Best Detergent Pods

After more thatn 10 hours of research and evaluating 25 of the best detergent pods for getting your clothes clean on the market today, we’ve deteremined which brands and which models will get your clothes sparkly clean. That in mind, we accounted for the scent, water type (hard vs soft water), concentration, colors vs white and of course overall effectiveness.

So with all of the above in mind, our top pick is the Tide Pods 3-in-1, which has proven time and time again the best stain fighter, works in hot or cold water, and protects colors like no other.

Top 7 Best Detergent Pods Compared

 #1  Tide 3-in-1 – Top Pick

WHY WE LIKE IT: These 3-in-1 tide pods contain 10x the cleaning power of a cup of non concentrated liquid detergent, let you avoid the messy, sticky detergent bottle, and do an excellent job of protecting colors.

Pros
  • Stain remover, detergent & color protector
  • Dissolves in hot or cold water
  • Phosphate free
Cons
  • Scented, so may not be first choice for those with sensitivity to fragrance
  • Has to be placed in washer first before clothing in order to ensure dissolving completely

The original “tide pods,” but updated with 3-in-1 cleaning power, these are widely considered the best detergent pods on the market for getting rid of tough stains while preserving colors. The detergent in these tide pods is ultra concentrated and the stain remover and odor removers are also highly potent, meaning you’ll generally only need one of these per load for all but the largest loads.

The spring meadow scent these tide pods come with makes them rated among the best smelling laundry detergent pods, but of course scents aren’t for everyone and some prefer unscented hypoallergenic detergent pods like our #3 pick, the All Free and Clear Mighty Pacs for sensitive skin. The best washing machine needs the right detergent.

 #2  Gain Flings – Honorable Mention

WHY WE LIKE IT: A useful upgrade to the original Gain Flings laundry detergent pods, these contain 50% more cleaning power and benefit from an oxy boost as well as febreeze scent, making them among the best detergent pods for odor removal.

Pros
  • Best for odors
  • Includes oxy stain remover ingredient
  • Original scent
Cons
  • May not be suitable for highly allergic/ those with fragrance sensitivities
  • Lacks the 3-in-1 claim of the Tide Pods, our top pick

These Gain Flings are updated and said to contain 50% more cleaning power than original Gain Flings, while keeping the same highly rated original Gain scent. If you’re looking for a classic laundry detergent smell with no obvious fake floral notes, these Gain detergent pods do a good job and are often ranked as the best smelling detergent pods. They also continually release scent after the wash is done, great for keeping that fresh, clean laundry smell going longer.

While they do have an “oxy boost” that gets rid of stains well, most recommend using one pod for medium loads and two for large loads, compared to the Tide Pods 3-in-1 where it’s usually recommended to only use one. This may make the Tide Pods a better value. You can also check out the best laundry detergent.

 #3  All Free and Clear – Best Unscented

WHY WE LIKE IT: These unscented detergent pods are effectively clean your clothes without any irritating dyes and perfumes and leave no residue, yet are highly effective at removing stains and especially preserving the brightness of fabrics.

Pros
  • Dermatologist recommended
  • Effective concentrated cleaning power
  • Less expensive per load than Tide Pods
Cons
  • Not free of all irritants–contains sodium sulphate which some people have a sensitivity to
  • Less typical “detergent” appearance than tide pods

These All detergent pods are commonly recommended as an unscented detergent alternative to the likes of Tide Pods and Gain Flings. They’re notably less expensive than Tide Pods and do a similar job getting rid of stains and preserving colors and brightness. The pods themselves are less “stylish” than the tri-color swirls you get with Tide Pods (our top pick) but the results in terms of stain removal are comparable.

While All free and clear is unscented and free from dyes and fragrances, enough so to be generally dermatologist recommended, be careful if you have particular sensitivity to sodium sulphate. While rare, this can lead to some irritation from even unscented detergents. You might also want to read about the best front load washing machine.

 #4  Grab Green Natural Detergent Pods – Best Natural

WHY WE LIKE IT: Detergent pods formulated without harsh chemicals and with real essential oils, plus 3-in-1 cleaning, stain remover and brightener, they’re also priced lower than comparable Tide Pods and Gain Flings.

Pros
  • No phosphates, phthalates or chlorine
  • Stain remover and brightener included
  • Works in hot or cold water alike
Cons
  • One pod may not be enough for larger loads
  • The gardenia and vanilla-lavender scent options not for everyone
  • Not fully hypoallergenic

Billed as a more natural and eco friendly alternative to Tide Pods, these highly effective 3-in-1 detergent pods include a detergent, a stain remover and a brightener that leaves clothes looking clean and colors popping. They work in hot or cold water and typically each load only requires one Grab Green detergent pod. They’re formulated without chlorine or phthalates, common irritants. Instead, they use sodium percarbonate; sodium metasilicate, a mineral detergent; sodium dodecylbenzenesulfonate, a more mild and more easily biodegradable surfactant, and alcohol ethoxylate, along with an enzyme-based stain remover that breaks down organic stain residues.

While it’s not labeled hypoallergenic, Grab Green detergent generally includes more biodegradable and eco friendly ingredients than most detergent pods. One pod is generally enough for each load, though some recommend two for the larger loads. Residue from the detergent itself is rarely an issue unless the water level in the wash is too low. Speaking of clean, check out the best all purpose cleaner.

 #5  Tide Pods With Downy – Best with Fabric Softener

WHY WE LIKE IT: These 4-in-1 Tide Pods add the fabric conditioning of Downy while retaining the convenient form factor of the tide pods, plus they’re only marginally more expensive than regular 3-in-1 Tide Pods.

Pros
  • Detergent pods with fabric softener
  • 10X concentrated stain removal power
  • New, better dissolving film for hot and cold water
Cons
  • Floral aroma not for everyone
  • Fewer pods per package than with the Tide 3-in-1
  • Must add extra water for small loads in HE washing machines

With a few caveats, these 4-in-1 Tide Pods with fabric softener are a very convenient form of laundry detergent. They combine Downy fabric softener with the cleaning power of 10X concentrated Tide Pods, plus incorporate the stain remover found in 3-in-1 Tide Pods. The fabric softener is effective and helps prevent shrinking and wrinkling, while the Tide formula is highly rated for preserving bright colors.

These detergent pods are made to dissolve fully in cold water, warm water or hot water, but for high efficiency washers that sense and automatically set a minimal water amount based on the load size, it may be important to manually add extra water for small loads, since the Tide Pods require a certain amount of water in order to dissolve fully. Don’t forget to check out our bathroom essentials.

 #6  Solimo Laundry Detergent Pacs – Best Budget

WHY WE LIKE IT: These Amazon brand detergent pods are a great value, costing much less perload than the Tide Pods, and they are designed to work in high efficiency washers and to dissolve in any temperature water.

Pros
  • 120 count great value
  • Preserves color and brightness
  • Compatible with high efficiency washing machines
Cons
  • May stick together in humid climates
  • No included fabric softener or fancy lingering scents

These value laundry detergent pacs even have some advantages over the leading Tide Pods and Gain Flings detergent pods. They’re simple, with a single compartment instead of the colorful swirls of Tide Pods, which may make them dissolve easier in smaller washing machines. They’re also available in either fresh scent or in a free and clear unscented form, and while scent is subjective, most find their odor removing quality is good to excellent.

Like most laundry detergent pods, they are rated to dissolve in hot or cold water, but do require a certain water level in order to dissolve fully. So for high efficiency washers and larger loads, you may want to manually make sure the water level is set to high. Speaking of washers, our best washer and dryer brands list is very helpful.

 #7  Ariel 3-in-1 Washing Capsules – Best Quality

WHY WE LIKE IT: Rated as the best smelling detergent pods, this UK brand offers a high quality approach to laundry detergent that brightens and lifts stains while ensuring brilliant color preservation.

Pros
  • Superior stain & odor removal
  • Dissolves completely in any temperature water
  • Stable, fabric friendly ingredients
Cons
  • More expensive than Tide Pods
  • Check if you have sensitivity or allergies to citronellol, linalool, phosphates or perfumes

These detergent pods from highly rated UK brand, Ariel, are positioned as a connoisseur’s choice among laundry detergents. Praised for their great smell and superior color brightening and stain removal, they may just be worth the price premium over competitors like Tide Pods (our #1 pick) and Grab Green Naturals. Available with or without perfume and containing optical brighteners, high quality soap and a sophisticated blend of surfactants and enzymes, they do an excellent job removing stains and making clothing smell good.

While they’re more expensive than Tide Pods or Solimo detergent pods, one Ariel capsule is generally good for nearly all common size washing loads, and they dissolve very well in water down to 30 degrees Celsius. You may also be interested in the best ventilation fans for your laundry room and the best vacuum for hardwood floors.

How We Decided

In order to narrow the choices down to the best available laundry detergent pods for all kinds of laundry needs, we first narrowed it down to only those safe for use in high efficiency washers, since a lot of modern washing machines automatically adjust water fill level based on load size, which can cause some detergent pods to fail to dissolve properly and leave a sticky residue.

We also included only detergent pods that were rated to dissolve in hot or cold water with a minimum temperature of no more than 30 degrees Celsius.

Finally we wanted to include a mix of scented and unscented, dye-free hypoallergenic detergent pods, since some users like the scents and others may not, plus you may have allergies or sensitivities to fragrances, dyes and enzymes found in common detergent formulas.

Detergent Pods Buying Guide

Detergent Pod Features to Consider

  1. Scent vs Unscented
    While the scented Ariel capsules are often rated as among the best smelling detergent pods, others prefer an unscented laundry detergent, so this is somewhat a matter of taste. However, it’s especially important to consider an unscented detergent, in liquid, powder or pod form, if you have allergies to common fragrance ingredients or preservatives.
  2. Water Temp Requirement
    Early detergent pods often failed to dissolve completely if the water temp on the washing machine wasn’t set to “hot,” but many current formations such as the Tide 3-in-1 (our top pick) have been updated so that the packets dissolve completely in cold, warm or hot water alike.
  3. Natural or Hypoallergenic Ingredients
    Detergent pods for those with allergies, sensitive skin or fragrance sensitivities should be free of dyes and perfumes, in order to minimize possible allergens. Among hypoallergenic detergent pods like the dermatologist-recommended All Free and Clear (our #3 pick) check the ingredients for less harsh, more natural soaps and surfactants.

Detergent Pods FAQs

How many pods do you use per load?

In general, most detergent pods call for one pod per load, except in the case of very large loads.

How do you ensure that they don’t leave behind a residue?

Most of the best detergent pods are formulated to dissolve in hot or cold water, but the key to getting them to dissolve completely seems to be making sure the water level is adequate.

Are tide pods safe?

Tide Pods and other laundry detergent pods are no less safe than liquid laundry detergent. As with any potentially harmful-if-swallowed household product, you should of course keep them out of the reach of children and pets (detergent pods, especially, must be stored where cats can’t get to them) but in spite of their short lived internet notoriety they pose no special safety risks compared to liquid laundry detergents.

What's the difference between liquid detergent and laundry pods?

Both can clean your clothes effectively, but liquid detergents have the added benefit of doubling as stain removers. Meanwhile, detergent/laundry pods (or packs) offer more convenience since all you'll have to do is drop them in your laundry. Detergent packs like Tide PODS or Arm Hammer 2-in-1 Packs contain measured amounts of soap, while liquid detergents need to be measured manually before pouring.

What's the best laundry detergent for sensitive skin?

For a gentler detergent, opt for non-bio. Non-bio doesn't contain any enzymes making it a better choice for sensitive skin. Or you can look for brands claiming to be Free & Clear. Free Clear usually refers to being free from artificial dyes and fragrance. It some cases, it can also mean being completely free of fabric softeners and optical brighteners. One of the best laundry detergents for sensitive skin is Seventh Generation Free and Clear Unscented. Seventh Generation is 96% plant-based with no synthetic fragrances, dyes, or optical brighteners. Its soft scent comes from natural extracts of bergamot, vanilla, and geranium.

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Ryan Mcbride

Ryan McBride is a writer based in Los Angeles. He has contributed work to magazines and sites including Gayot, Spy, Paper, Ladygunn, 3AM and the Crab Creek Review. He writes consumer reviews, essays, science and tech journalism as well as literary and art criticism.

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