How re-thinking the business model for cleaning products can influence design

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Splosh How re-thinking the business model for cleaning products can influence design

Splosh sells customers a one-off ‘starter box’, containing a range of simply designed bottles. A sachet of concentrated liquid is added to the bottle with warm tap water to create cleaning products. Bottles can be used repeatedly, with refill sachets delivered in boxes through the post.

Angus Grahame set up Splosh in 2012 with the idea that there must be an opportunity to sell household cleaning products outside of the supermarkets using a ‘one time sale’ model.

Angus also looked into how these could be sold online but the typical size and weight of the products made this difficult. As a result, he began looking into how these could be completely redesigned for a new e-commerce business model.

With Splosh, instead of buying new bottles filled with product on a weekly basis, customers purchase a one-off ‘starter box’, containing a range of simply designed bottles. Inside each bottle is a sachet of concentrated liquid – customers just add warm tap water to create cleaning products that Splosh claim clean with comparable effectiveness to competitors. These bottles can be used repeatedly, with refill sachets delivered in boxes through the post.

If the bottle is reused 20 times it means 95% less packaging waste

This system has necessitated a complete redesign of many standard household cleaning products. The first step was to create a completely new, concentrated form of cleaning fluids – a more difficult task than just removing the water – and the main challenge faced was in finding chemists that had suitable expertise. After creating the concentrate, packaging was chosen. The film pouch that holds the fluid is PVOH(polyvinyl alcohol), a dissolvable material used in a variety of industries. In this case it was an especially useful design choice, as once dissolved, PVOH actually improves the product, adding viscosity and a mild cleaning action to the mixed solution. The other aspect was the external packaging. This needed to be durable, but also integrate with the postage model. Packages left on doorsteps or returned to sender would be inconvenient, so the box was designed to fit through a letterbox, and is classed as a ‘large letter’ by the UK’s Royal Mail.

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As for the contents, the company has gone ‘as far as possible’ in making sure used liquids can safely be returned to the biological cycle. Extra effort has gone into making appealing fragrances, as Angus knows that in order for this to be a mainstream product, Splosh must compete on performance and price, as well as convenience.

One of the design principles of a circular economy is that biological and technical materials should be easily separated. However, in the current model for cleaning products, and elsewhere in the fast-moving consumer goods sector, they are supplied and treated as one. Although something like detergent may only be used for a few months, the plastic bottle in which it comes is in many respects designed to last, yet at best is processed through a traditional recycling route after just one use. In the redesigned Splosh model, the two very different methods employed for the durable plastic bottle and the single-use biological liquid enable more effective end-of-life routes.

Angus says that rethinking the business model and ‘re-writing the rulebook’ on packaging has opened up other opportunities, for instance around marketing. Since they’re not sold on a shelf, Splosh products don’t have be designed to fight for attention with other brands. In addition, the new relationship with the customer opens up a direct marketing channel, an extremely valuable way of communicating with users.

For more information see https://www.splosh.com