Why Are People Eating Tide Pods?

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Tara Bellucci)

We’re all for doing what it takes to make chores less of a, well, chore. Whether that’s picking up a yummy smelling dish soap or choosing a product with packaging that looks good enough to eat, do whatever makes you happy. Actually eating cleaning products, though, is where we draw the line.

Responsible folks everywhere are in a tizzy about the latest internet meme where people are joking about eating Tide Pods. The convenient laundry morsels might look like candy, but anyone with basic reasoning skills knows that consuming cleaning products is never a good idea.

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Tide Pods were introduced in 2012, and the jokes actually started years ago, according to SelectAll. Satirical news site The Onion wrote a post about it in 2015, and again in 2017, about the introduction of a “sour apple” flavor. But it was recently that the meme picked up steam and started breaking through the dark corners of the internet and into mainstream awareness. New York Mag’s Brian Feldman writes:

[W]hen local-news anchors hear the phrase “eating Tide Pods,” it becomes fodder for nice parental-anxiety-inducing segments, and to young people that panic is incredibly funny (and search-term-friendly!), so then more people start “eating” laundry pods (or even just posting videos with those terms in the title). So idiocy begets idiocy in the worst possible “chicken and the egg” parable one could imagine.

tide pods are the best thing ever to go on pizza?

— ?₆⁶₆? (@MoonEmojii) December 31, 2017

While most people are just joking about eating the pods, BuzzFeed reports that American Association of Poison Control Centers handled 39 cases of people intentionally ingesting laundry detergent in 2016 among people aged 13 to 19, 53 cases in 2017, and 39 in the first two weeks of 2018 alone.

It’s gotten to the point where YouTube is taking down Tide Pod Challenge videos and Tide enlisted Patriots player Rob Gronkowski to do a video on why you shouldn’t eat detergent:

What should Tide PODs be used for? DOING LAUNDRY. Nothing else.

Eating a Tide POD is a BAD IDEA, and we asked our friend @robgronkowski to help explain.

— Tide (@tide) January 12, 2018

A reason for the meme’s popularity is that it’s not all that weird to want to taste something you know isn’t edible, like shampoo, detergent or bath bombs. Vox notes:

One of the best explanations for why Tide Pods are alluring as a possible snack is that they combine several things humans enjoy in their food (there may even be a scientific link between our desire for “glossy” foods and our need for water): an outer “shell,” of sorts, that contains liquids like a fleshy piece of fruit; a floral, sweet aroma; a variety of bright hues (depending on which scent you buy) that appear to align with research concerning the relationship between appetite and color.

But if you act on that, the results won’t be pretty. BuzzFeed’s Caroline Kee—a health writer who “genuinely can’t believe that I had to write this article” (same, girl)asked a Mayo Clinic emergency pediatric physician what would happen if you ate a laundry pod. Short answer: lots of gagging and coughing, irritation and burning, and the possibility of choking on your own chemical-tainted vomit. Not worth the likes, kids.