Making a splash
20 February 2015
Water-soluble cleaning products are beginning to capture the imagination of the cleaning industry according to Soluclean, a pioneer of the technology. The company sat down with Cleaning Matters to explain why
Water-soluble film packaging has a long history in markets such as agriculture where sachets were used to protect farmers and gardeners from pesticides. It also found use for embroiderers to follow intricate patterns and then simply wash away the film when the embroidery is completed. The use of water soluble laundry bags in hospitals for handling infected linen is also a long standing application.
However its wide acceptance, in particularly retail cleaning products, is relatively new with the majors only launching retail laundry sachets in the 90’s. Now, there are many shelves stacked high in supermarkets with cleaning products in water soluble sachets. In HI&I (house, industrial and institution) cleaning the uptake has not been as rapid – until now. Company Soluclean says that it is really making an impact in the cleaning services market with this technology.
The advantage of water-soluble film, as the name illustrates, is its ability to completely dissolve upon contact with water. And, as the technology becomes more sophisticated, its potential is being revisited by a range of industries including cleaning.
Today, Soluclean has the capacity to produce more than 30 million sachets annually of pre-dosed concentrated, multi-surface cleaning products encapsulated in water-soluble film to meet industry demand. So why is the market finally ready for it?
According to director Jon Horton, who launched Soluclean in 2009, combining pre-dosed chemicals with water-soluble film taps into several key trends.
"More companies and organisations are aware of their corporate social responsibilities and are looking to monitor their carbon footprint. They've got to be seen to be doing something about their waste and using greener products – without spending more money or compromising on high standards of cleanliness and infection prevention," he says.
"By using pre-dosed chemicals, savings can be made on energy and water consumption, emissions and packaging waste as compared to the costs associated with transporting and storing ready-to-use water-based products. The long-term benefits of using Soluclean can also be measured in terms of environmental impact. By using the Soluclean range of pre-dosed sachets for use with the re-usable trigger spray bottles, you are not only minimising the disposal of plastics to landfill but reducing the number of vehicles on the road that cause pollution and damage."
The water-soluble sachets fit the growing requirement for 'easy to use' cleaning products as the complicated measuring of chemicals, which is synomous with more traditional chemicals, is avoided. They are also said to cut costs by eliminating overdosing and reducing health and safety risks – an area of increasing concern among businesses. "The water-soluble sachets prevent operatives from coming into direct contact with the concentrates, and because they dissolve in water there is no need to pour the chemicals into a bucket or machine, removing the risk of splashback," Jon explains.
Put to the test
The penny started to drop for contract cleaners and FM companies in the UK 18 months ago when Soluclean, which sells through distributers, began to talk to end users directly and set up free product trials. The conversion in the last six months has been around 85%.
Overseas the company has already made significant headway thanks to a major export drive over the last three years. Exhibiting at shows all over the world, Soluclean has managed to secure strong partnerships with distributors in India, South Africa and Australia, boosting international sales to 70% of its business.
Jon says: "There's a real interest in the concept and a real demand to improve the cleaning of facilities in these markets. They've also got the issues that we've got of the need to reduce waste and reduce the transport costs of getting the products around the country – especially countries with vast distances."
To meet demand, Soluclean moved its manufacturing in-house one year ago to premises near Leeds. Products are also stored and distributed at the site, which is set for expansion.
Solupak's manufacturing expertise has been enhanced by the appointment of Alex Thompson as general manager. He says: "Moving the manufacturing in-house gives us a lot more control of stocks and logistics, as well as a lot more opportunity for product development and innovation."
Innovation has been pivotal to the growing interest in water-soluble products. In response to customer feedback, Soluclean's initial range of hard surface cleaners has been expanded to over 30 products including toilet descalers, floor cleaners and laundry detergents. In March, Soluclean will launch the Compact range – boxes of 20 sachets for multiple cleaning tasks at smaller sites, as well as a range of EU Ecolabel compliant products.
Jon says: "We're a hugely sustainable business already. Our products are also certified by Cruelty Free International as 'free from animal testing' and the Green Tourism programme. But having the Ecolabel completes the picture as we can also say that the chemicals in our products are environmentally-friendly too."
The ripple effect
Adopting pre-dosed concentrated cleaning products encapsulated in water-soluble film will require many companies to completely reassess their business processes and culture. But following successful product performance trials, more are prepared to make the switch. One of Soluclean's first contract fulfillments in 2015 is to supply a leading London transport provider with their chemicals.
Jon concludes: "We're confident that these sorts of contract wins will open doors for us. As one FM company once said to me, 'We don't want to be the guinea pigs – we're going to wait until one of our competitors uses it'. Now, as they start to see other businesses use our products, they will feel more confident about introducing them into their own company."