Laundry detergent pods (or packs) are products containing an ultra-concentrated amount of laundry detergent, softener and other soap types enclosed in dissolvable plastic discs. Notable brands of these packs include Arm & Hammer, Purex, Persil and Tide. They first became popular in February 2012 when they were introduced by Procter & Gamble as Tide Pods.
The chemistry of laundry detergent packs is the same as in liquid detergents (including alkylbenzenesulfonates). The water-soluble pouch is typically made of polyvinylalcohol (PVA) or a derivative of PVA. Although the formulas are similar, a detergent pack's liquids may contain only 10% water compared to 50% in liquid detergents.
MonoSol is one of the companies that develops the water-soluble film used for laundry and dishwasher detergent packs, used by brands including Tide, with roughly $250 million in annual sales and controlling around 90-percent of the market. The film is designed to be soluble within cold water.
Laundry pods are estimated to make up about 15% of the $7 billion-a-year U.S. laundry detergent market sales according to market researcher Nielsen NV. Laundry pods attempt to reduce wasted use of powdered and liquid detergent by having precise measurements for a load. For large loads, most brands recommend two to three pods. The price of detergent pods can be higher than the liquid detergent for equivalent laundry loads.
Laundry tabs were originally introduced in the 1960s in a compacted granular form (similar to an oral medical tablet), when Procter & Gamble launched Salvo tablets, later disappearing from the market in the 1970s. In the 1990s, Unilever and Henkel launched a similar laundry detergent pack product sold in Western Europe. These products sometimes didn't fully dissolve in United States washers.
In 2005, Cot'n Wash, Inc. introduced liquid unit dose laundry pods under the Dropps brand.
In 2012, Procter & Gamble relaunched a liquid tablet product as Tide Pods. In late 2017, Internet memes centered around the concept of eating Tide's laundry detergent pods were popularized on Twitter. Some companies are making edible replica "pods". These memes have actually led to people eating pods on camera. Ingestion of pods can cause death in some cases.
Concern has been raised over children accidentally being exposed to laundry packs, as its appearance and the packaging design can have the same appeal to a child as hard candy with patterned designs, and be confused as such.
In 2012, in response to a child swallowing Tide Pods, Procter & Gamble said they would make this product more difficult to open by adding a double latch to the lid, and has also re-focused their advertising to make clear the product should be out of a child's reach at all times. The packaging was also changed to an opaque orange rather than the original clear plastic gumball machine-type presentation to make them look less enticing; other manufacturers followed suit with equivalent packaging changes. In 2013, Consumer Reports stated that there had been nearly 7,700 reported incidents in which children age 5 or younger had been exposed to laundry pacs, and that year, one child from Florida died after ingesting a pac. In 2014, a study published in Pediatrics found that from 2012 to 2013, more than 17,000 calls were made to poison control centers about children who had been exposed to the pacs. Despite the industry's move toward safer packaging, a 2017 study published in JAMA Ophthalmology found that between 2012 and 2015, the number of chemical eye burns associated with laundry detergent pods among 3- to 4-year-old children skyrocketed from fewer than 20 to almost 500 per year; in 2015, these injuries were responsible for 26% of all chemical eye burns among this population.
Beginning in late 2017 there arose a viral trend called the "Tide Pod Challenge", in which participants intentionally ingest detergent pods. Several children and teens have been injured, some severely, from this intentional consumption.