I received an email from a PR consultant a few months ago asking if I would be willing to try some cleaning products that were plant-based rather than the traditional chemically made options. “Sure,” I responded, “although I don’t give any guarantees that I’ll write a review and if I do, I won’t guarantee that it will be flashy and positive.”

So, on this understanding they forwarded me a sample range of Ecostore’s products; hand soap, 2 x soap bars, laundry washing powder and some cream cleanser. My initial reaction, upon receiving these samples, was that they looked quite impressive. Their labelling and packaging was extremely minimalist – no glossy printing colours and each package was recyclable (except for the cream cleanser – not sure what that was!).

The one thing that stood out for me when I was approached by the PR guy was the claim that these products were plant-based. In a previous life, I worked for a franchised detergent company selling cleaning products to restaurants, hotels, motels etc. One of our tasks was to make the cleaning products ourselves by following certain formulae using bags of ‘stuff’, all of it chemical. Caustic soda, hydrochloric acid, fragrances, colours – all chemical. So a plant-based alternative, I was very interested.

Now, while I’m a domesticated male, I work a 4-day-week job plus run my blogs and websites. So, it was my wife who tried these because she uses them more than I do. And her responses were;

Laundry Powder – while it was simple to use she found that the clothes didn’t come out any cleaner and actually missed some of the stains. Plus, the lack of fragrance in the product meant that you could still smell remnant odours. At comparably twice the price of store-bought laundry powders this was not going to make it onto our shelves anytime soon.

Soap Bars – these were delicious, especially the lemongrass based one. It made a great lather and I always felt cleaner after having a shower. Comparable to other organic soaps (we’re not just talking traditional soap with organic fragrance here) these are on the cheaper end of the spectrum.

Hand soap – my wife’s reaction to this one was that the fragrance left on your hands after cleaning was too subtle. For me, this was great as I hate my hands smelling like lavender, rose petals or citrus peel just before you’re about to cook – unless, of course, you’re using those ingredients in your cooking.

Cream Cleanser – to be honest, we haven’t tried this product yet. We rarely use traditional cream cleansers anyway but we shall in time.
One of the interesting nuances of these products were the “No Nasty Chemicals” signs labelled significantly on each of these packages; NO toxic petro chemicals; NO synthetic dyes etc. One of the chemical warnings we found on the laundry powder and cream cleanser were “No EDTA”. Not knowing what EDTA was we could safely assume that it was bad, or at least ‘nasty’. Surprisingly though, the warning didn’t make it onto the soap bars and on closer inspection we noticed that indeed it was one of the actual ingredients.

Now I’m not sure how nasty EDTA is – to be honest, I’m still not sure what it is. But, apparently it’s nasty enough to engage a warning on some products yet on the flip-side be okay as ingredients in others. Go figure…

I was suitably impressed with their other ingredients though. As they claim to only use plant-based ingredients and simple mineral salts it was refreshing to read their recipe list; chalk, Xanthum gum, coconut strands, Cow’s milk and sodium palmate (a Palm Oil and Lye solution).

Where can you get these products? If you live in New Zealand (the homeland of the manufacturer) or Australia then there are a plethora of locations to source them. In the US, you have a dedicated online store while in the UK and a few other countries you can source them through third-party online stores.

Reading through Ecostore’s website, they have many testimonials from people who have suffered rashes and skin diseases and possibly this is where their market lies. As for mainstream cleaning products I’m sure Proctor & Gamble and Unilever’s oligopoly is quite secure.