Pods, Sheets, Tabs, or Powder?

One of my earliest childhood memories is running to help my mom with the laundry. I loved having the responsibility of scooping out the blue-flecked powder detergent from the big cardboard box and dumping it into our top-load washing machine. My mother thought it was sweet that I wanted to pitch in even though it meant she would need to clean up after me. (I missed the target often.)

Powdered detergents are hardly as readily available as they were in the (ahem) 1970s. If you even see them on the store shelves, they A) have been relegated to a sad spot among the sea of other liquid detergents in huge plastic bottles B) they’re formulated with nasty ingredients that I wouldn’t want in my home.

Luckily, the push to move towards sustainable detergents has led to an explosion of liquid alternatives like pods, sheets, tabs—and a revisiting of powder.

So what’s the difference between these options? 

First, let’s look at the similarities:

  • √ Compatible with all machines (including high-efficiency washers, and top and front loaders)
  • √ Mostly formulated with plant-based ingredients
  • √ Unscented (or lightly scented with naturally derived ingredients)
  • √ Tough on dirt
  • √ Gentle on the skin
  • √ Powerful enough to fight stains and odours

Now, let’s look at the differences. 


When Tide Pods hit the market in 2012, they caused quite a stir. These single dose pacs were packaged in a small polyvinyl film packet that conveniently dissolved in water. Since then, companies like Dropps have taken up the charge to offer a friendlier-to-the planet formulation. Note that I said ‘friendlier’, not necessarily ‘friendly’.

The thing we like the least about pods is the “dissolvable film” used to encapsulate the liquid. We’ve talked about PVOH, PVA, or PVAL before. Otherwise known as polyvinyl alcohol, it’s derived from petrochemicals and used in all sorts of applications like dishwasher pacs, shampoo, and laundry pods. In our research, PVOH does not actually biodegrade as much as it dissolves into a “non-harmful” monomer. Those monomer molecules can biodegrade but we couldn’t find any information pointing to the amount of time that would take. A century? Two centuries? Who knows?

To make matters worse, polyvinyl alcohol products are contributing to sabotaging our seas.

Bottom line: For me—and for product developers at etee—, PODS and polyvinyl alcohol films are a no-go.


I jumped on the train when the Tru Earth laundry sheets came out a few years ago. I loved their convenience: small and easy to store, great for travel, and seemingly eco-friendly. Ultimately, I left them behind for two reasons: A) the cost per load was high B) the ecological impact was too high for my liking. 

See the pros and cons here:

Sheets = Made from PVOH? No thank you.


Tabs are pretty cool. The ones from Blueland (as seen on Shark Tank and in Kim Kardashian’s tweets!) have the same cleansing properties as pods, sheets, and powder but come in a compacted form which makes them easy to use. They do come with some drawbacks though. 

Check this out:


I haven’t tried these but I’d be willing to. How about you?


After looking at all the laundry detergent options, my work buddies at etee opted to produce a high-performing concentrated powder that only requires one tablespoon to be effective. (That’s unlike the powders from my childhood which would have required 3 to 5 times that amount!)

Here are the goods:


Since the average Canadian household does about 400 loads of laundry per year, it seems important that we minimize the impact caused by our detergent of choice. Right? Right!

Happy washing,

- Chantal + team etee

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