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Surface cleaning with a clean conscience

04 March 2022

Cleaning Matters speaks to Michael Lawrence about a NEW narrative in surface cleaners which he believes provides a sincere eco-conscience.

Throughout the pandemic and with so much focus on COVID-19, did this impact on the importance of sustainability for businesses?

Data would certainly suggest two key consumer trends took place at the very height of COVID-19 with regards surface cleaners.  For one thing many consumers abandoned own-label offerings for trusted brands and for another, brands with a more plant-based, eco-ethical mindset often found themselves substituted for more over-engineered, old-school propositions that prioritised their bacteria & virus killing prowess.

This was certainly no rejection of sustainability, (which is irrefutably here to stay) but more of a short-term, knee-jerk reaction as consumers defaulted to what they knew best.  

There was also the second point that much of what the eco-ethical producers championed simply didn’t ring true.  Outside the small matter of whether anti-bacterials can truly kill COVID-19, were more deep-rooted questions such as how can a brand be truly sustainable if it advocates single-use plastic bottles, holds precious water hostage in aforementioned bottles, dabbles in synthetic fragrances, which are often a further source of needless air pollution and champions a vast, unwieldly range when one or two multi-purpose propositions would surely suffice?  

The good news is that such a realisation has brought about an avalanche of meaningful product evolution of which Cert is certainly at the fore, but other equally valiant brands like neat, Splosh and Ocean Saver are also carving out unique category visions.     

Cert in a nutshell offers a third clear pathway versus the over-engineered detergents of yesteryear and the melee of well-intentioned plant-based cleaners. Cert straddles a growing clamour for sustainable, ‘planet responsible’ surface cleaners that strike just the right balance of being unforgiving on bacteria and viruses YET remain in tune with wider sustainable priorities.

In essence Cert is a compact, hard-working pre-dosed tablet (with a near neutral PH6) that’s a 2-in-1 disinfectant and detergent, which when dissolved with tap water complies with UK Health Security guidelines regarding the use of a combined detergent & disinfectant at a recommended dilution of 1,000 parts per million available chlorine.  As such, Cert stands tall, offering hospital-grade, anti-viral protection, which kills 99.9% of all bacteria and enveloped viruses including Covid-19, Delta and Omicron and is equally adept on hard & soft surfaces.

What were the main drivers behind the focus on recycling?

Whilst Cert is a new arrival to the homecare spray fray, its mother company Hydrachem has been plying its trade for some 50 years. Hydrachem is a British-born company and an established voice in the fields of water disinfection and purification, so understands better than most the compelling necessity to preserve precious water supplies in the eco-system and not trap this precious resource in single-use plastic bottles that are needlessly squirreled away in warehouses and slow-moving container ships. Today Hydrachem operates in excess of 60 countries, working with leading non-profit organisations, global healthcare institutions and the universally admired NHS.  

‘Clearly, Cert doesn’t have the same scale of operation as a number of our global surface cleaner peers, however we have seen first hand, working alongside a number of internationally admired charities the crushing hardships that severe water deprivation creates.’

What are the primary challenges for the surface cleaner sector?

Today we live in an increasingly inquisitive world where consumers are less compelled than ever to simply take a brand’s word for what it professes to do.  Marketing gobbledy-gook certainly has less cut-through than ever, with enquiring minds wanting to see far more in the way of independent online reviews, impartial expert advice and cast-iron industry assurances; which is precisely why Cert insists on following strict UK Security Agency guidelines concerning chlorine dilution.

The arrival of ‘new thinking’ disruptors is nothing new but has certainly accelerated in a digital age where online stores and digital campaigns means that high profile product sectors can no longer be dominated by the major multinationals with the deepest pockets.  As in food & drink, health supplements and pet food before (to name but a few), homecare is no longer an aisle where ‘young pretenders’ with bold visions can be excluded.

Where are we now?

Eighteen months down the line from when the pandemic first struck, surface care sales, which were not so long ago off the scale, have finally returned to a more realistic trajectory, an inevitable consequence of Covid-19 becoming both better understood and an unwelcome constant in our evolving everyday lifestyles.

Cert trials both in homes and across a number of small businesses (cafes, dentists, hairdressers, nail shops, funeral parlours…..) have certainly uncovered a couple of intriguing truths.  For one thing consumers like the clear, uncoloured transparency of the product and the easy-to-use and store nature of the compact, effervescent tablets.  Curiously the light waft of chlorine as opposed to wild rhubarb, summer peach or spiced apple is seen as a real plus, both honest and reassuring, further underpinning the brand’s hospital-grade pedigree, whilst reassuring consumers that potential bacteria and viruses are being tackled head on     

Addressing real challenges facing the surface cleaner category

This is a moving feast that won’t be resolved in one fell swoop.  One recent decision we’ve made in time for our March 2022 launch is to reinforce the fact that sustainability comes in many guises.  Like me, the Cert senior management team were adamant that 10% of bottom-line profits must be re-invested in urgent water purification projects within some of the planet’s most water-deprived communities, because securing sustainable water sources for human use sits at the very heart of what we believe.

It's also worth noting that we have a key role in reassuring the wider public not only about chlorine’s wider cleaning merits but our commitment to use it responsibly.  To reiterate Cert has a near neutral Ph of 6 as we align with UK Health Security guidelines regarding the use of a combined detergent & disinfectant at a recommended dilution of 1,000 parts per million available chlorine.  This is in stark contrast to a number of the highly corrosive, old-school detergents that operate at 6x this strength. 

Five days after the Cert tablet has been activated by the addition of tap water its chlorine strength has dissipated to such a level that it can be poured down the toilet, providing one further cleansing function before heading down the drain. 

What future plans are there to reduce the plastic footprint?

During our initial 2021 trial we sold our tablets in compact plastic tubes.  On reflection we appreciate that every opportunity must be taken to reduce our plastic footprint, which is why from Spring 2022 our tablet holding plastic tubes will be replaced by recyclable cardboard blister packs which will further reduce our single-plastic footprint. 

In conclusion

All product sectors require genuine category agitators who ensure that new ideas keep coming to the fore. Cert won’t be for everyone but you have to think that the homecare & business cleaner aisles would be far less cluttered and easy-to-understand if more retailers & distributors focused on versatile, one-stop products as opposed to needlessly meandering product ranges. 

Michael Lawrence is Cert sales director

For more information visit Certcleaning.com