Users of Tide Pods speak out about stained laundry

Lately we’ve been seeing a number of reports on our website and others about the multicolored Tide Pods leaving purple and blue stains on laundry. There’s even a litany of reports on the website of Procter & Gamble, Tide’s parent company, describing staining and the failure of the pods to dissolve properly. Tide Pods performed very well in Consumer Reports’ tests of laundry detergent so we wanted to get to the bottom of this. Here’s what came out in the wash.

“This product dissolves poorly and has ruined my son’s pullover (cream colored) and left purple stains on the fabric,” wrote one of our readers in a user review. “It was a beautiful piece of clothing that is now ruined! I am not a happy customer!” Neither was another reader who wrote: “Tide Pods left bluish/purple stains on white towels, and other whites (socks, tee shirts, and pillowcases). This product should be taken off the market until they figure out the problem.”

So Consumer Reports contacted Tide and asked the company what caused the stains, how to avoid them, and what to do with clothing that’s already suffered in the wash. We heard back from Tracey L. Long, who handles inquiries about fabric care for P&G.

“The most common contributors to the development of a blue/purple stain on fabrics is not placing the pac into the washing machine drum BEFORE adding the clothes and/or overstuffing machine with laundry,” Long wrote in an e-mail. “This is important to ensure machine has enough space to provide the agitation needed for the best clean and to maximize contact with ‘free water’ in the machine.” Long went on to offer these tips.

Do not place the pod in the dispenser drawer.
Do not open the pod/pac or use for pretreating.
Do not use Tide Pods in prewash cycles.

Long also made some recommendations for what to do with clothing that’s already been stained. “We expect any unintended fabric staining should be treatable by washing the stained item again via another wash load using either a Tide Pod or Liquid Tide laundry detergent,” Long wrote. If that doesn’t work, Tide recommends:

Rinse the stain under hot water to remove as much as possible.
Gently wring the excess water from the item and lay it out flat.
Apply household rubbing alcohol to the stain, making sure it covers the entire stain. (Test on similar fabric or inside fold first.)
Let the stain soak for at least 10 minutes—the longer the better.
Using warm or hot water, rinse the fabric. This should remove the stain.
If the stain has not been completely removed, repeat the steps above.

Of course, not all the comments about Tide Pods were negative. “I have NEVER had any ‘stain’ problems that some have referenced BUT you have to do one simple thing. POD GOES IN FIRST!,” wrote one satisfied customer. “If you can’t do that you might have problems but I have had none in the years since it came out.”

If you’re not a fan of laundry pods or packs, we also found some top performing laundry detergents in the form of powders and liquids, including varieties from Tide, Wisk, and Kirkland Signature from Costco. If you have an opinion about Tide, join the conversation on our website or on P&G’s website or contact P&G customer service.

—Mary H.J. Farrell