Consumer Reports tested laundry detergent packs from All, Ajax, Arm & Hammer, Dropps, Purex, and Tide. Some of the packs are quick to dissolve in water. That can be a problem if you have wet hands.
There is also a safety concern with the packs. The American Association of Poison Control Centers has issued a warning. It has received more than a thousand reports of children being injured or sickened by them. So, as with all household cleaners, it's important to keep them out of children's reach.
Because of the dangers that laundry-detergent packs pose to children, Tide says it's adding a safer double latch on its plastic containers.
Consumer Reports says if your child is exposed to a detergent pack, serious side effects can occur quickly, so call the poison control helpline at 800-222-1222 immediately.
As for how well the packs clean, Consumer Reports tested using swatches that had been soaked with tough-to-remove stains such as wine and grass. The swatches are washed along with a full load of towels. Then a special machine analyzes just how much of the stains are removed.
Only one pack detergent, Tide Pods, cleaned well enough to earn a Consumer Reports recommendation. They cost 22 cents per load. You can use them in front- and top- loading washing machines. Another Tide detergent, a powder, does an even better job of cleaning. It's Tide Ultra Plus Bleach for about the same price. But it can be used only in high-efficiency washers.
If you have a conventional top-loader, Consumer Reports says to consider Powder Laundry Detergent Ultra Up & Up from Target. It doesn't clean as well as the Tide detergents, but it costs only half as much.