LAUNDRY PODS: the candy-like poison

With advances in modern technology, who doesn’t love clever inventions that make our household chores a little easier? Laundry pods are one such item. No more measuring out messy laundry detergent…just pop one pod into the machine, and you’re good to go!

But imagine this: you’re putting your third load of laundry into the wash and it is not yet noon. Your toddler comes to give you a hand. You step away, for only a moment to answer the door, and suddenly, you hear a shriek and sputtering cry. You run back to find him with a broken laundry pod in his hand, blue ooze running down his face. What do you do? Are these laundry pods poisonous?

Laundry detergent pods have an attractive candy-like appearance which is rather deceptive. These colorful little packets look tempting to eat in the eyes of young children but are, in fact, harmful. From 2012 to 2013, U.S. poison control centers reported over 17,000 exposures to laundry detergent pods, the vast majority occurring in children under 5 years of age. Of these, 7.5% suffered major injuries, including several deaths. In 2016, this number is now on the rise as laundry pods become more popular and increasingly used.

As each pod contains enough detergent for a whole load of laundry, the solvents and chemicals they contain are highly concentrated. With even just one partially ingested pod, a child can suffer a multitude of injuries, including:

  • Minor Injuries
    • Chemical burns to the eyes, nose and mouth
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Rash
  • Major Injuries
    • Severe burns to the throat and/or vocal cords
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Seizures
    • Confusion
    • Coma
    • Death

It is also important to note that there are both immediate and delayed effects.  Therefore, even if your child does not exhibit any immediate symptoms, all parents should call the poison control center for any ingestion.

If your child has any major reactions such as difficulty breathing, seizure or other alarming signs, drop everything and call 911. For minor injuries, wash out your child’s face/eyes with tap water, then call the poison control center 1-800-222-1222 for further advice. We encourage you to have this number handy, even programmed into your phone, so that it is easily accessible during that moment of panic.

As parents, we understand the challenge of keeping everything in your home childproof. Accidental overdoses, however, remain one of the leading preventable injuries in young children. Keeping laundry detergent pods stored away in a high place, fully sealed, and inaccessible from your little ones is the best way to prevent these pretty poisons from being ingested.


  1. Valdez A, Casavant M, et al. Pediatric exposure to laundry detergent pods. Pediatrics. 2014 Dec;134(6):1127-356.