Reviews You Can Rely On

Best Dishwasher Pods of 2021

Credit: Laura Casner
By Ben Applebaum-Bauch ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 17, 2021
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After researching 30+ of the best dishwasher pods of 2021, our kitchen experts purchased the top 10. We ran loads of nasty and greasy dishes — with caked-on messes — to determine which pods offer the best performance. We noted any streaks left on the glass or if food simply did not come off the dishes. We didn't run just one test but many for each product, which confirmed our findings. After evaluating performance and smell, we offer our recommendations to help you find the best pod for dishwashing in your kitchen.


1

Best Overall Dishwasher Pod


Cascade Platinum Plus Actionpacs


Formula: Powder + triple liquid | Packaging: Dissolvable pack
Triple liquid cleaners supplement regular detergent
Safe for septic tanks
Phosphate-free
Expensive
Strong smell
Looks like candy

The Cascade Platinum Plus removes grease on 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 the others, 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 triple-liquid formula included in this pod results in a quality...
The triple-liquid formula included in this pod results in a quality clean for ceramic and glassware.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

2

Best Bang for the Buck


Finish All in One Powerball


Formula: Compressed powder | Packaging: Individually wrapped
Highly effective cleaning
Inexpensive
Safe for septic systems
Individually wrapped

The Finish All in 1 Powerball Dishwashing Tablets 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, 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.

This power ball powder brick is inexpensive and cleans effectively...
This power ball powder brick is inexpensive and cleans effectively (though we aren't fans of the individual wrappers.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

3

A Bargain Dissolvable Powder Packet


Amazon Solimo Detergent Pacs


Inexpensive
Effective
Strong smell

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. Though it is a powder-only formula, it contains both traditional detergent and a rinse aid, which we found leaves dishes without 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.

This straightforward, dissolvable-pack product gets the job done at...
This straightforward, dissolvable-pack product gets the job done at a fraction of the price of brand-name pods.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

4

Best for Fragrance Sensitivities


Ecover Automatic Dishwasher Soap Tablets


Low odor
Biodegradable
Phosphate-free
Individually wrapped

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 being slightly more environmentally conscious is important to you. 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.

These plastic-covered pods have a supposedly eco-friendly formula...
These plastic-covered pods have a supposedly eco-friendly formula, but decidedly not eco-friendly packaging.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

5

Best Non-Toxic Pod


Dapple Baby Fragrance Free Dishwasher Pacs


Hypoallergenic
Non-toxic
Neutral smell
Expensive

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. We found 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.

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.

These powder-only pods have a plant-based formula that can provide...
These powder-only pods have a plant-based formula that can provide peace of mind for those concerned with harsh chemicals.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

6

Best Eco-Friendly Option


Seventh Generation Fragrance Free Dishwasher Detergent


Fragrance-free
Phosphate and chlorine-free
USDA certified bio-based product
Costs slightly above average
Less effective than those with liquid

The Seventh Generation Fragrance-Free Dishwasher Detergent Pack offers 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.

This human and environmentally friendly pack comes at a premium...
This human and environmentally friendly pack comes at a premium price but could be worth it for those with fragrance sensitivities.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

7

Great Cleaning Power


Cascade Complete ActionPacs


Water softener + rinse aid liquid
Leaves spotfree dishes
Strong smell
Looks like candy

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 dual-liquid formula of this product is largely effective, but...
The dual-liquid formula of this product is largely effective, but not quite as powerful as its triple-liquid sibling.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

8

Pleasant Fragrance


Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Automatic Dishwasher Packs


No parabens, chlorine, or phosphates
Septic safe
Smells strong but nice
Expensive
Residue on silverware

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.

With an all-powder formula and dissolvable casing, this super pricey...
With an all-powder formula and dissolvable casing, this super pricey product is simple, but may not be worth the cost.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

9

A Natural Formula


Lemi Shine Dishwashing Detergent Natural Citric Extracts


Dual detergent + liquid power
Phosphate + chlorine-free
Strong smell
Leaves some residue

The Lemi Shine Natural Dishwasher Detergent Pods 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.

These pods have decent cleaning power but leave behind some...
These pods have decent cleaning power but leave behind some noticeable residue.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

10

Nice Clean but Leaves a Residue


Finish Quantum Powerball


Inexpensive
Effective cleaning
Overwhelming smell

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.

These packs leave a little to be desired with their very strong smell.
These packs leave a little to be desired with their very strong smell.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

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 and solicited feedback, and reviewed manufacturer specs, diving deep into the ingredient lists.

Dishes after a run through the machine with one of the contenders
Most pods will fit in the regular detergent cup. If not, most...
Some pods left our silverware with some discoloration and residue.

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.

Cleaning


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.

There are plenty of effective all-powder pods like the one on the...
There are plenty of effective all-powder pods like the one on the left, however, we also found that those with liquid included in the formula tend to reduce residue as well.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

Delivering top cleaning performance is 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 a little more residue behind.

Sometimes residue is visible on glassware, other times, there are...
Sometimes residue is visible on glassware, other times, there are telltale bubbles that form around the perimeter.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

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, 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.

Pods come in two primary types of packaging: dissolvable cases...
Pods come in two primary types of packaging: dissolvable cases (like the one on the left), and individually wrapped (like the one on the right).
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

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.

Smell


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.

"Fragrance Free" generally means that the product does not have any...
"Fragrance Free" generally means that the product does not have any additives that are exclusively meant to give it a certain smell. We found that fragrance free pods do still have an odor, though it typically much less strong than those without the label.
Credit: Ben Applebaum-Bauch

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.

Conclusion


Dishwasher pods are convenient, but cutting through the cluttered market can be time-consuming. There are many 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