Laundry detergent pods became popular around 2012. Rather than measuring out detergent, you throw a pod in your washer and it does the rest. The "capsule" is made from a type of plastic that is water soluble.

Laundry detergent pods

The same idea was also applied for dishwashers.

Recently, I got a free sample of dishwasher detergent pods, which I found to be convenient, and also more effective in washing my dishes -- with powdered detergent, I often had residue remaining on some dishes.

Before I consider switching permanently, however, I want to understand the environmental implications. Are detergent pods better or worse for the environment?

I'm mostly interested in a comparison of powdered dishwasher detergent to pods, but info on liquid detergents and laundry detergents would also be of interest. Assume I'm already making environmentally conscious choices otherwise, using proper amounts of detergent, cold water for clothes, air drying for dishes, etc.

  • +1 I'm also very interested in this question, especially the relationship between energy used to produce detergent and energy used during the wash process.
    – Nic
    Mar 7, 2020 at 16:18
  • 1
    I think your further Q on dishwashers would be a good one. My options these days seem to be plastic-wrapped tablets (bin the wrapper) or pods (dissolve the wrapper, and they're much more expensive). Powder would probably be better (recyclable plastic bottle, you can use a reduced dose if nothing is very dirty) but neither of my regular supermarkets stocks it any more
    – Chris H
    Mar 9, 2020 at 10:56

1 Answer 1


A study published in 2021, conducted by Arizona State University and Plastic Oceans International, claims that the polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) used in both dishwasher and washing machine pods is not completely biodegrading when it is washed into the drains. They say the PVA passes through wastewater treatment without being treated.

Plastic Oceans link is more readable than the original study.

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