Were Tide Pods Designed To Look Like Candy?

Update 7/22/22: This story has been updated to include a statement from Proctor & Gamble.

If doing laundry is your least favorite chore, you're not alone. It's arguably worse than washing dishes or cleaning bathrooms, and two-thirds of American young adults dread doing this tedious household chore (per Study Finds). But that doesn't take away from the fact that the revolutionized laundry industry has removed the hard labor of washing clothes by hand. As if eliminating most of the hassle with advanced mechanized solutions wasn't enough, Procter & Gamble introduced Tide Pods in 2012 as a solution to consumer complaints about liquid detergents being heavy and difficult to pour (per Tide). 

Tide Pods, the brightly colored laundry detergent capsules, are the epitome of convenience and effectiveness in the world of laundry. It's no wonder the market value of the global laundry detergent pods reached $9.44 billion in 2019 (per Statista). Each small pouch contains stain remover (white compartment), detergent (green), and brightener (blue). But there's another reason why Tide Pods appeal to consumers — the candy-like design. 

According to a CNN article about Tide Pods, the colorful cleaning detergent gel packs may have been designed to look like candy because of a trend known as "food imitating products." "Tide Pods obviously remind people of foods, especially foods that have been made to appeal to children," anthropologist John S. Allen said to the outlet. But as Tide Pods resemble bite-sized snacks, kids and teenagers started putting them in their mouths.

Teens started participating in the 'Tide Pod Challenge'

While we have seen some of the worst food trends on TikTok, they are a thousand times more innocuous than the "Tide Pod Challenge" that involved teens daring each other to bite down on laundry detergent packets and ingest or spit out the contents (per Today). Although the challenge started as a meme, it led to increased cases of poisoning incidents. The bizarre viral craze became such a hot topic that YouTube started removing videos of Tide Pod challengers (per Fox News). 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ingesting laundry detergent pods can be deadly. Despite the warnings, the American Association of Poison Control Centers received cases of teens intentionally biting into Tide Pods, and there were 10,570 reports of children aged five or younger being unintentionally exposed to the packets in 2017. There have been fatal cases of people with dementia and children consuming the laundry detergent pods, mistaking the colorful packets for candy.

Responding to the dangers of ingesting Tide Pods, Procter & Gamble made the dissolvable plastic thicker and harder to bite through, enhanced the warning labels on the packaging, and changed the clear plastic container to a non-transparent design. "Here at P&G, safety is our top priority. Tide Pods are designed to clean clothes and nothing more," the company said in a statement emailed to Mashed.