How to Use Dishwasher Pods

Updated
You don’t even need to unwrap them. 

There are many different types of dishwasher detergent. You can choose liquid, powder, gel, you can make your own, or you can choose pods!

If you’re curious about dishwasher pods, we’ll walk you through everything there is to know about them. That includes how to use dishwasher pods, how they work and many more frequently asked questions.

How to Use Dishwasher Pods

First, load the dishwasher. Make sure nothing is in the way of the detergent drawer from opening properly. Add the pod to the detergent drawer. You don’t need to unwrap it — unless it is in foil. Close the drawer. Add your rinse aid if necessary. Choose your cycle, press start, sit back and relax.


How Do Pods Work in the Dishwasher?

When you place the pod into the detergent dispenser drawer and turn on your appliance, the pod will drop into the bottom of the machine and dissolve in the hot water. Throughout the cycle, the detergent will spread around the dishwasher and clean your dishes.

As for the pod itself, it contains a small amount of concentrated detergent. It’s a little pod, but it’s mighty enough to clean every single dish in the machine. Normally, the detergent pod will contain surfactants which act as a cleaning agent to tackle various kinds of dirt. The exact ingredients depend on your chosen brand of dishwasher pods.

What Happens to the Plastic in Dishwasher Pods?

Dishwasher pods are normally wrapped in a thin coating. This keeps the pods from getting stuck together in the bag, and it preserves them longer. But what happens to the film during the dishwashing cycle?

Most dishwasher pods are wrapped in polyvinyl alcohol, otherwise known as PVA (1). When PVA contacts water, it dissolves. If introduced to the right environment, it will then break down into carbon dioxide and water. It’s a non-toxic wrapping and will biodegrade in the right conditions (2).

If you’re keen on being as eco-friendly as possible, you may want to choose a powder detergent. Or you can even make your own!

Can You Just Throw a Pod in the Dishwasher?

You can, but it’s not a great idea. Most dishwashers have a pre-rinse cycle before the detergent is released into the main washing cycle. We recommend always putting the pod in the detergent dispenser drawer.

How to Use Dishwasher Pods

Now that you’re clear on some major dishwasher pod facts — let’s walk through how to use them properly.

What You Need

  • One dishwasher pod per cycle.
  • A rinse aid (if you live in a hard water area).
  • A dishwasher with a detergent drawer.

Step by Step Instructions

  1. Load the dishwasher: First, load up the dishwasher. Make sure to only put in dishwasher-safe items. This generally excludes non-stick cookware, china, insulated mugs, copper items and a few more things. Check the bottom of the dish where it will normally state if it’s dishwasher safe. Finally, make sure nothing is blocking the detergent drawer from opening properly.
  2. Add the pod: Remove the pod from the box or bag, making sure it’s not ripped, damaged or broken in any way. Open the detergent drawer, add the pod and close the drawer.
  3. Add a rinse aid: If necessary, now is the time to add your rinse aid. Fill the rinse aid dispenser with the appropriate product. You can use vinegar if you don’t have a rinse aid.
  4. Choose your cycle: Depending on the soil level of your dishes, choose your cycle. Press start and let the dishwasher pod do the hard work.
  5. Empty the dishwasher: Once the cycle is finished, check that the detergent has done its job, is fully rinsed away and that the dishes are dry. If they’re still damp, let them air dry for about 30 minutes before putting them away.

Pro Tips

Always ensure your hands are dry before handling dishwasher pods otherwise you may dissolve them. Don’t unwrap the pod unless the manufacturer instructions state to do so. Only use one pod per cycle. Close the tub or bag between uses so the pods remain dry and undamaged.

Dishwasher Pod FAQs

Are Dishwasher Pods Better Than Liquid?

It’s down to personal preference. Dishwasher pods are convenient to use, cost-effective, they save space, and they may have some extra cleaning power. However, they may contain harsh chemicals, such as bleach, and your dishwasher may have trouble dissolving them.

Liquid dishwasher detergent, on the other hand, dissolves easily and is less abrasive on dishes. However, it’s not good for hard water areas and you need to measure it out manually each time. Plus, if the bottle breaks, it’s going to make a huge mess.

Can You Put Dishwasher Pods at the Bottom of the Dishwasher?

You can, but you shouldn’t. Dishwashers have a slot for pods so they can release them at the perfect time during the cycle. This is normally after a pre-rinse but before the main cleaning cycle.

Do Dishwasher Pods Completely Dissolve?

They should, but every dishwasher is different. You may need to test out a couple of pods before you find one that suits your dishwasher. Also — make sure you’re using a quality dishwasher pod, such as the Cascade Complete pods.

Always Do This

If your dishwasher pods aren’t dissolving, make sure that everything is okay with the water heater in your dishwasher. Dishwasher pods struggle to dissolve in cold water, so if all else fails, check the functionality of your machine.

Are Dishwasher Pods Bad For Plumbing?

No — they are completely safe! If you’re having issues with your plumbing since starting to use your dishwasher, it’s likely from food and grease buildup.

Is Rinse Aid Necessary?

Do you find that your dishes come out spotty and cloudy? Do you live in a hard water area? Is the inside of your dishwasher full of water stains and limescale buildup? Your dishwasher is calling for rinse aid.

While it’s not necessary for everybody, many people live in a hard water area. There are lots of great rinse aids on the market. If you’re wanting to be eco-friendly and zero waste, you can always use distilled white vinegar.

Before You Do

Always check the manufacturer instructions before using vinegar in your dishwasher. Some brands will advise against it, depending on the rubber used in the dishwasher.

Why Is Soap Still in the Dishwasher After a Cycle?

Sometimes you’ll open your dishwasher to find that the dishwasher pod is stuck or it didn’t fully dissolve. This could be down to a few reasons.

  • You jammed it into the dispenser drawer and it got stuck, meaning it couldn’t wash away completely.
  • Something — such as a long spoon or whisk — was stopping the spray arm from spinning, meaning the detergent couldn’t fully dissolve.
  • The soap cup is blocked. Check that it’s fully open at the end of each cycle. If not, something has prevented it from opening.
  • There is a clog in the filter.
  • The water wasn’t hot enough.

Walk through each of these possibilities to find the reason why your detergent pod is still in the dishwasher.


Pod It

Dishwasher pods are a blessing wrapped in PVA! We’ve been using dishwasher pods since we got our dishwasher and have never looked back. Once you get the hang of using them, they’re so convenient.

Remember to shop around to find one that works for your appliance. Always insert it correctly. Don’t forget a rinse aid if you live in a hard water area!

Headshot of Beth

About the Author

Beth McCallum

Beth McCallum is a 20-something freelance writer & book blogger with a degree in creative writing, journalism and English literature. Beth firmly believes that a tidy house is a tidy mind. She is always looking for new ways to sustainably clean and tidy her house, that's kind on the environment but effective in the house, too!
Woman Cleaning Dishwasher In Kitchen

How to Clean the Dishwasher (3 Quick Methods)

How to Load a Dishwasher Rack by Rack

How to Load a Dishwasher the Right Way

Man unclogging a dishwasher

How to Unclog a Dishwasher

Woman washing the dishes in the kitchen sink

How to Wash Dishes (Step by Step Guide)

Woman filling dishwasher with liquid detergent

The Best Dishwasher Detergents for Spotless Dishes

Woman drying a plate with a dish towel

Best Dish Towels of 2021

Leave a Comment