The Best Laundry Pods Easily Get Rid of Gym Stench and Grime, Regardless of Load Size
Tested on wine-stained clothes, bedsheets, and more.
Updated Sep 9, 2022 2:36 PM
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Reading up on Domino’s shopping guides is like having your own personal product concierge. We do the tedious part—deep-dive research, hands-on testing, and tapping experts for advice—so all you have to do is hit “add to cart.” That’s why we call them Simply the Best.
Laundry can be one of the most loathsome household chores. And with good reason: Lugging around a heavy container or searching for your favorite detergent in a field of half-used jugs can be a pain—and that’s before even touching the first pile of dirty clothes.
Laundry pods streamline the task, and AspenClean cleaning expert Alicia Sokolowski agrees. “There’s no guessing how much detergent to use per load; plus they’re lightweight and easy to travel with,” she says. “And unlike liquids that require plastic bottles, laundry pods tend to use less packaging and can be stored in compostable cardboard containers.”
Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Anna Chacon cites the convenience and mess-free packaging of laundry pods as perks, especially for anyone who uses an off-site laundry room. “Consider an all-in-one solution that’s simple to use and does everything in one go, comes with built-in fabric softener (to save on buying separate detergent and softener), has excellent cleaning results, and smells fabulous,” she says.
Ready to switch from liquid or powder detergents or unsure if these less-than-palm-size packets are equipped for your high-efficiency (HE) machine? We tested several on everything from wine-stained and grubby post-workout garments to frequently used robes, towels, and bedsheets. We’ve compiled the best laundry pods to lighten your load(s); read on to see which we deem the most sustainable; has user-friendly packaging; and, most important, cleans things up.
- Best value: Mrs. Meyer’s Laundry Pacs
- Best long-lasting scent: Dropps Stain & Odor Detergent Pods
- Best stain remover: Public Goods Laundry Detergent Pods
- Best subtly scented: Rosey Laundry Detergent Packs
- Best unscented: Blueland Laundry Tablets
Best Value: Mrs. Meyer’s Laundry Pacs
Packaging: Plastic | Sizes: 45-count | Scents: Honeysuckle, basil, lavender, lemon verbena
What we like:
- Made in Canada
- Relatively inexpensive at 34 cents a load
- Scents may be too overpowering for some
Why we chose it: This cost-effective cleaner cuts through the grime—and saves you money in the process.
These laundry pods from cleaning company Mrs. Meyer’s contain stain-fighting enzymes, and they’re biodegradable, too (though it’s unclear whether the plastic packaging is recyclable). Our tester wondered if the densely packed detergent would completely dissolve or clump up. Overall, though, the pods performed well on our test load of sheets and towels, which were stain-free and noticeably softer after a full wash cycle—and, luckily, there was no clumping. The directions recommend using two pods to treat heavily soiled items, but we’d recommend tossing a second pod in to treat stubborn scents as well, since the detergent didn’t quite remove all of the odors from a particularly sweaty gym shirt. Also worth noting is the fact that the pods contain a small amount of synthetic ingredients that are closely monitored (all Mrs. Meyer’s products undergo a rigorous three-month testing period for safety). At less than $1 a load (!), Mrs. Meyer’s is still a detergent worthy of your washer, whether it’s HE or conventional.
Best Long-Lasting Scent: Dropps Stain & Odor Detergent Pods
Packaging: Compostable | Sizes: 64-, 128-, and 192-count | Scents: Clean & crisp, lavender eucalyptus, orange blossom, ocean, unscented
What we like:
- Plant-based ingredients
- Bittering agent makes it safe for people and pets
- Pleasant scent that’s not too strong
- Contains synthetic fragrances
Why we chose it: This excellent cleaner’s fresh, subtle smell lingers long after the wash.
We asked a lot of this pod when we tested it on a favorite robe that had nickel-size tea stains and a musty odor. With liquid or powder detergents, this typically requires a prewash for a thorough cleaning, but a Dropps pod—encased in water-soluble polyvinyl alcohol (PVOH)—handled the task with ease. We were surprised (and relieved) to find the robe was, in fact, clean and held a soft scent long after we removed it from the wash. And a test on bedsheets had the same result: A stain from late-night snacking completely vanished in the wash. We liked the lavender eucalyptus scent we tested, but there’s an unscented choice as well. Additionally, the small bifold compostable packaging minimizes waste and is easy to slide into a narrow space. A 64-count box costs $26 (41 cents a load), but you’ll save money if you sign up for automatic shipping.
Best Stain Remover: Public Goods Laundry Detergent Pods
Packaging: Plastic | Sizes: 24-count | Scents: Unscented
What we like:
- Made in the U.S.
- Ideal for sensitive skin
- Gray water–friendly
- Comes in a plastic pouch
Why we chose it: This all-natural pod packs a powerful, dirt-busting punch.
We tasked this fragrance-free, water-soluble pod with a number of cleaning challenges, but were particularly interested in its ability to tackle the red wine–soaked sleeve of a white cotton T-shirt. After a single hot-water wash cycle with one pod, the fabric regained its original color, no bleaching necessary.
Available in a resealable pouch that holds 24 pods ($9.95 per bag), the Public Goods pods are biodegradable and free of dyes, synthetic fragrances, and artificial brighteners. They’re also compatible with both HE and standard washers and easily clean various materials, so we’d trust them to handle both light and heavy loads. Two quick notes, though: We noticed a slight leakage from the pods, and while the pouch they come in is plastic, the brand aims to use ethically sourced ingredients in all its products and partners with Eden Reforestation Projects to plant a tree for every order placed.
Best Subtly Scented: Rosey Laundry Detergent Packs
Packaging: Plastic | Sizes: 45-count | Scents: Lavender, peppermint, unscented
What we like:
- 39 cents a load
- Loosely packed, so detergent easily dissolves
- Long-lasting scent is still noticeable after full wash and dry cycle
- Pods tend to stick together
Why we chose it: Banish bad odors permanently with this aromatic formula.
For laundry-doers who prefer particularly good-smelling garb, Rosey’s packs work hard to make it happen. Our tester noticed the fresh lavender scent even before opening the recyclable plastic packaging, and the fragrance lasted throughout the wash cycle and after machine drying without ever being overwhelming. Unlike most laundry pods (more on that, below), the mineral- and plant-based formula created some suds and cut through the dirt, tackled a heavy load of towels, cleaned sheets, and even lifted a lasagna stain from a dish towel. These pods are formulated through ethical and cruelty-free supply chains and without the use of harsh chemicals, color additives, and synthetic fragrances; the brand is also Leaping Bunny certified, which means its products are developed without animal testing. And at $17.99 a bag—just 39 cents a load—the pods are a cost-friendly cleaning option, too.
Best Unscented: Blueland Laundry Tablets
Packaging: Compostable pouch, steel can | Sizes: 60-count | Scents: Unscented
What we like:
- 100-day money-back guarantee
- Comes with a good-looking steel storage container
- Tablets aren’t wrapped
- No scented options available
Why we chose it: A fragrance-free, eco-friendly fave that cuts right to the cleaning without any fuss.
The Blueland Laundry Starter Set comes with a compostable pouch filled with 60 tablets—plus a trendy (and dishwasher-friendly) cylindrical storage container to keep them in. The tablets—which are vegan and gluten-, soy-, and nut-free—are solid, chalky, and unwrapped (which eliminates any concerns about leftover soluble packaging clinging to the inside of your machine). We noticed chips on a few of ours, and the tablets didn’t dissolve on immediate contact with the water, but each of the loads finished free of residue or stains. The instructions recommend adding an extra tablet for smellier or heavy-duty loads; our gym clothes and everyday outfits subjected to summer heat definitely needed more than one. The steel can fits on a small pantry or laundry room shelf, and you can order refills (40 tablets for $14 or 120 tablets for $32) whenever you need to replenish. To note: Blueland also makes our favorite dishwasher detergent.
We Also Like
Environmentally conscious consumers will appreciate Nellie’s Laundry Nuggets, which come in a retro tin with a cork-lined lid that fits 60 premeasured pods inside. There was a bit of inconsistency between the pods (or “nuggets”) we tested; some were harder than others and needed to be broken up a bit before use. The pods from this Canadian brand did their best work with smaller loads, but struggled when tackling funkier odors, requiring a couple of full wash cycles before clothing smelled completely fresh. Overall, we’d recommend using these pods on light laundry days where stains and odors are few and far between.
How We Tested These Products
Given the availability of laundry pods on the market, narrowing down the best of the bunch required a lot of testing, washing—and rewashing. We kept cruelty- and chemical-free ingredients at the forefront, focusing on only the most environmentally friendly products. From there, we selected unscented pods and scented formulas that contain minimal or zero synthetic fragrances. We also scoured the offerings for recyclable packaging (all except one that we recommend tick this box) and biodegradable pods, then made sure they were compatible with all types of machines, both high energy (HE) and standard.
Finally, we put each laundry pod to the test against cotton and bamboo sheets, a thick cotton robe, a basketful of sweaty gym clothes, some intentionally wine-stained white cotton T-shirts, sauce-splashed dish towels, and a week’s worth of thick towels that had languished in a bathroom hamper. After observing and sniffing what came out in the wash (soft, fresh garments or stiff and still stinky?), we machine- or line-dried our test loads. All of our items were tested in a GE Electric top-loading washer and a GE Dura Drum electric dryer. Lastly, in addition to hands-on testing, we relied on the expertise of Sokolowski of AspenClean, dermatologist Chacon, and Clean Mama’s Becky Rapinchuk.
Our Shopping Checklist
Don’t let the plethora of laundry pod options overwhelm you: They come in various quantities, formulas, scents, and price points, so there’s something for everyone and every type of load. Read on for expert tips on choosing the best pod for your needs.
Formula and Ingredients
When shopping for laundry pods, Chacon recommends keeping an eye out for cleaning power, sensitivity (skin- or baby-friendly), plant-based scents, and formulas that are septic- and HE machine–safe (as all of our selections are). “Keep in mind that some pods can contain too much detergent for smaller loads and can’t be cut in half,” she says. And as with most products, we recommend choosing one that’s free of harmful chemicals and produced with cruelty-free and ethically sourced ingredients.
And while single-load pods are designed to dissolve in both warm and cold water, Rapinchuk says the process isn’t always straightforward. “It needs to have a perfect scenario to actually fully dissolve,” she says, a sentiment Sokolowski echoes. “Pods seem to work best in higher water temperatures, especially if they contain oxygen bleach, which is activated in hot water,” Sokolowski adds—so keep an eye on the ingredients list.
Finally, a few of our choices are coated in PVOH, but check the label to see what film is used, Sokolowski adds, or search for uncoated pods to avoid plastic residue. Obviously, anything that’s certifiably eco-friendly is the safest, healthiest option for you and the environment.
The pods we tested are available in a wide range of quantities, from Blueland’s 40 tablets to Nellie’s 350-load tin. With the exception of Mrs. Meyer’s, all packages are made from recyclable materials—from steel to compostable paper—minimizing waste and making them much easier to store, too, particularly when space is limited.
Not everyone requires an additional scent for their clothes or linens to feel clean. If this is the case, search for an unscented option (like the one in the Blueland Starter Kit). But if fragrance is what you’re looking for, natural, pleasant ones are not difficult to find, like the many options from Rosey or the essential oil–scented formulas from Mrs. Meyer’s. Don’t forget to double-check the ingredients list to make sure it’s safe for your skin and free of synthetic fragrances, if that’s of concern.
Q: Do laundry pods work as well as liquid and powder detergents?
Our tester—a first-time laundry pod user—had these same reservations, but Rapinchuk says a successful laundry pod experience depends on the brand. She also has a simple work-around for pods that won’t dissolve: “Put them on top of clothing to have the best chance of dissolving fully in the cycle.”
Q: I noticed that the laundry pods don’t create a ton of suds or bubbles. Does this mean they’re not working effectively?
Sokolowski assures us that “clean does not mean more suds.” In fact, increased suds indicates more chemicals in the product, she explains: “Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) surfactants in cleaning products create lather and are used as foaming agents; they’re widely used across the cleaning industry, as most people associate ‘clean’ with bubbles and foam.” Also, she notes, high-efficiency machines require nonfoaming detergents for best results.
Q: These pods are so tiny. Is it ever okay to use more than the recommended amount?
When in doubt, follow the recommended instructions for laundry detergents, particularly to avoid skin irritation, says Sokolowski. “With laundry pods, the product is more concentrated than liquid detergent because it is not mixed with water,” she explains. As most of our picks indicate, you can use one or two pods, depending on the size and soiling of the load. Also, find out whether the water you are using is soft or hard, Sokolowski advises: “Soft water generally requires less detergent.”
The Last Word
Whether you’re a die-hard pod lover looking for a fresh option or a first-timer who’s ready to kick those gallon-size liquid formulas to the curb, be prepared to spend slightly more to get the best laundry pods. But, as Chacon explains, the long-term benefits make up for the difference in cost. “It’s better to buy one of exceptional quality rather than one that’s cheap, because it might have harmful chemicals that can damage your clothes,” she says—or the environment. Keep your eyes peeled for cruelty- and chemical-free formulas that remove tough stains, leave behind fresh scents, and are fully compatible with your wardrobe and your washing machine.
This article has been updated to accurately reflect price per load for Mrs. Meyer’s and Dropps.