Detergents are coming down in size. Many single-use packs can fit in the palm of your hand thanks to their highly concentrated formulas. Other detergent containers are also shrinking. For example, a 50-ounce, 32-load bottle of the new 2X Tide weighs less than four pounds, while its unconcentrated 100-ounce, 32-load predecessor tips the scales at more than seven pounds, according to the manufacturer.
Manufacturers tout the environmental benefits of new concentrated detergents. The packages require less plastic for bottles, less corrugated cardboard for crating, and less fuel for the trucks that deliver the detergent to the stores. Retailers are benefiting too. Walmart, the largest retailer of detergents and market leader Proctor & Gamble's biggest customer, has been pushing manufacturers to reduce volume to allow a wider array of models and brands on store shelves. Whatever the incentives, sales of concentrated detergents are booming, according to the marketing research company ACNielsen.
But with single-use packs in particular, safety is a concern, since the packs can be especially harmful if ingested or rubbed into eyes. Poison-control centers have logged more than 9,500 reports of ingestion and other contact involving children 5 years or younger since early 2012, when pods went mainstream. Eye contact can result in serious injury, and ingestion can lead to vomiting and has caused some victims to stop breathing suddenly.
P&G is replacing the clear container for its colorful Tide Pods with an opaque version that has a double-latch lid, a resealable sticker over the lid, and warning icons on the package. (The company says it expects the original clear container to be unavailable by the end of 2013.) Costco told us that, like Procter & Gamble, its Kirkland Signature Ultra Clean Pacs will be sold in opaque container with enhanced safety icons in August 2013, with a child-deterrent lid to follow in early 2014.
We hope those changes will make a difference, but we're still concerned that the tasty-looking pods will find their way into children's hands. We continue to urge detergent manufacturers to adopt child-resistant packaging for all pods--and stop making them look like candy. Retailers should improve in-store signs to better alert consumers to the dangers of pods.