Many laundry detergents now come in small packs that are intended for easy use. Consumer Reports tested ones from Tide, All, Arm & Hammer, Ajax, Purex, and Dropps.
Some of the packs are quick to dissolve in water. But that can be a problem if you have wet hands.
And there is also a safety concern. The American Association of Poison Control Centers has issued a warning about pack detergents.
It's received more than a thousand reports of children being injured or sickened by them.
Dan DiClerico with Consumer Reports advises, "As with all household cleaners, it's important to keep them out of children's reach."
As for how well the packs clean, Consumer Reports tested using swatches that had been soaked with
tough-to-remove stains like wine, as well as grass. The swatches are washed along with a full load of towels. Then this machine analyzes the results.
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 both front- and top-loading washing machines.
However 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 only be used in high-efficiency washers.
If you have a conventional top-loader, Consumer Reports says consider Powder Laundry Detergent Ultra Up and Up from Target. While it doesn't clean as well as the Tide detergents, it costs half as much.
Because of the dangers posed to children with laundry detergent packs, 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 immediately.
That number is 800-222-1222.