The 8 Best Dishwasher Pods for Sparkling Dishes

Our favorite is the Cascade Platinum ActionPacs + Dishwasher Cleaner.

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nine water-soluble capsules for laundry or dishwasher
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There are few things more convenient than popping in a dishwasher pod and running a load of dirty dishes, especially at night to save money, as you sit back and relax knowing you don't have to do any hand-washing.

To determine the best dishwasher pods, we researched dozens of top-rated options, looking at factors like type, size, price, and formula. We also asked Kathryn Kellogg, founder of the sustainable lifestyle website Going Zero Waste, and Alex Varela, General Manager of the cleaning service Dallas Maids of Frisco, for their insight and recommendations on dishwasher detergents and how to choose the best dishwasher pods for your needs.

"What's best for your dishwasher can vary depending on what you're looking for," says Kellog. "If you want to ensure less of a mess, pods may be a better choice. Gel pods are good options for those who want the most concentrated cleaning power."

Our top pick is Cascade Platinum ActionPacs + Dishwasher Cleaner Action, which are not only powerful dishwasher pods, but effective dishwasher cleaners. These pods earned our top spot for their highly concentrated cleaning power and ability to get rid of stuck-on food, grease, and stains while shining and drying dishes for a spotless appearance.

Here are our picks for the best dishwasher pods, along with tips and useful information on how to choose dishwasher pods and maximize their strength and cleaning power.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall Dishwasher Pods: Cascade Platinum ActionPacs + Dishwasher Cleaner

Dishwasher Pods
amazon.com

Also available at Target.

Who it's for: People who want an effective dual-action cleaner for their dishes and dishwasher.

Who it isn't for: People who want dishwasher pods with natural ingredients.

Cascade products are highly rated among customers for their effective cleaning power. Cascade Platinum ActionPacs + Dishwasher Cleaner Action, however, is the top-performing product when it comes to cleaning dishes. In comparison to Cascade Complete ActionPacs, Cascade Platinum ActionPacs hold 50 percent more cleaning power thanks to the higher concentration of cleaning agents. Although these are also slightly more expensive than Cascade Complete, their effectiveness plus extra ability to clean your dishwasher make these the best pods for those looking to remove tough stains and stuck-on food. Cascade Complete comes in three scents and types (gel, powder, and pods), while Cascade Platinum is available only as pods and in two scents.

Cascade Platinum ActionPacs are formulated with enzymes to break down stuck-on food particles. Combined with the grease-fighting power of Dawn, these pods are powerful enough to work in the quick wash or light wash cycles. They're also formulated with an agent to prevent hard water stains and filming, leaving your dishwasher as clean as your dishes. Skipping the pre-wash can also save up to 15 gallons of water, as the label claims. Cascade Platinum ActionPacs do not contain bleach or phosphates, but they do contain artificial fragrance.

Product Details:

  • Amount: 36 or 48 pods
  • Scent: Fresh

Best Natural Dishwasher Pods: Puracy Dishwasher Detergent Packs

Dishwasher Pods
amazon.com

Also available at Puracy.

Who it's for: People who want dishwasher pods made with plant-based ingredients.

Who it isn't for: People who want gel pods or a mix of powder and gel.

Natural cleaners often get a bad rap for not being as effective as their chemical competitors, but Puracy's Dishwasher Detergent Packs boast exceptionally effective cleaning power that can easily rival any brand name chemical cleaner. Formulated with plant-derived enzymes, one pod is mighty enough to remove grime, grease, and stuck-on food without soaking or pre-washing. Unlike other natural dishwasher detergents, Puracy Dishwasher Detergent Packs act as a 2-in-1 with a rinse aid to better dry dishes and keep them sparkling. Varela adds that these pods are quite effective on hard water despite having gentle and plant-based ingredients.

Along with a Leaping Bunny (aka cruelty-free) certification, these biodegradable pods also boast a formula made without phosphates, fragrances, dyes, bleach, parabens, or phthalates. All Puracy products are hypoallergenic and also guaranteed to be tested by physicians and Ph.D. chemists. With a clear dedication to plant-powered, safe ingredients, these pods are a natural winner that can work in just about any dishwasher.

Product Details:

  • Amount: 50 pods
  • Scent: Unscented

Best Plastic-Free Dishwasher Pods: Blueland Dishwasher Starter Set

Dishwasher Pods
blueland.com

Also available at The Container Store.

Who it's for: People who don't want plastic-wrapped dishwasher detergent pods, or want a natural formula.

Who it isn't for: People who prefer a gel or powder dishwasher detergent.

When it comes to finding plastic-free dishwasher pods, you might think you're up for a challenge. Blueland's dishwasher tablets, however, are made without the commonly used water-soluble coating wrapper called polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), which is technically considered plastic. These tablets are dry-form and naked, meaning they are not wrapped in anything. They also come in a paper bag along with a reusable steel tin, making the Blueland Dishwasher Starter Set our pick for the best plastic-free dishwasher pods. As a bonus, Blueland offers a subscription option which makes these tablets conveniently refillable and eliminates the need to purchase single-use plastic packaging. Varela recommends Blueland's dishwasher pods because they're great for people with allergies or sensitivity to strong smells, and you can buy them in bulk for a greater value.

Blueland's dishwasher tablets are effective at removing grease, grime, and other food stains, and are formulated without harsh ingredients often found in chemical cleaners such as dyes, fragrance, parabens, phthalates, ammonia, and petroleum. While these dishwasher pods are on the more expensive side, those who prioritize clean, eco-friendly ingredients and packaging can definitely justify the cost.

Product Details:

  • Amount: 40 pods
  • Scent: Unscented

Best Powder Dishwasher Pods: Ecover Automatic Dishwasher Tablets

Dishwasher Pods
amazon.com

Also available at Thrive Market.

Who it's for: People who prefer powder pods with natural ingredients.

Who it isn't for: People who prefer gel pods or a chemical-based cleaner.

Powder dishwasher pods are the perfect choice for those who prefer powder dishwasher detergent in a mess-free, compact form. Ecover's Automatic Dishwasher Tablets are our pick for best powder dishwasher pods for their scrubbing cleaning power and quality ingredients. These pods are one of Kellogg's favorites because they are cruelty-free and have plant and mineral-based ingredients such as sodium citrate and glycerin. These pods also stand out for their ability to remove hard water stains and shine dishes. Ecover Automatic Dishwasher Tablets come in both unscented and citrus scented varieties for those who prefer a light fragrance.

While the packaging itself is made from recycled materials, the pods are individually wrapped in plastic wrappers to protect and preserve them from humid conditions, but can be easily recycled depending on your municipality. For lighter loads, you can even snap these pods in half, which is not something many dishwasher pods are able to do.

Product Details:

  • Amount: 25 or 45 pods
  • Scent: Unscented or citrus

RELATED: The One Part of Your Kitchen You're Forgetting to Clean—and the $3 Product That Will Fix That

Best Gel Dishwasher Pods: Finish All-In-One Gelpacs

Dishwasher Pods
amazon.com

Also available at Target and Walmart.

Who it's for: People who want a budget-friendly gel or scented dishwasher pod.

Who it isn't for: People who prefer powder pods or pods with natural ingredients.

Gel dishwasher detergents are powerful cleaning products because of their concentrated ingredients. The Finish All-In-One Gelpacs earn our spot for best gel dishwasher pods for their pre-measured and compact size, strength in scrubbing stuck-on and burnt-on food, and efficiency at removing hard water stains. With 50 percent more concentrated cleaning power in comparison to Finish's Dishwasher Detergent Gel, these pods are the perfect option for dirtier dishes and those looking to save time and water when washing dishes. With an invigorating orange scent, these are also a great choice for those who like some fragrance when running the dishwasher.

Unlike powder pods, these gel pods are less likely to leave behind any residue or mess. While Finish Gelpacs do contain fragrance, dyes, and sulfates, their effective cleaning power might outweigh the ingredient cons for those looking for the best gel dishwasher pods.

Product Details:

  • Amount: 84 pods
  • Scent: Orange

Best Scented Dishwasher Pods: Cleancult Dishwasher Tablets

Dishwasher Pods
amazon.com

Also available at Bed Bath & Beyond, Walmart, and Cleancult.

Who it's for: People who prefer a lightly scented or natural-based dishwasher pod.

Who it isn't for: People who want less expensive dishwasher pods.

Most scented dishwasher pods come in a citrus scent that can be overwhelming or smell too synthetic and unnatural. Cleancult's Lemongrass Dishwasher Tablets, however, have the tropical and herbaceous aroma of lemongrass that is light and fresh without lingering on dishes after they've been washed. These scented dishwasher pods are formulated with natural plant extracts and oils and CocoClean technology, which is the brand's signature formulation that uses coconuts and other biodegradable elements.

Cleancult's Lemongrass Dishwasher Tablets contain environmentally-friendly and safe ingredients including glycerin and citric acid, which are gentle on dishes, dishwashers, and septic systems, while thoroughly cleaning dishes from hard water stains and tough stains. With recyclable packaging and a subscription option, these dishwasher pods are also a great choice for the eco-conscious. While these pods are a little pricier than others, their natural-based formula, impressive cleaning power, and subtle scent make them worth the extra cost.

Product Details:

  • Amount: 32 pods
  • Scent: Lemongrass

RELATED: The 7 Best Dish Soaps for Getting All Your Kitchenware Clean

Best Unscented Dishwasher Pods: Dropps Unscented Dishwasher Detergent Pods

Dishwasher Pods
amazon.com

Also available at Dropps.

Who it's for: People who prefer an unscented dishwasher pod made with natural ingredients.

Who it isn't for: People who want more affordable dishwasher pods.

For those with sensitivities to fragrances and dyes, we recommend Dropps Unscented Dishwasher Detergent Pods as the best unscented dishwasher pods. These pods are cruelty-free and formulated without fragrance, dyes, phosphates, chlorine, or phthalates. To effectively clean and shine dishes, Dropps uses oxygen-based bleaching agents through the natural process of oxidation, which naturally breaks down the structure of food, stains, and dirt, to keep your dishes sparkling without the need for a pre-wash. Varela prefers Dropps for their sustainability, two year shelf life, plant-based ingredients, and plastic-free packaging.

Each Dropps package is made of compostable cardboard and manufactured in the USA, which are two of Kellogg's favorite things about these powerful dishwasher pods. Dropps are the most expensive pods on our list but can definitely be worth it for those who prefer unscented dishwasher pods with natural ingredients. These pods also have a convenient subscription option that includes carbon neutral shipping directly through the Dropps website.

Product Details:

  • Amount: 32, 64, 128, or 192 count
  • Scent: Unscented or lemon

Best Dishwasher Pods for Hard Water: Finish Powerball Quantum Dishwasher Tablets

Dishwasher Pods
amazon.com

Also available at Walmart and Target.

Who it's for: People who want a dishwasher detergent that'll get rid of hard water buildup stains while cleaning and degreasing.

Who it isn't for: People who have soft water, or prefer a natural dishwasher detergent.

Hard water is notorious for leaving a cloudy film or white streaks on dishes, especially glassware and silverware. The Finish Powerball Quantum Dishwasher Tablets are formulated with Activblu Technology, an improved formula addition not included in previous Finish Quantum formulas that eliminates the need to pre-rinse. With three separate chambers—gel for cutting grease, powder for scrubbing, and a liquid powerball for shine—these dishwashing pods are also great for breaking down stuck-on food and removing difficult stains.

Although Finish Powerball Quantum Dishwasher Tablets contain a strong fragrance, these dishwasher pods may be the best choice for those who prioritize removing hard water scale from dishes or who don't have sensitivity to fragrance.

Product Details:

  • Amount: 37, 50, 64, or 78 pods
  • Scent: Clean

Final Verdict

To thoroughly clean, degrease, shine, and dry dishes, our top pick is Cascade Platinum ActionPacs + Dishwasher Cleaner Action, which also cleans the dishwasher. For a more natural option, we recommend Puracy Dishwasher Detergent Packs, which are just as effective and also act as a rinse aid for spotless dishes.

How to Shop for Dishwasher Pods Like a Pro

Type

Most dishwasher pods will come in one of three forms: gel, powder, or a mix of the two. Most pods are also wrapped in PVA, or polyvinyl alcohol, which is a water-soluble coating deemed safe by several agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Powder pods usually don't have this coating, although they typically are wrapped in individual plastic packets that you remove before putting them to work in the dishwasher. If you'd like to avoid plastic altogether, or at least minimize it, there are plenty of plastic-free or less wasteful options available.

Ingredients

When it comes to cleaning products, and dishwasher pods in particular, the right ingredients for you depend entirely on your needs. While there are objectively environmentally-safer ingredients such as sodium carbonate and glycerin, other ingredients such as fragrance and dyes might only be irritating to those with sensitivities, in which case natural dishwasher pods are the way to go.

Kellogg lists bleach, polyacrylates, benzisothiazolinone, and methylisothiazolinone as ingredients to consider avoiding if you have sensitivities or want to use only environmentally-friendly detergents. In that case, Kellogg suggests choosing a dishwasher pod with sodium-based chemical as the first listed ingredient.

"This will act as a water softener by creating a reaction with sodium ions that ultimately reduce buildup that lingers on dishes," she says.

Scent

While chemical cleaners are more likely to have fragrance, whether synthetic, natural, or a combination of both, natural cleaners are more likely to be unscented or naturally fragranced with essential oils. For those with sensitivities, Kellogg recommends staying away from fragrance altogether, saying these additions can cause "allergic reactions and chemical sensitivities" in some people.

For people who don't mind some fragrance, dishwasher pods come in a variety of scented options, with popular choices including lemon, citrus, or "fresh" scents.

Questions You Might Ask

What should you do if your dishwasher pods aren't dissolving?

If your dishwasher pods aren't dissolving, Varela says the likely cause is water not being hot enough. Checking your water temperature is the best way to ensure your dishwasher pods will dissolve and work effectively.

"Run hot water until it comes out hot before you start your dishwasher," says Varela. "You can try turning your sink faucet and let it run water until it gets hot, then start your dishwasher."

Are dishwasher pods bad for dishwashers?

Dishwasher pods are not considered harmful to dishwashers, says Varela, since like all cleaning products they go through several months or even years of testing. As for ingredients, some may be harmful not to dishwashers, but to the environment.

"Many different dishwashers and brands test to confirm that the pods they design won't be harmful to dishwashers," says Varela. "However, they could be harmful in other aspects that are not directly related, such as the environment, but dishwashing liquid or powder can have the same effect."

Do dishwasher pods expire?

While we may not typically think of cleaning products as having an expiration date, most dishwasher pods will lose their effective cleaning power within a year despite some labels claiming a shelf life between 15 and 18 months. To make sure they last and work how they're supposed to, Varela suggests storing them at room temperature with little moisture.

Take Our Word for It

This article was written by L. Daniela Alvarez, contributing writer for Real Simple with nearly three years experience writing about lifestyle content and product reviews. To compile this list, she spent hours researching dishwasher pods, their ingredients, and reading customer reviewers. She also received tips on how to shop for dishwasher pods from Kathryn Kellogg, founder of the sustainable lifestyle website Going Zero Waste, and Alex Varela, General Manager of the cleaning service Dallas Maids of Frisco.

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