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Laundry: Make it clean and safe!

If you’re like me, when it comes to washing clothes, you love the grab-toss-and-go convenience that laundry detergent packets provide. This is the kind of thing you use and think, why didn’t someone come up with this sooner?

But like so many great ideas, this one has turned out to have some unintended consequences: children are eating them and getting seriously ill, and in some cases, even dying. But why are detergent pods so dangerous compared to other forms of detergent? No one seems to know.

According to a 2015 Wall Street Journal article, US poison control centers are getting around 30 calls a day regarding the accidental ingestion or exposure of laundry pods by children under 6 years of age. Some incidents involve children getting the detergent into their mouth or throat, while others have had the pods burst and squirt concentrated detergent into their eyes.

The problem has continued to increase steadily enough that Consumer Reports no longer recommends the products at all, stating “Given the continued danger, we have made the decision to not include pods on our list of recommended laundry detergents. And we strongly urge households where children younger than 6 are ever present to skip them altogether.”

One reason as to why this is happening is that, in at least some of the cases, adults are simply not taking enough precautions to keep detergents and other household hazards out of reach of young children. Another is that detergent pods, with their walnut-sized packets and bright colors, look too much like candy to children who don’t know any better.

While manufacturers are taking steps to address the issue with proposed changes in pod casing and packaging, in the mean time it is important for anyone who has children (and even pets or elderly relatives with dementia) to keep liquid detergent pods out of reach.

To promote pod safety, the American Cleaning Institute has started the Key Pledge website to encourage everyone to Take the Pledge to keep laundry rooms safe. You can read about the program and add your name at

If anyone in your home is accidentally exposed to, ingests, or inhales a laundry pod, recommends the following steps:

If the product is in the eyes or on the skin, flush with running water for at least 15 minutes, then call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222. The poison specialist will ask a few questions about what happened and if there are any symptoms. Then, the specialist will tell you exactly what to do. Most of the time, the incident can be managed at home if you call Poison Control right away.

If the product is swallowed, give a small amount of water or milk. Then use the webPOISONCONTROL® online tool for guidance or call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222. Both resources can help with common scenarios like:

  • My child drank bleach (like Clorox). What should I do? Is it poisonous?

  • My child bit a laundry pod (such as TidePods, Allmighty pacs, Purex UltraPacks, Gain flings). Is it dangerous? Should I take him to the emergency room?

  • My child ate a fabric softener sheet or a dryer sheet (such as Bounce or Snuggle).

  • My child drank a fabric softener (such as Downy, Snuggle, Gain, Final Touch, Purex).

  • My child swallowed laundry detergent (for example, All, Tide, Purex, Arm & Hammer, Wisk, Sun, Oxi, Persil, Xtra, Cheer).

Further Reading

Posters & Infographics

Note: Not all links in this blog post are accessible without paid subscriptions to some websites.

Update: New links added on 2016.06.07.


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