One of the first viral "internet challenges" of 2018 - the Tide pod challenge - is quite dangerous. It involves biting into and eating a Tide pod, a small sachet of laundry detergent made of toxic chemicals.

Despite being dangerous and crazy, people are still attempting the challenge. The format for most Tide pod challenge videos is simple: a person, usually a teenager, pops a pod on camera and attempts to eat it, while gagging, spitting, and trying their best to overcome the bitter and inedible flavours that concentrated detergents have.

With the challenge going viral and several kids, teenagers, and surprisingly, even adults attempting the challenge, Tide, the makers of the pods, had to issue fresh warnings to discourage people from eating the stuff. A Wired report has come up with a complete breakdown of all the chemicals in a Tide pod and the list does not really have anything that anyone should be eating.

Polyvinyl alcohol

This is the material that makes up the film of each individual pod. It is water soluble and keeps the three ingredients that go into the pods from mixing with each other till they are in the washing machine. The report calls it a compound that is similar to Elmer's glue.

Denatonium benzoate

Popular as the bitterest substance known, it is an inert white powder that was reportedly added to the film to discourage children from eating pods or attempting to eat them. It is so bitter that it is detectable to the palate at just a few particles per million. The material is added to various tasty looking dangerous substances all over the house like rubbing alcohol and coolant fluids. Tide added it to their pods in 2015 and even strengthened the outer layer of the film to make it hard for small children to pop open with their hands.

Fatty acid salts

Soap that attaches itself to grease and oils so that water can then lift it off clothes.

Alcoholethoxy sulfate

One of many possible "linear anionic surface acting agents" that is normally used in detergents, it works by attaching one end of its molecules to dirt and the other end of its molecules to water. As it swirls around in the washer, it lifts dirt off and away from fabric.

Disodium distyrylbiphenyl disulfonate (DDD)

DDD is responsible for making whites look whiter by absorbing UV light and providing a faint blue glow to counteract the yellowing of clothes after several washes.


A protein enzyme that breaks down stains made by keratin from the dead cells found in human bodies. Useful for getting rid of the ring around the collar and cuffs and like stains.

Diethylenetriamine pentaacetate, sodium salt

Softens hard water and removes metal ion-based stains from clothes.

Calcium formate

Calcium formate keeps enzymes and other active ingredients in the detergent from breaking down before they are needed in the washer. Once they are exposed to water it separates from the enzymes and lets them go to work on the various stains that they need to encounter.

Tide's website says: "Laundry detergent pacs are super concentrated with 90% cleaning ingredients to rejuvenate even dingy clothes for brighter brights and whiter whites." Every box of pods, including their adverts have warnings labelled clearly on them, going so far as to say that, "the most important ingredient in Tide is safety".

After the challenge went viral, Tide tweeted, urging people to not eat the pods.

Tide Pods
Tide pods have three ingredients separated and held in place by a soluble film P&G via YouTube screengrab