A new category of super-concentrated detergents has recently appeared, namely household detergents in pods or tablets.
Gone are the days when we needed to take home 4-5 different bottles, one for every surface in the house! Now, in the space of half a bathroom drawer, you can have a stash of detergent that would make a cleaning company envious.
There are two types of these wonderful products, pod and tablet detergents.
Both have the irresistible advantage of the total absence of water, which greatly lowers their weight and therefore reduces CO2 emissions related to their transportation. Moreover, they do not need a bottle to be contained: we can now happily stop buying useless plastic that we use for a month and then
In the next few lines, I will try to describe the differences between pods and tablets, highlighting the pros and cons of each.
These are all those products in which the "active part" is contained in a small balloon of polyvinyl alcohol, a synthetic polymer used in many different applications and with the property of being soluble in water but not in organic solvents.
The balloon holds the active part of the detergent dispersed in organic solvents until it comes into contact with water, at which point it dissolves, releasing the active part [1, 2].
Despite its use in so many sectors, from medicine to textiles, in recent years there has been some debate about the safety of polyvinyl alcohol from an environmental point of view, especially regarding the topic of microplastics.
In this case, we are essentially talking about compressed powder, which doesn’t need much to hold together. The cleaning part of the detergent is in the form of powder which, on contact with water, dissolves and disperses.
A possible disadvantage of this kind of product is that, depending on how the tablets are formulated, they may be slightly crumbly and chip a bit during transportation. In addition, depending on the ingredients chosen, some components may not be able to dissolve perfectly in cold water, resulting in a higher fixed residue than for the pods. This generally does not create big problems, except when the fixed residue is the enemy, as for glass cleaners.
But do pod or tablet household cleaners clean well?
To that question, the only serious answer I can give you is: it depends on what you need to clean.
Surfactants commonly used in household detergents usually display a medium solubility in water, so that only a portion of them manages to dissolve spontaneously. To increase the amount dissolved, it is therefore necessary to heat and agitate at temperatures at speeds only achievable in industrial processes. This means that the concentration of surfactants in super-concentrated detergents is lower than in ready-to-use detergents.
Super-concentrated household detergents are therefore not suitable if you need extreme cleaning power, such as for the oven, the BBQ or the fryer. However, if your needs, like mine, are limited 99.9% of the time to cleaning the stovetop after I've made steak or meat sauce, or cleaning the bathroom of limescale and toothpaste spit-up, then you won't be disappointed.