Powder, Pod, or Liquid Detergents For Washing Machines: Which Is Best?

Fleet Appliance
January 9, 2023
Washer Repair

Do you sometimes find the selection of washing machine detergents available overwhelming? Consumers have more choices than ever, but it can be difficult to know which is the best option for you. Read on to find out the pros and cons of each product. 

Powder, pod, or liquid detergent: What’s the difference?

All of the three detergent options have the same basic function—they contain a detergent that breaks down the dirt and grime on clothes, dissolving the dirt into the water in your washing machine so that it can be rinsed away. Throughout the day our clothes come into contact with sweat, skin cells, food, dirt, and many other substances, which need to be removed through laundering. While all three of the options do this on a basic level, subtle differences between the three products make each unique. 

Powder laundry detergent

Powder is the most well known laundry detergent and, for a long time, it was the only detergent available for washing machines; however, it’s less popular today. 

Benefits of powder detergent:

  • Powder has the lowest cost per load
  • Powder detergents last the longest
  • They’re the most effective detergent type for hard water areas
  • The packaging is made of cardboard, which is an eco-friendly recyclable option 
  • Powder detergents are best for mixing with stain removers like non-chlorine bleach
  • They’re very good at removing certain stains, such as mud and grass stains. 

Downsides of powder detergent:

  • Powder detergents tend to come in large packages, which can be difficult for storage in smaller homes and can also be heavy to carry
  • If you prefer to wash your clothes on a cold cycle, you may find that the powder does not fully dissolve; this can also lead to particles being left in your clothes, which can lead to skin itching and discomfort 
  • Compared to liquid detergent, it’s difficult to pretreat stains with powder detergent because it requires mixing the powder detergent into a paste first 
  • It can be easy to accidentally use too much or too little powder detergent
  • Powder can leave a residue in the detergent drawer, particularly if you frequently use a cold cycle 
  • It can be messy to use; it’s easy to spill powder detergent, which may lead to a mess in your laundry 

If you’re on a tight budget or if you live in an area with hard water, then powder detergent is probably the right choice for you. If these don’t apply, read on to find out which laundry detergent option will suit you best!

Liquid laundry detergent

Liquid detergents for washing machines were invented in the 1950s, and are currently the most commonly used type of laundry detergent.  

Benefits of liquid detergent

  • Although liquid detergent is a more expensive option than powder, it’s still cheaper than using pods 
  • It’s particularly effective on oil and grease stains
  • It’s great for pre-treating stains—you simply need to tip a little of the detergent onto the stain and let it sit for a few minutes before putting the item into the washing machine
  • Liquid detergent comes in a variety of scents
  • It’s tidy and easy to use; it doesn’t tend to get everywhere like powder detergent can 

Downsides of liquid detergent

  • It can be easy to use too much liquid detergent, particularly if you pour without measuring 
  • The plastic bottles that liquid detergent comes in may not be recyclable
  • Because liquid detergents are water-based, they don’t tend to interact well with other cleaning agents like stain removers
  • Due to liquid detergents being water-based, they weigh a lot, which makes them heavy to carry and environmentally costly to transport.

If you frequently deal with oily and greasy stains, liquid detergents may be your best friend. However, if you use additional stain removers, powder may be a better option.

Pod detergent

Despite being a relatively new invention, the popularity of pods has skyrocketed lately. They’re definitely convenient, but significantly more expensive than the other options. 

 Benefits of pod detergent

  • No measuring is needed, which is very convenient and tidy 
  • Because you don’t need to measure, you’re unable to use too much or too little, meaning that you’ll get consistent wash results.
  • Pods are lightweight and easy to use, especially for elderly or disabled people who may struggle with measuring or carrying heavy containers of powder or liquid detergent
  • Pods can incorporate different cleaning technologies, such as two-in-one or three-in-one pods, which means that a stain remover or fabric softener can be built into the pod itself, along with the detergent 

Downsides of pod detergent

  • They’re usually about twice as expensive per wash compared with powder or liquid detergent
  • You can’t use pods to pre-treat stains, so you need to make sure you have a separate stain remover on hand. 
  • They can be dangerous if left within the reach of children; some cases of poisoning have occurred when pods were mistaken for candy. 
  • They can get stuck in the drum or may not dissolve properly, particularly if you’re using a cold water cycle. 

A pod is the most convenient option because all you have to do is throw it in the drum before you load your laundry. However, convenience comes at a far higher cost than the other available options. You also have to consider safety, especially if you have children. If the cost isn’t an issue for you and if you have a system to keep pods out of the reach of children or animals, then pods are probably the best option. Their convenience and performance can’t be beat!


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