for those who need cleaning power but are concerned with the ingredients found in other top-tier pods, this product is worth the investment.
The Seventh Generation Free & Clear Dishwasher Detergent Pods offer a USDA-approved plant-based formula that effectively cleans food residue off of dishes. On the whole, this pod works just as well as other all-powder products. We like that the smell when opening the bag is pretty mild as far as dishwasher detergents go.
We found this pod did not work quite as effectively, specifically on dried condiments and sauces. It also does not contain any additional rinse aids or degreasers, so heavily soiled dishes will need a rinse before loading them into the dishwasher. However, if using a more environmentally friendly detergent is important to you, then this is a great pod to have around.
The Cascade Complete ActionPacs is a high-quality option for spot-free dishes. The dissolvable pack is easy to use, and we found that it deployed consistently and dissolved completely each time. These pods deliver a high-quality clean, typically at a below-average price per pod. The detergent formula is effective, and the dual-action gels complement the powder with a water softener and rinse aid.
All of this cleaning power comes with the strong smell of chemicals. The odor doesn't linger long if you go straight from the container to the dishwasher, but getting your face too close may make you frown. The odor may be an intentional deterrent because these pods also look like candy, so if you have toddlers in the house, be sure to store them somewhere secure. Nonetheless, if you want a grease-cutting detergent with spotless glassware, this is going to be one of the best options available.
The Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Automatic Dish Pacs is a decent all-powder pod. It delivers satisfactory cleaning on ceramic and glassware. This holds true for a few other products in this category, but these ones claim they are safe for septic systems as well. We found that they have a scent that almost smells good (a rarity in the dishwasher pod world).
The primary drawback to this product is its typical price. It can be one of the most expensive of any in this review. We also observed some residue and spots on silverware, so it is not without its faults. However, if you want a nice-smelling detergent and are willing to pay the price, you can't go wrong here.
The Lemi Shine Dishwashing Detergent is a powder and gel combo that offers a citric-acid-based formula. These pods are effective if you have hard water that would otherwise leave mineral residue on your glasses and buildup in your dishwasher. It is the only environmentally friendly product in this review containing a separate liquid gel. This supposedly natural and human-friendly product combines traditional detergent with a degreaser as well.
During testing, we also noted that though the cleaning power of these pods is sufficient, they left behind a noticeable residue on glassware. As with a few other products in this category, we noted the particularly astringent smell coming from the bag when we cracked it open. It's not a dealbreaker, but it could be an issue for someone with a sensitivity to synthetic fragrance. Though, for a formula with more recognizable ingredients, this is a product that might be what you are looking for.
The Finish Quantum Powerball Ultimate Clean & Shine Dish Tabs promise big results. The dissolvable packs are easy to use and deliver a decent clean for dirty dishes. The powder and liquid combination formula comes with a traditional detergent, degreaser, and rinse aid. Like its other Finish siblings, these pods are also reasonably priced.
We found that these pods leave behind a visible residue on glassware. Though the cleaning power proved to be decent, this product has a strong, noxious smell. If you or anyone in your house is sensitive to fragrances, we'd steer clear of these pods. They are comparatively inexpensive, though, so if you can find them at an additional discount, they could be worth a try.
Why You Should Trust Us
Lead tester Ben Applebaum-Bauch has been reviewing products with GearLab for almost four years. In that time, he has done hands-on testing of hundreds of products, including other cleaning products like mouthwash and toothbrush heads, as well as kitchen items. Having spent a fair amount of time in commercial kitchens and dish rooms, he is no stranger to powerful detergents and dish cleaners.
We research, purchase, and test everything that we review. We buy each model at retail price and never accept manufacturer samples. We ran load after load with these pods using the same type of dishes and grease. Outside of more controlled experiments, we also gave some to friends and family, solicited feedback, and reviewed manufacturer specs, diving deep into the ingredient lists.
Analysis and Test Results
We choose a wide range of pods to test, ranging from power to double liquid to triple liquid to a combination of both. With a range of products, it's important to evaluate each across key metrics. Our tests included looking at the cleaning power, ease of use, and smell.
Dishwasher pods are meant to do exactly one thing: make dirty dishes clean. We consider how effectively each model removes grease and food particles and limits water spots and whether or not dishes need to be pre-soaked or rinsed.
The Cascade Platinum Plus and the Finish Powerball Deep Clean tabs deliver top cleaning performance. These two pods left behind almost zero residues, and the multi-part formulae left glassware shiny. They also both came through producing clean dishes with minimal pre-washing. In the next tier of pods, we have the Solimo Dishwasher Pacs, Cascade Complete ActionPacs, Mrs. Meyers Clean Day, and Seventh Generation Free & Clear pods. They each removed most of the crud from our ceramic dishes but left a little more residue behind.
The Dapple Baby Dishwasher Pacs and the Lemi Shine Dishwashing Detergent are hovering in the perfectly average range. Neither was far behind the rest of the group, but they did appear to occasionally leave behind a heavier white residue that could lead to a frothy first glass of water that made us question what we might actually be drinking.
Ease of Use
These pods, taken as a whole, should be easy to use; this is one of the main reasons you would opt for them over a traditional box of powder or gel. We look at the packaging, biodegradability, and whether a product claims to be septic safe, trying to tease out the subtle differences between these products.
In testing, we discovered a slight preference for dissolvable packs. These include the Cascade products Platinum and Complete ActionPacs in addition to the Finish Quantum, Seventh Generation Free & Clear, Solimo Dishwasher Pacs, Mrs. Meyers Clean Day, Lemi Shine, and Dapple Baby. They are easier to just grab from the container or bag and put into a dishwasher. The caveat is that your hands need to be fairly dry so that the pack doesn't stick to them. In practice, we found that it won't ruin most pods if they become slightly damp in the process of removing them from the larger package; it is more important to keep the inside of the container dry so that the rest of the pods don't get ruined.
We also have two individually wrapped products in the category, including the Ecover and the Finish Powerball Deep Clean tabs. The benefit of these is that you can't ruin the entire package by grabbing one with a wet hand, but we also don't think the significant amount of added waste is worth it. The Cascade Platinum Plus, Lemi Shine, Seventh Generation Free & Clear, and Finish Powerball Deep Clean make a point of noting that they are safe for septic systems, while the Ecover Automatic Dishwashing Tabs and the Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Automatic Dish Pacs are also biodegradable.
Though it accounts for a smaller proportion of our assessment, the type and strength of fragrance can be a deal maker or breaker for some people — especially if you have a sensitive snout.
Some products are hypoallergenic and pretty mild-smelling. We found the Seventh Generation Free & Clear packs, the Dapple Baby Dishwasher Pacs, and the Ecover Automatic Dishwashing Tablets are the most innocuous. Others like the Cascade Platinum Plus and Cascade Complete pods have a robust fragrance, but it is not necessarily bad, just very strong with an impression that we found to be somewhere between clean and chemical-y. Other pods like the Lemi Shine and Solimo Dishwasher Pods were rated as strong and not good smelling, while our testers found the Finish Quantum packs to be incredibly pungent and bad.
Dishwasher pods are convenient, but cutting through the cluttered market can be time-consuming. There are many options, but we hope this expert review provides you with the information you need to get your next load of dishes spotless.
— Ben Applebaum-Bauch