Liquid, Powder, Sheets or Pods for Laundry Detergent?
When it comes to the best laundry detergent, options are endless. We break down the pros and cons of powder vs. liquid detergent vs. pods vs. sheets, making your choice that much easier.
Which Works Better?
They basically all leave you with fresh, clean laundry: Laundry detergent sheets contain stain fighting ingredients, just as the other formats do. And all formats can be used in any wash water temperature and almost all brands are now formulated to use in high-efficiency front load or top load washers; just look for the "HE" (high-efficiency) symbol to be sure.
But are they really created equal? Not at all.
Liquid detergent is great for using as a stain pre-treater or spot cleaning and is particularly effective on oil and grease stains because the liquid will penetrate the fibers of the fabric to help release the stain. It is also less expensive than single dose pods.
Wash a lot of clothes in cold water? This is the detergent for you. It dissolves well no matter the water temperature. It's also a good choice for hand-washing garments.
But, liquid detergents are still packaged in plastic containers. Plastic laundry detergent bottles provide an enormous strain on landfills. Most bottles can be recycled, but many consumers and municipalities do not participate in recycling programs. In addition, water is the main ingredient in liquid laundry detergent: Water is heavy to transport and shipping adds to consumer and environmental costs.
In addition, the measurement lines on most detergent bottle caps are difficult to read, causing consumers to use too much detergent per load, wasting money, and leaving residue on clothes and washing machines.
While the cardboard boxes are more environmentally friendly than plastic bottles, they are heavy and impact the environment with more transportation costs. Powder detergent must be stored in a completely dry area to prevent caking. They typically have the smallest cost per laundry load of any type of laundry detergent, but powder detergents can be problematic in colder water by not dissolving completely leaving residue on fabrics.
It is the most effective option for areas with untreated hard water thanks to additives that are more stable and easily added to powdered formulas. Powder detergent is also a smart pick for extra-dirty loads. Powder detergent is usually formulated at a higher pH, which can optimize cleaning of heavily soiled work clothes and sports uniforms.
Pods and Pacs
If you are looking for convenience, then detergent pods are at the top of the list. Both laundry detergent sheets and pods are quick, convenient, mess-free, and pre-measured (inciting major benefits over liquid and powder detergent). Pods and sheets not only perform better because they are measured correctly, but also because they have more concentrated cleaning ingredients.
A pre-measured dose of detergent produces consistent results and overdosing is eliminated (too much detergent over time can lead to buildup, which can lead to odors). But pacs are designed for average soil and load size. Heavily soiled clothes and large loads require two pacs and increase costs significantly. Pacs cannot be adjusted for small loads or hand-washing single items.
Laundry detergent pods might clean just as well as other formats, but at what cost? Conventional pods are made using the same harsh ingredients as standard detergent, so they’re just as hard on your clothes and your skin. Plus, pods look oh-so-fun and tasty to small children and pets, which puts them at risk of poisoning.
They are also the most expensive to use per load of laundry and the outer packaging for the pods is seldom recyclable as most pods are sold in either plastic tubs or plastic packs.
Essentially, laundry strips use the same logic as the pod: They’re pre-measured, biodegradable sheets of detergent that instantly dissolve with water. And, just like the pod, they’re incredibly effective in fighting stains, removing dirt and grime and preventing clothes from fading—often while using chemicals that are safe for sensitive skin.
Laundry detergent sheets are also as efficacious as their powder or liquid counterparts. Fewer ingredients and additives can actually mean cleaner clothes, since laundry detergent sheets won’t leave soap residue or skin irritants on your clothes.
Sheets are a plastic-free, mess-free alternative to traditional soap and detergent. Laundry sheets make measuring detergent so much easier. One sheet can be used for large loads, and small loads only need half a sheet. The sheets easily tear down the middle to make this simple.
And if you have a tough stain that needs to be spot-cleaned with a stain remover, just rub a detergent sheet on the stain, then toss the sheet in with the load of laundry.
They’re also the perfect travel companion: If you're short on space—or are traveling and plan on doing your laundry on vacay, like at an Airbnb or something—sheets are delightfully compact, and you don't have to worry about spills.
Which is more eco-friendly and sustainable?
Laundry soap sheets are more sustainable than liquid, powder or pods — hands down. Beyond the harsh chemical ingredients used to make conventional laundry detergents and pods, they’re bulky and heavy to ship. Competing pods and liquids consist of 60-90% water. When you’re buying liquids, you’re paying for mostly water, and the transportation of that water while increasing transportation emissions.
Why are sheets a more eco-friendly choice?
It's a solid format detergent that allows for minimal waste. The manufacturing process extracts the water, leaving behind a concentrated sheet of natural detergent—just the necessary cleaning ingredients, held together in a sheet of dissolvable and biodegradable resin.
Fully recyclable and plastic-free packaging - The best eco-friendly laundry detergents rethink both the detergent itself and its packaging. While mainstream laundry detergents are often packaged in bulky plastic bottles, eco-friendly detergents rethink the packaging. Laundry detergent sheets are a minimal waste alternative to conventional liquid and powder detergents and pods on the market. Unlike these products, laundry sheets are plastic-free — meaning they can deliver similar stain-fighting results while being gentler towards the environment. No packaging that requires energy to recycle or dispose of — laundry detergent sheets tend to be packaged in paperboard, which is more easily recycled than the mixed plastic pouches or heavy, bulky containers that pods, powder and liquid detergent commonly come in. In fact, fully recyclable paper packaging eliminates plastic waste while simplifying storage and transport. With a lower water and carbon footprint, laundry detergent sheets offer a more sustainable alternative to traditional liquid detergents and pods.
Biodegradability - Using laundry detergent soap sheets instead of liquid detergent that comes in giant plastic bottles is a great way to both stay clean and reduce your environmental footprint at the same time. Boulder Clean Laundry detergent sheets are also biodegradable. The PVA film (polyvinyl alcohol) we use for our Laundry Detergent sheets is completely water soluble and biodegradable.
Doesn't Polyvinyl Alcohol contain microplastics? There has been a lot of false information propagated about this ingredient recently. PVA dissolves into a non-harmful monomer; it does not turn into a MicroPlastic. Scientific studies prove that the monomers eventually decompose into reusable nutrients over time. The film is consumed by microbes to form water and carbon dioxide. The film does not persist in the environment, contaminate the recycling stream or contribute to micro-plastic pollution. These non-toxic monomers are a whole lot better for our environment than the single-use plastics that wind up in our oceans and landfills.
Laundry detergent sheets are eco-friendly in other ways too.
Free from nasty chemicals like chlorine, bleach or dyes! No harmful additives that get washed down the drain and into our water systems
They work well in all water temperatures, which means you can use them in a cold-wash cycle, which is a great way to green your laundry routine (energy savings)
No harm to marine environments
Lead to up to 700 million fewer plastic detergent containers per year in U.S. landfills alone if everyone used sheets
The Final Verdict
When you weigh the light, no-waste, plastic- and chemical-free option of laundry detergent sheets against the bulky, plasticky, and chemical-filled laundry detergent liquids, powders and pods, the answer is clear. Laundry Detergent Sheets are the everyday — winner!