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Best Dishwasher Pods of 2020

By Ben Applebaum-Bauch ⋅ Review Editor
Monday September 21, 2020
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Our team of experts researched dozens of products available in 2020 and purchased the 10 most promising dishwasher pods to test side by side. Our rigorous, hands-on process allowed us to determine which pods clean dishes effectively, which ones are best to have around if you have kids or pets, and which ones are a bargain buy. We consider factors like cleaning power, ease of use, and scent. There are hundreds of options out there, but if you are looking for the convenience that dishwasher pods offer, we have you covered.

1

Best Overall Dishwasher Pod


Cascade Platinum Plus Actionpacs


Editors' Choice Award
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$19.99
at Amazon
See It

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 phosphate-free formula claims to work in with both hard and soft water. These pods come in a dissolvable pack, so there is no unwrapping involved. The three liquids included in the pod are each 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 definitely leave dishes cleaner than average, but whether or not 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 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 and residue-free dishes, this is the pod for you.

The triple-liquid formula included in this pod results in a quality clean for ceramic and glassware.
The triple-liquid formula included in this pod results in a quality clean for ceramic and glassware.

2

Best Bang for the Buck


Finish All in One Powerball


Best Buy Award
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$15
See It

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

The Finish All in 1 Powerball Dishwashing Tablets are a surprisingly effective low-cost pod. It removed almost all dried-on food particles. The three-stage cleaning powder was some of the best that we tested and left almost no visible residue on glassware. 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 they are 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 (though we aren't fans of the individual wrappers.
This power ball powder brick is inexpensive and cleans effectively (though we aren't fans of the individual wrappers.

3

Best Non-Toxic Pod


Dapple Baby Fragrance Free Dishwasher Pacs


Top Pick Award
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$17.98
(10% off)
at Amazon
See It

Hypoallergenic
Non-toxic
Neutral smell
Expensive

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 is 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.

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

4

Excellent for Fragrance Sensitivities


Ecover Automatic Dishwasher Soap Tablets


Top Pick Award
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$8.99
(10% off)
at Amazon
See It

Low odor
Biodegradable
Phosphate-free
Individually wrapped

The Ecover Automatic Dishwashing Tablets is a great 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. 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. 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 additional 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.

These plastic-covered pods have a supposedly eco-friendly formula  but decidedly not eco-friendly packaging.
These plastic-covered pods have a supposedly eco-friendly formula, but decidedly not eco-friendly packaging.

5

Another Good Value Option


Amazon Solimo Detergent Pacs


Best Buy Award
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$11.87
(38% off)
at Amazon
See It

Inexpensive
Effective
Strong smell

The Solimo Dishwasher Detergent Pacs is effective and usually inexpensive. Though it is a powder-only formula, it contains both traditional detergent, as well as a rinse aid that we found, does, in fact, 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.

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

6

Best Eco-Friendly Option


Seventh Generation Fragrance Free Dishwasher Detergent


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$23.98
at Amazon
See It

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 cleans food residue off of dishes effectively. We like that the smell when opening the bag is pretty mild as far as dishwasher detergents go. On the whole, this pod works just as well as other all-powder products.

We found this pod did not work quite as effectively specifically on dried on 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 price but could be worth it for those with fragrance sensitivities.
This human and environmentally friendly pack comes at a premium price but could be worth it for those with fragrance sensitivities.

7

Another Highly Effective Option


Cascade Complete ActionPacs


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$16.97
(11% off)
at Amazon
See It

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. The detergent formula is effective, and the dual-action gels complement the powder with a water softener and rinse aid. 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 are going straight from container to dishwasher, but getting your face too close will 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 not quite as powerful as its triple-liquid sibling.
The dual-liquid formula of this product is largely effective, but not quite as powerful as its triple-liquid sibling.

8

A Good Option for a Pleasant Fragrance


Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Automatic Dishwasher Packs


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$23.97
at Amazon
See It

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

The Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Automatic Dish Pacs are a decent all-powder pod. We found that they have a scent that almost smells good (a rarity in the dishwasher pod world). They also 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.

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

9

Another Good Natural Formula Option


Lemi Shine Dishwashing Detergent Natural Citric Extracts


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$9.48
(32% off)
at Amazon
See It

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

The Lemi Shine Natural Dishwasher Detergent Pods are a powder and gel combo that offer 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. This supposedly natural and human-friendly product combines traditional detergent with a degreaser as well. It is the only 'environmentally friendly' product in this review that also contains 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 fragrance sensitivity. 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.

These pods have decent cleaning power but leave behind some noticeable residue.
These pods have decent cleaning power but leave behind some noticeable residue.

10

Option that Cleans Well


Finish Quantum Powerball


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$21.57
at Amazon
See It

Inexpensive
Effective cleaning
Overwhelming smell

The Finish Quantum Powerball Ultimate Clean & Shine Dish Tabs promise big results. The powder and liquid combination formula comes with a traditional detergent, degreaser and rinse aid. The dissolvable packs are easy to use and deliver a decent clean for dirty dishes. Like its other Finish siblings, these pods are also reasonably priced.

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. We also found that they also leave behind a visible residue on glassware. 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.

Why You Should Trust Us


We research, purchase, and test everything that we review. We buy each model and never accept manufacturer samples. 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. Having spent a fair amount of time in commercial kitchens and dish rooms, he is no stranger to powerful detergents and dish cleaners.

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 manufacturers recommend just tossing it in the bottom of the machine.
Some pods left our silverware with some discoloration and residue.

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.

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, as well as whether or not dishes need to be pre-soaked or rinsed.

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.
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.

Delivering top cleaning performance are the Cascade Platinum Plus and the Finish All-in-1 Powerball tabs. They both came through producing clean dishes with minimal pre-washing. These two pods also left behind almost zero residues, and the multi-part formulae left glassware shiny. 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.

Sometimes residue is visible on glassware  other times  there are telltale bubbles that form around the perimeter.
Sometimes residue is visible on glassware, other times, there are telltale bubbles that form around the perimeter.

Hovering in the perfectly average range are the Lemi Shine Natural Dishwasher Detergent Pods and the Dapple Baby Dishwasher Pacs. 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 or not 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 (like the one on the left)  and individually wrapped (like the one on the right).
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).

Our testers showed a slight preference for dissolvable packs. These include the Cascade products Platinum and Complete ActionPacs in addition to the Mrs. Meyers Clean Day, Finish Quantum, Seventh Generation Fragrance Free, Solimo Dishwasher Pacs, 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 Finish All-in-1 Powerball and Ecover 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.

"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.
"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.

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 a lot of options out there, but we hope this expert review provides you with the information that you need in order to get your next load of dishes spotless.

Ben Applebaum-Bauch