When it comes to washing your clothes, there seems to be a dearth of eco-friendly choices with most people forced to gravitate towards one of the big laundry detergent brands stocked at the supermarket. It usually boils down to scent or a powder or liquid, and that’s about it. However in recent years, as more people develop sensitivities and allergies or even with suddenly having a new bub in the house, people have been forced to rethink their laundry detergent choices.
Today, we sit down with Frankie Layton, founder of Aussie-based The Dirt Company and find out how and why she spent 10 years creating an effective, sustainable laundry detergent free from synthesised chemicals (yes, plant-based and organic ingredients rule here). Couple this with packaging that would not look out of place in even the most minimalist lover’s home and you have a winner. Read on to find out more about why liquid is better than powder and more tips on how to get your laundry in tip-top shape!
1. Give us a brief background of DIRT and what made you decide to launch the brand?
My first job out of school was as a stewardess on a boat. During an Atlantic crossing, I saw a colleague throwing full garbage bags overboard. I was shocked, I’d seen a pod of 80 dolphins bow riding the boat not 10 minutes earlier. He was shocked that I was. At the time it was perfectly normal. Where did I think the trash would go?
I spent the next few years on this topic. Here’s what I learnt.
- Rubbish does not go away. It gets moved.
- Between 9-12% of plastic gets recycled in Australia. It’s cheaper to create then recycle; and waste is an economy.
- People care, but mostly will only act if it doesn’t inconvenience them.
I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I realised that the only way to create change, is to invent better products and better systems so people can adopt them without compromise.
I spent nearly a decade thinking about what and how to create this product. 2 years ago I launched the Dirt Company. Our mission is to make products that do less harm, a better choice for everyone. We launched our mission with a laundry detergent that is high performing; made from 100% biodegradable ingredients; reduces plastic by up to 90%, and donates 50% of our profits to The Ocean Cleanup.
2. What made you decide upon laundry detergent as your starting product? Tell us more about the detergent. Why liquid over powder?
I’d just moved in with my best friend who has quite sensitive skin, so for the first time in my life I was really thinking about what I was purchasing for our laundry. I wanted something that worked, that didn’t irritate (liquid is better for this), that was affordable and always available, and most importantly, that considered the environmental impact from a packaging point of view as well as a ingredient point of view.
I couldn’t find the feel good / work well product I was looking for, which is how I landed on laundry detergent.
3. What are some challenges you faced when starting out with The Dirt Company?
Oh everything! In the beginning, it was just working out how to create the best product. Sustainability is not simple, and sometimes what you think is an obvious choice turns out to be the more damaging one.
Then, we had to learn how to sell our product. Navigating this was quite difficult, the internet is big and moves rapidly. Carving out our footprint was a big job.
Then, once it got going and the sales were ticking over, we had to learn how to run a business! It was a baptism of fire – still is some days! I guess that’s part of the fun.
4. What makes your laundry detergent stand out among the other competitors in the market?
Our crusade is to make products that do less harm, a better choice.
Our detergent is high performing, made from plant based and organic cleaning ingredients, and is delivered to your door in a dispenser bottle with refill packs to keep it topped up.
This reduces the amount of plastic per load by up to 90% compared to supermarket liquid brands. We then reuse all returned packaging through our refill return program effectively eliminating waste. We also donate 50% of our profits to The Ocean Cleanup.
Our detergent is also Australian made, delivered to your door (for free to all Australian major and regional cities), and very affordable (just $0.33c per load).
When I started the company, I wrote a list called “why my product is better than yours”, and although there’s different reasons against other alternatives, we feel really comfortable that overall, we’ve created a really strong alternative.
5. Is your laundry detergent safe for baby clothing as well as fabrics such as wool and cashmere?
Absolutely to the baby clothing. We’d really recommend sticking to a delicates detergent for your delicates. We’ve written about why in detail here.
Editor’s note: For more laundry tips and tricks, we really recommend you check out Dirt’s fabulous blog which answers your most searched questions such as ‘How often should I wash my blue jeans?’
6. What are some ‘funny’ misconceptions about having a clean load of laundry?
For a lot of people smelling really strongly of something clean does equal clean. In a way, it’s true. You don’t want your clothes smelling bad.
Where some people get confused is around synthetic vs natural scents. Natural scents add a nice smell to the mix, ours is a combination of five scents and smells like a spring morning. Synthetic scents can actually bond to bad odours, meaning that if you’ve got really heavily soiled clothes and your using more synthetic chemical to get rid of it, you’re not actually washing the scent away, you’re masking it.
Another funny misconception that exist because of the way we’ve been advertised to, is the role of bubbles! Bubbles don’t make things cleaner, they make things bubble. It’s crazy because even as I switch to natural shampoos etc, I find myself wondering where my bubble are at. It’s hard to get out of your head. We’ve written about all this in detail on our blog!
7. What is next for the brand? What other products do you have in the making?
We do, but unfortunately we’re staying tight lipped this time. We tried to get a dishwashing detergent going a couple of months ago, but we didn’t crack it from an ingredients perspective so we had to put the project on pause. We’re hoping for a better outcome with our next product!
8. Who do you follow on Instagram for inspiration?
There are so many great eco-influencers who I think are doing a great job of education people without bringing them down. Jasmine from Ethical Made Easy is one of our favourites. I also and inspired by photographers and designers both in and out of the space. _PlasticMonster_ makes quite thought provoking work, as does Tamara Dean and Mandy Barker. Of course we’re also big fans of The Ocean Cleanup, and follow their journey closely.
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