Teenagers are eating Tide Pods, but should their parents be using them?

Teenagers have apparently been eating Tide pods as part of a weird (and unhealthy) internet joke — but health experts aren’t the only people who are not major fans of the detergent.

As part of an internet meme challenge, teens started posting videos of themselves biting into Tide detergent pods this year. The trend has gotten so widespread that Tide’s official Twitter account, Proctor & Gamble PG, +0.90%  , and the U.S. government have warned against the practice.

“Teens trying to be funny are now putting themselves in danger by ingesting this poisonous substance,” Ann Marie Buerkle, chairperson of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, told ABC’s Good Morning America.

Should we be buying Tide pods at all?

Laundry detergent pods are more environmentally toxic, less powerful at cleaning, and more expensive than boxed or bottled suds, analyses show. For a start, some consumers have reported complaints that the packs don’t fully dissolve in the wash or leave residue on clothing. Detergent pods can be up to 50% more expensive per load than other forms of soap, according to Reviewed.com.

The average American family washes about 600 loads of laundry per year, according to Procter & Gamble Co. A box of 77 Tide pods costs $24 — 31 cents per load, while liquid Tide advertised as lasting 72 loads is priced at $18, or 25 cents per load. At these averages, a household using Tide pods would spend $186 per year on detergent while someone using liquid detergent would spend $150. That is $36 per year or $648 over an 18-year time span.

What’s the best way to do laundry?

For those washing clothing at a laundromat with hard water, powders may be the best choice. Slightly cheaper than liquid detergent and harder on stains, powders are a good option for people who do large loads of dirty laundry regularly.

Liquid detergents are better than powder detergents for cleaning stains by hand and better at imbuing clothing with fresh fragrances, an analysis from Reviewed.com found. Of the top 10 laundry detergents on home product review site The Spruce, none are pod-based.

Tide pods are good for consumers who have to carry their laundry and want a more compact form of soap, or for people with arthritis or other conditions that make opening bottles more difficult.

There have also been concerns about children consuming pod detergent thinking it is candy. There have been at least 17 cases of comas caused by children consuming laundry pods and six cases of respiratory arrest. Detergent pods sent an average of one child to the hospital per day between 2012 and 2013, according to a report published in 2014 in the health journal Pediatrics.

Consumer Reports no longer recommends pods at all because they are poisonous if ingested, and a health hazard for young children who may ingest it by accident — or teens who are, for some reason, purposely consuming it.

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