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How to use laundry capsules: the definitive guide

Intrigued by the convenience of laundry capsules but not sure about when and how they work best? We’ve got all your questions answered.


Reading Time: 7 minutes

By Cleanipedia Team

Laundry capsules on top of a stack of laundry in a laundry basket
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If you’ve been wondering how to use laundry capsules (also known as laundry pods), you’re not alone. It’s a question we get asked a lot. There’s no doubt they’re super convenient, but are they always the best choice for your clothes? And if they are, how do you use them correctly?

To help you navigate the often bewildering range of detergent options available, we’ve put together this definitive guide to answer all your most pressing questions.

First things first: what is a laundry capsule?

A washing machine capsule contains concentrated liquid detergent (and sometimes powdered ingredients, too) that’s not only been pre-measured to the correct dosage but is also incredibly handy to use.

Why use washing capsules?

A laundry capsule on top of a stack of laundry in a laundry basket
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Washing capsules are a great way to do your washing because they’re really convenient and simple to use. They save you from guessing how much detergent to use, having to add in more than one product, or dealing with sticky laundry room spills.

As long as you carefully follow the instructions below and on the container, capsules will dissolve completely in the wash, plus an extra benefit is that the packaging they come in is usually recyclable. Eco-friendly and easy to use? It’s no wonder washing machine capsules are so popular.

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Washing machine capsules, tablets, powder or liquid – what’s the difference?

Before we get into the details of how to use laundry capsules, it’s worth looking at the different options you can choose for your washing. Broadly speaking, there are four main types of laundry detergent:

  • Washing powder: sold loose, washing powder is measured out using a scoop (which is often supplied with the box) and goes into the detergent drawer of your washing machine.

  • Liquid detergent: sold in bottles, laundry liquid is usually poured into the detergent drawer of your washing machine and measured using a dosing ball or bottle cap.

  • Laundry capsules: sold in boxes, these pods contain concentrated liquid detergent that has been pre-measured to the correct dosage. They can be popped straight into the washing machine drum with the laundry.

  • Washing tablets: sold in boxes, washing tablets are pre-measured blocks of compressed washing powder that go in the detergent drawer of your washing machine.

Take a look at our top tips for more info on the differences between detergents and how to use them correctly in your washing machine.

How do you choose between different types of detergent?

A box of laundry capsules

At a basic level, all the detergent options will help you get your laundry clean and fresh. That means a lot of the choice comes down to personal preference and what’s going to be most convenient for you. Here are a few things to take into consideration:

  • Convenience: As tablets and laundry capsules are pre-measured you don’t have to worry about pouring out your own dose of detergent. Or digging the scoop out from the powder box. With capsules, it’s as simple as popping one in the drum with your washing. Easy peasy.

  • Easy pre-treatments: If you often have stains that need pre-treating, liquid detergent could be the one for you. You can apply liquid detergent directly to the stain to pre-treat it. (We’ve got some top tips on stain removal here.)

  • Cost: If cost is a key consideration for you, don’t just look at the price of the pack in the supermarket, check how many washes you’ll get from it. This will allow you to work out a rough price per wash and help you make an informed choice.

  • The environment: If you’re worried about plastic packaging, don’t forget that concentrated liquid detergents offer the same cleaning power in a smaller package. In addition, many laundry capsules and tablets now offer refill packs so you don’t need to buy a plastic tub every time. (The plastic used for detergent packaging can usually go in your local recycling. Check our ultimate guide to recycling for more information.)

Washing capsules: how to use them effectively every time

You’ve made your choice, laundry capsules it is (you can’t beat them for convenience, after all). But how do you make sure you get a great wash with them every time? We’ve got the answer to every question you’ll have…

Where do you put detergent capsules?

A laundry capsule inside a washing machine

Simply pop one detergent capsule into the drum of your machine before adding a washing load. It doesn’t matter if you use a top or front loader, just make sure you put the pod in first and place it at the back of the machine.

If the pod is placed on top of a load of clothes, it may not dissolve properly. And never put the pod in the detergent dispenser drawer!

Do the washing capsules dissolve in water?

As long as you follow the pack instructions your washing machine capsules should completely dissolve. Here are the key things to remember:

  • Don’t overload the machine. The detergent capsules need enough space to move freely in order to properly dissolve. When loading your machine be sure to leave about 10 centimetres between your laundry and the top of the drum.

Colourful clothing inside a washing machine
  • Use the correct temperature. It’s important to refer to the packaging of the detergent capsules and the care labels of the clothing you’re washing to determine the best temperature. If the instructions state you should use a washing temperature above 30ºC, it means that the capsule will only activate and dissolve if you set the machine at that required temperature.

  • Put the capsule in before the clothes. As mentioned earlier, if the pod is put in on top of a laundry load it may not dissolve properly.

How many laundry capsules should you use?

For a normal size load of laundry (around seven kilograms), one detergent pod is all you need. But if you have an extra-large capacity washing machine that can hold 10+ kilograms of laundry (and you’ve filled it completely), you may need to use two pods.

What do you do if you find residue on your clothes?

You may find residue on clothes if the capsule hasn’t dissolved correctly. This is usually due to the washing machine being overloaded. If you do find residue, don’t panic.

You should immediately rewash the clothes with no added detergent. And choose the largest load capacity setting to make sure all of the clothes move freely through the water. Don’t place clothes that are stained with detergent into a tumble dryer, as the heat will make the product more difficult to remove.

What’s the difference between bio and non-bio washing capsules?

Just as with other types of detergent, there are bio and non-bio washing capsules. The bio capsules have the extra stain-removing power of enzymes, while non-bio capsules don't contain enzymes and are better if you're washing clothes to be used on sensitive skin. Take a look at our guide to choosing between bio and non-bio washing detergents for more.

Which are the best laundry capsules?

There are lots of different laundry capsules on the market and all of them do the same basic job. But for a deep clean that’s kind on skin, you can’t go wrong with Persil Non-Bio washing capsules. As well as getting your laundry fresh as a daisy, they come in packaging that’s all 100 per cent recyclable – bonus.

What happens to the plastic in washing capsules?

The outer wrapping of a laundry capsule is made from a water-soluble polymer (polyvinyl alcohol). It completely dissolves in the washing water, as long as it’s used correctly.

Are laundry pods bad for the washing machine?

As long as you follow the pack instructions and ensure you use the correct wash temperature to completely dissolve the pods, they shouldn’t cause any problems for your washing machine.

How do you store laundry pods safely?

Laundry capsules are bright and colourful, making them all too tempting for children. So it’s vital to store them safely following these tips:

  • Store the container in a safe place. Be sure to store the container on a high shelf or in a locked cupboard, out of reach of kids and pets.

  • Reseal the container after each use. Once you’ve finished with the capsule container always remember to securely close the lid straight away and place the container back in its safe storage location.

Take a look at our full guide on keeping kids safe from laundry capsules for more top tips.

Originally published