How Much of a Ripoff Are Detergent Pods?


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I usually buy powder detergent in bulk on Amazon to save money. But we ran out last week and I ended up buying detergent pacs from the grocery store. (Aka pods or sacs.) They are pre-wrapped sacs of powder detergent so you never have to spill detergent again – but I suspect they are much more expensive that loose powder detergent and liquid detergent.

How much of a ripoff are detergent pacs?

I used Peapod to compare prices. Note, I’ve never actually used Peapod to get groceries delivered to my house! (The last time I compared prices, Peapod was about 10% more than going to the store myself, plus the delivery charge. You can often get a Peapod coupon if you are a first time user.) But Peapod is a very easy way to compare prices without running to the store and hanging out in the detergent aisle for a half hour, looking like an oddball. :)

One thing I really like about searching for groceries on Peapod is all the ways to sort items you’re looking for – by alphabetical, size, price, aisle/department, and unit price. WOW, A SITE THAT LETS YOU COMPARE BY UNIT PRICE?! MY DREAM COME TRUE!

Okay, I’m getting a little excited about groceries. But hey, that’s me.

So are detergent pacs as pricey as I suspected?

My Peapod search for “dishwasher detergent” returned 47 results.

The cheapest option was FINISH Advanced Dishwasher Detergent Gel Lemon Fresh Scent for $.05 / OZ.

The most expensive option was sold, surprisingly, also by Finish: FINISH Power Up All in 1 Detergent Booster Lemon Sparkle for $.47 / OZ. Weird that the cheapest and most expensive option was sold by the same brand.

Third from the top was the eco-friendly pacs I purchased, Seventh Generation Dishwasher Detergent Concentrated Pacs Free & Clear, for $.35 / OZ. I’m committed to buying organic and eco-friendly products, and this was the only option at my tiny Stop & Shop. But now I see just how much money I tossed out the window!

The cheapest detergent pacs, FINISH All in 1 Dishwasher Detergent Powerball Tabs Orange Scent, sold for $.17 / EA. That is more than THREE TIMES AS MUCH AS THE CHEAPEST non-pac dishwasher detergent option!

Another way to look at it: 19 of the highest priced 24 dishwasher detergents were powder sacs.

That pretty much confirms my suspicious that detergent pods or pacs – whatever they look like to you – are a total rip off. Stick to regular liquid or powder dishwasher detergent, people!

What kind of dishwasher detergent do you use? Powder or liquid?


31 Responses

  1. John

    February 24, 2014 10:52 am

    Depends on how you shop. Recent Finish coupon ($2.15 off) plus a BOGO sale brought the cost down to about 3 cents ea per tab! I had multiple coupons so was able to do the deal many times, and now have a two year stockpile!!!!

    • Bargain Babe

      February 24, 2014 2:05 pm

      @John What a fabulous sale! I’m glad you were able to bring down the cost of the detergent pods so steeply! I’ll admit, it is nice not to deal with the loose powder getting everywhere and spilling more than I want. But I don’t plan on buying any detergent pods again.

    • Fred Hayworth

      August 2, 2015 10:44 am

      Detergent pods = less detergent + more money + more waste – cleaning power. These things are the latest effort by companies to charge more money for less product. At my work, they have been using casecade detergent pods for years. I have no control over it because I’m not the boss. Awhile back I started noticing the dishes smell like a dog dish after coming out of the dishwasher. On closer inspection, I saw the dishes aren’t clean at all. They have dirt caked inside the glasses and brown streaks on the plates. I even pre rinse everything by hand first. The other employee has bad eyesight, so she doesn’t notice. The other day I tried two pods and put the washer on max cycle, which is basically a three hour cycle. That time it actually worked. So if you want to waste more money and water. Keep using them. If you value your money and resources, switch back to traditional detergent.

  2. CJ

    February 24, 2014 11:32 am

    I know the price was high but did you like the products performance? We use Dawn and hand wash. Dishwasher had needed replacing for two years, now. We use it as a drying rack.

    • Bargain Babe

      February 24, 2014 2:06 pm

      @Cj I like that you didn’t have to spill loose powder detergent everywhere and that it didn’t make a mess in my under the sink cabinet. But in terms of getting my dishes clean, it worked as well as anything else I’ve tried.

  3. Jennifer

    February 24, 2014 12:11 pm

    It also depends on who is filling the dishwasher with soap. If you have someone in the house who completely fills both the pre-wash and regular wash cups to overflowing with loose soap then the tabs quickly become the more cost effective way to do things, particularly if you buy them in bulk at Costco or on sale with coupon. If you want your spouse or kids to do chores around the house then you have to be flexible and make it easy for them to get it right. After all, your time has a value too which is probably greater than that of your kid’s time and definitely worth more than 12 cents per dishwasher load.

    • Bargain Babe

      February 24, 2014 2:07 pm

      @Jennifer I’m usually the one who starts the dishwasher, so making it easy for others is not a concern for me. Even if it was, the time savings in pouring loose powder detergent v. liquid detergent v. pods isn’t enough for me to spend the extra money.

  4. Julie Brown

    February 24, 2014 12:18 pm

    I am a thrifty person and use the Powerball tabs. The last time I found them bundled buy 2 get 1 on clearance and with a coupon which I paid $0.048 per tablet. I stocked up. But the main reason that I use the tabs is I feel when my family uses the gel or powder, too much is used. I would rather pay a little more and know that I am using an amount necessary to get a full load of dishes clean, not too much or not too little of the detergent. Also I feel that the tabs are an all-in-one cleaner, nothing else is needed.
    Thanks for your price comparison. It is important to keep my eyes open for the deals if I want to continue to use the tabs.

    • Bargain Babe

      February 24, 2014 2:09 pm

      @Julie Brown Glad to hear you stocked up on the detergent tabs on such a great sale! How do you know the tabs use less detergent? I get the sense that they are really shrunken down to remove all the air, whereas loose powder is loose. Couldn’t you just pour less loose powder in if you’re concerned about dosage?

  5. Dawn

    February 24, 2014 1:39 pm

    I have to say, the detergent pods (I use Cascade) are worth the money to me because they are the only things that actually clean the dishes in my dishwasher. I had come very, very close to actually replacing the machine itself because the dishes were NOT coming clean and I would have to end up rewashing by hand half the load. Now I can load the dishwasher much more tightly and I don’t have to rewash – saves water and time.

    • Bargain Babe

      February 24, 2014 2:10 pm

      @Dawn That’s great! How do you think the pods clean your dishes better? Isn’t it just powder detergent vacuum sealed in a little bit of water-soluable material?

      • Dawn

        March 5, 2014 2:45 pm

        I have no idea how they work, I just know that they do. There are three different colors of liquid inside the sealed in pod. I think at least one of them is magic :-)

        • Bargain Babe

          March 5, 2014 7:06 pm

          Hahaha! I wonder if they designed the three colors so consumers would think each color had a separate function. If they work and you like the price, go for it!

  6. msmyke

    February 24, 2014 1:54 pm

    As a single person I rarely use my dishwasher but your comparison is flawed.

    Instead of comparing cost per ounce you should have been comparing cost per load. Some products recommend using greater or smaller quantities per load which skews your results.

    Also take into consideration the following:

    1. Many pods contain a built in rinsing agent which most powders and liquids do not so you should also factor in the cost of a rinsing agent such as Jet Dry.

    2. How well the product performance stacks up against the competition.


    February 24, 2014 9:50 pm


    • Bargain Babe

      February 25, 2014 6:10 am

      @SHRLEY I use Method hand soap because it is biodegradable and the company does not test on animals and I really like it. I bought it in bulk on Amazon and got a great deal, plus when I run out of one dispenser, I have another ready to go!

  8. Julie Hills

    February 25, 2014 3:04 pm

    I wish we could even try them! Somehow, in our dishwasher, the pod fell down into the bottom and never got hit with enough water to unwrap. Opened the dishwasher an hour later to find dirty dishes and a gross, un-reusable-but-never-really-used pod in the bottom. Is it possible I put it in wrong? I thought they were foolproof! :)

    • Dawn

      March 5, 2014 2:47 pm

      Did you put the pod in the same container that the normal liquid goes in? They aren’t supposed to just be free form in the dishwasher.

  9. Doug Young

    March 10, 2014 12:53 pm

    Did you realize that when you use the combo pods, you are actually injecting the rinse aid in with the soap. Fat lot of good that does. Also, you should preheat your dishwasher water by running the kitchen sink faucet until the water is hot. Dishwasher water needs to be hot to activate the powder and if you don’t preheat, the powder will ultimately clog the hoses and pump. You should also clean your dishwasher once a month using a product like dishwasher magic in the 12 ounce bottle. Read the directions.


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