For many people, doing dishes by hand ranks on the fun scale somewhere higher than passing a kidney stone but lower than, say, trimming the family dog’s toenails. Thankfully the electric dishwasher—one of the most timesaving devices ever invented for homeowners—has made doing dishes by hand mostly obsolete. 

More recently, dishwasher detergent pods have revolutionized washing dishes nearly as much as the dishwasher itself. While dishwashing detergent historically came in either powder, gel, or tablet forms, most modern detergent pods are better than all of them—plus, they do away with the necessity of measuring how much liquid detergent to use. When shopping for dishwasher pods, consider strength, rinse aid, and price.

Breaks Down Food Residue

These simple-to-use pods fight tough stains and don’t require a pre-wash. Finish All in 1

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About 20 years ago, phosphates were banned from use in dishwasher detergents. Although the change was undoubtedly good for the environment, getting really clean dishes became much more difficult. Good dishwasher pods will not just clean already rinsed dishes but will dig in and sanitize even those with dry, crusty residue. And they’ll do so without being so harsh that they ruin Tupperware or other plastics that you clean in your dishwasher. Note that pods that contain liquid detergents often work better than those containing powder, since the powder can sometimes cake up or leave a powder residue on your dishes. Some even contain two more different detergents for maximum cleaning.

Dissolves Quickly

These remove burnt-on food, and feature a rinse aid and detergent to clean your dishwasher while it washes dishes. Cascade

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Ever run a load of dishes only to have them come out not fully clean? A rinse aid can help—it’s a surfactant that reduces the surface tension of water. The surface tension is what makes the water bead up rather than spread out on the surface of dishes. Rinse aids prevent the water from forming into droplets and encourage it to drain from the surface in thin sheets. This results in cleaner, more sparkling dishes. Fortunately, many dishwasher pods also contain a rinse aid. Check closely when shopping to ensure the detergent you pick has a rinse aid. You’ll likely be glad you did.

Easy to Use

These washing pods are quick-dissolving and tangerine-scented. Cascade

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There’s no way around it: Dishwasher pods are simply more expensive than the liquid or powdered dishwasher detergent. However, because they’re convenient and easy to use, they are today’s detergent of choice for many homeowners. To avoid overpaying, do a little math when you are doing your research. By dividing the price of your dishwasher pod container by the number of pods included, you can get an exact price of each load of dishes you wash. You can use that information to choose between the brands that you find do the best job. The end result is clean dishes without spending extra dollars to get them.