Cleaning agents - natural is best?

7th of November 2019
Cleaning agents - natural is best?
Cleaning agents - natural is best?

“Natural” cleaning products that are sold in concentrated formulas and packaged in refillable pouches have become a hot new trend in today’s environmentally-aware world. But do professional chemical cleaning companies consider these to be a positive move or a threat, asks Ann Laffeaty?

Cleaning has suddenly become trendy – thanks in part to social media phenomenon Mrs Hinch who likes to share her household cleaning tips with the world over the internet.

At the same time, sustainability has also become a much more universal concern. The advent of groups such as Extinction Rebellion has brought this issue front-of-mind and forced us to confront the threats being posed to our planet by climate change.

It is against this background that a number of start-up companies have been coming up with niche ranges of eco-friendly cleaning products and promoting them via social media channels. Splosh, for example, offers householders a range of plant-based cleaning formulas along with washing-up liquids and laundry detergents.

Customers are sent a reusable bottle along with refills of the highly concentrated products which are delivered in small pouches through the clients’ letter boxes. The empty pouches are then returned to the company for reprocessing.

Splosh claims to have made a 97.5 per cent reduction in plastic waste through the scheme.

Also providing a postal service is Smol, a company that offers vegan-friendly dishwasher tablets and laundry detergent capsules. Customers are targeted via Instagram and the products are sent out in boxes that are both recycled and recyclable.

And Instagram is also the main marketing platform for Yope, whose all-purpose cleaning products are available in bamboo, French lavender and green tea fragrances. Again, the products come in refillable containers in a bid to minimise packaging waste.

Domestic market ripe

The domestic market appears to be ripe for these “natural” cleaning products that are described as both sustainable and environmentally friendly. And most would agree that the efforts being made to reduce the use of plastics and packaging associated with detergents are to be admired. But how are commercial chemical cleaning companies and contract cleaners reacting to the shift in focus?

Do they consider the current trend towards sustainability to be a necessary move and the shape of things to come - or do they suspect that these new ethical companies are cynically riding the sustainability wave?

Greenspeed is aware of the recent advent of “natural” cleaning products that come in refillable pouches and are posted through customers’ letterboxes, says the company’s marketing supervisor for circular and sustainable cleaning Lies Marijnissen. “We have noticed this evolution and believe it could be interesting for e-commerce,” she said.

The company has noticed a marked increase demand for more sustainable solutions over the past few years, according to Marijnissen. “There is a growing awareness of the fact that our planet is not indestructible - nor are its assets inexhaustible,” she said.

“People are also recognising that we should be using the Earth’s natural resources more consciously and carefully. And terms such as ‘resource scarcity’, ‘sustainability’ and “recycling” are becoming everyday influences on our lives.”

She adds that the EU Ecolabel is becoming the market standard for many products. “At Greenspeed we see this as a good evolution since it challenges us to innovate even more,” she said.

Greenspeed has always taken the ‘green’ approach, she adds. “it’s in the company’s DNA,” said Marijnissen. “Our cleaning agents have a minimal impact on the environment throughout their life cycle because they are biodegradable and produced in an ecological factory.”

Many of Greenspeed’s products hold the EU Ecolabel and Cradle to Cradle certificate and its detergent bottles are 100 per cent recyclable and made up of a mixture of recycled material and plastic produced from sugar cane.

Facilities services provider Facilicom UK agrees there has been a general increase in environmental concerns among the public – and also sees this as a positive trend. “We have remarked a significant increase in the number of clients asking for sustainable solutions in an attempt to do their bit for the environment,” says managing director Jan-Hein Hemke.

Consider the consequences

“Protecting our planet is incredibly important and we are all responsible for taking steps towards a more eco-friendly existence, both personally and professionally. As a service provider we must consider the consequences of our practices and operations on the world, and within the cleaning sector we need to be aware of the damage that may be caused through carbon emissions.”

He claims Facilicom to be an industry leader in this regard. “We work closely with our sustainable solutions partner Ethical Nation to minimise our running costs and grow our positive environmental profile,” he said. “One way we do this is through our carbon neutral cleaning system, C2Zero. This calculates the precise carbon impact of every aspect of our service and by understanding and measuring this we are able to fully offset this impact and return the whole cleaning process on site to a carbon neutral position.

“We want our operations to be completely carbon free, so we offer this service as part of our standard package for customers. This ensures that doing business with Facilicom is beneficial commercially, socially and environmentally.”

Facilicom is also committed to reducing the volume of chemicals used in its operations, he says. “We work with suppliers to develop chemical-free cleaning products and to reuse machinery and equipment to give them a longer life,” said Hemke. “We also minimise the quantity of waste we produce, thus lowering the amount sent to landfill or ending up in our oceans and waterways. We are a net zero carbon emitter and we also hold the neutralcarbonzone accreditation for our ‘measure, reduce and offset’ approach.”

Sustainability awareness within the cleaning industry is increasing all the time according to product manager of building care detergents at Kärcher Mark Rosenland.

“We support this development and are happy about society’s ever-growing attention to sustainability and to our ecological footprint,” he said. “We also applaud the fact that there is increasing demand for these types of sustainable products from our customers. And we welcome the fact that decision makers – particularly those from the larger cleaning companies where image plays a key role - now require various sustainability certificates from their suppliers.”

Development potential

He sees a great deal of potential in the consumer sector for individual shipping plus the automated resupply of certain goods. “You see this on websites such as Amazon with regard to products like contact lenses,” he said. “For the professional sector I see a potential for customers who require smaller deliveries of detergents.  But for customers with big sites that have a higher demand for detergents, we would suggest different solutions.”

Like Greenspeeed’s Lies Marijnissen, Rosenland has remarked a growing trend for eco-ranges to be delivered in pouches, tabs or powder packages for the consumer sector by detergent suppliers. “We also see benefits in these for the professional cleaning sector in terms of sustainability and efficiency,” he said.

“However, eco-products are often perceived as expensive to buy so in order to increase the level of acceptance, it is important for suppliers to position these products as the new standard and to make them more competitive.  That’s the only way the market will accept them.”

Kärcher offers environmentally friendly cleaning agents for professional use under the eco! Perform brand. These include building cleaning and vehicle washing products that hold international environmental certificates such as the EU Ecolabel or the Nordic Swan Ecolabel.

According to Rosenland, plenty of manufacturers in the professional cleaning sector are now offering their own eco-products in concentrated formats and in refillable containers.

“However, I think there has to be a change on both sides – both from the suppliers and the customers,” he said. “Customers have to place more focus on environmentally friendly cleaning, and suppliers need to position such products as the standard. But it is a process that will take time – particularly in those markets that are the most price-sensitive.”


Related Articles

Our Partners

  • ISSA Interclean
  • EFCI
  • EU-nited