Best Dishwasher Pods of 2020
The Cascade Platinum Plus removes grease on dirty dishes. The phosphate-free formula claims to work with both hard and soft water. In our testing, it not only whisked away food particles effectively but left the dishes spot-free with almost no detergent residue. These pods come in a dissolvable pack, so there is no unwrapping involved. The three liquids included in the pod complement the others, contributing a degreaser, water softener, and rinse aid, all in addition to the powder detergent.
The primary drawback is that these brand name pods tend to be significantly more expensive than a generic product. 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 All in 1 Powerball Dishwashing Tablets are a surprisingly effective low-cost pod. The three-stage cleaning powder was some of the best that we tested and left almost no visible residue on glassware. It removed almost all dried-on food particles. And though we aren't fans of the individual wrappers for environmental and convenience reasons, we do appreciate that they keep the smell of the tab in check.
For better or for worse, this is an individually wrapped pod. 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, for a solid clean at a reasonable price, this product is the strongest contender out there.
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. 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. These tabs provided a thorough clean with minimal residue. The biodegradable formula is also a nice plus if being slightly more environmentally conscious is important to you.
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 these tabs.
The Dapple Baby Dishwasher Pacs is a specialty pod that is specifically designed for families with babies. We found that in terms of food debris for 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. 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.
In terms of cleaning capability, we found a 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 Solimo Dishwasher Detergent Pacs is effective and usually inexpensive. Though it is a powder-only formula, it contains both traditional detergent and a rinse aid, that we found does leave dishes without visible streaks. This pod cleans food residue off of dishes without leaving behind the opaque film that some of its competitors do.
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 Seventh Generation Fragrance-Free Dishwasher Detergent Pack offers a USDA approved plant-based formula that cleans food residue off of dishes effectively. 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 detergent formula is effective, and the dual-action gels complement the powder with a water softener and rinse aid. 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.
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. They deliver 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 Natural Dishwasher Detergent Pods are a powder and gel combo that offer a citric-acid based formula. This supposedly natural and human-friendly product combines traditional detergent with a degreaser as well. 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.
As with a few other products in this category, we noted the particularly astringent smell emanating 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. During testing, we also noted that though the cleaning power of these pods is sufficient, they left behind a noticeable residue on glassware. 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, these pods have a strong, noxious smell. If you or anyone in your house is sensitive to fragrances, we would look elsewhere for clean dishes. These pods 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 over three years. In that time, he has done hands-on testing of hundreds of products, including several home goods categories. 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 and solicited feedback, and reviewed manufacturer specs, diving deep into the ingredient lists.
Analysis and Test Results
We rigorously tested each of these pods in a couple of key metrics: cleaning and ease of use. We go into greater detail on each of the metrics and outline a few of the top performers.
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.
Delivering top cleaning performance are the Cascade Platinum Plus and the Finish All-in-1 Powerball tabs. 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 Fragrance-Free pods. They each removed most of the crud from our ceramic dishes but left just a little more residue behind.
Hovering in the perfectly average range are the Dapple Baby Dishwasher Pacs and the Lemi Shine Natural Dishwasher Detergent Pods. 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 are meant to be easy to use; that is one of the main reasons that you would opt for them over a traditional box of powder or gel. We look at packaging, biodegradability, and whether a product claims to be septic safe, trying to tease out the subtle differences between these products.
Our testers showed a slight preference for dissolvable packs. These include the Cascade products Platinum and Complete ActionPacs in addition to the Finish Quantum, Seventh Generation Fragrance-Free, 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 All-in-1 Powerball 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 Natural, Seventh Generation Fragrance-Free, and Finish All-in-1 Powerball 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 DishPacs 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.
Some products are hypoallergenic and pretty mild-smelling. We found the Seventh Generations Fragrance Free 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 chemically. Other pods like the Lemi Shine Natural Dishwasher Detergent Pods and Solimo Dishwasher Pods were rated as strong and not good smelling, while our reviewers 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 a lot of options out there, but we hope this expert review provides you with the information that you need to get your next load of dishes spotless.
— Ben Applebaum-Bauch