NATURE’S CLEANERS: The Next Phase of the Chemical-Free Movement
Globally, consumers have embraced organic foods and nontoxic cosmetics. Sirilak Narongtanupone of Pipper Standard explains why our homes and offices are the next places to be ridded of chemicals.
As COVID-19 continues to spread around the world, people are washing their hands more than ever—while also scrubbing their floors, wiping down their kitchens and taking a generally stricter line on overall cleanliness.
Sirilak Narongtanupone is seeing this firsthand. She is co-founder of Equator Pure Nature (EPN), the Bangkok-based company that sells all-natural household cleaning products under the brand Pipper Standard. As managing director of EPN, Sirilak oversees the company’s day-to-day operations in Thailand, China and more than a dozen other key sales markets in Asia and the Middle East. Later this year, Pipper Standard will launch in Western Europe for the first time.
Bangkok 101 caught up with Sirilak to talk about the global boom in sustainable, natural products and what it means for the cleaning industry in the COVID era.
With the pandemic, everyone is suddenly a “clean freak.” How is this situation impacting your business?
People are spending way more time at home than before—and they’re health conscious to a much greater degree. In every country our products are sold, we see people making greater efforts toward cleanliness and hygiene.
At Pipper Standard, we have seen some interesting trends, as people go from washing their hands a few times a day pre-COVID to washing them constantly now. For instance, many customers have told us they started using our liquid hand soap because it’s just as effective but doesn’t dry their hands the way traditional chemical soaps and alcohol disinfectants do.
How do natural cleaning products like yours compare with traditional cleaners as far as their ability to kill germs, disinfect and clean?
Since 2012, when our company was founded, we have run thousands of tests that all show our products clean as well as, or better than, chemical cleaners.
When COVID-19 hit, some people asked us whether our products kill germs. Maybe our pastel-green bottles give a feeling of harmlessness. What people may not know is that we use probiotic bacteria (including lactobacillus) to convert the sugar in Thai-grown pineapples into a powerful cleaning agent. Through this fermentation process, we get natural biosurfactants, organic acids and enzymes with antimicrobial properties.
Although natural, our liquid hand soap, floor cleaner, laundry detergent, stain remover and bathroom cleaner were all recently certified by two different international testing companies for having bactericidal effects on E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus, with a sterilization rate higher than 99%.
Do all of your products use the same basic cleaning solution?
Yes, it’s the same pineapple-based cleaning formula at the heart of all our products. We consider ourselves a cleantech company—and our technology is patented all over the world, including in the U.S., China, Europe, Singapore and other markets, collectively covering more than 70% of the world’s GDP.
What are some reasons people switch to natural cleaning products?
Many of our customers are parents who say they don’t want to expose their children to harmful chemicals. Living in the city we already contend with air pollution, of course, but that’s not something we have much control over. We can, however, determine what chemicals we bring inside our homes.
People switch to organic or sustainable products for many different reasons. In Asia, people use natural cleaners more for health reasons than eco reasons.
Our lifestyles today are much different than our ancestors’. Now more of us live in condos and work in offices. We don’t get as much airflow as in the past. So anything you bring into your home, you either touch it or you breathe it. Our company’s motto is: “A healthy environment starts at home.” In other words, we control what we can control.
What makes chemical products potentially hazardous?
A lot of people don’t know anything about the chemical ingredients in their products. There are several reasons why natural ingredients are better than petrochemical ones. One reason is that natural ingredients do not change their properties. A rock is a rock, even if it is subjected to acids or temperature changes or pressure.
On the other hand, petrochemical ingredients are derived from crude oil and they always want to revert to their original properties. Their molecules are not stable and when they change, they give off dangerous byproducts, including 1,4-Dioxane and formaldehyde, both of which can cause cancer. Why would we want to have these substances in our homes?
Pipper Standard was founded after your husband had an allergic reaction to a chemical cleaning product. Could you explain more?
My husband Peter Wainman had a debilitating allergic reaction to a chemical in a fabric softener in 2010. We threw out every chemical-based product in our house and tried to replace them with natural ones. But natural cleaning products of the quality we were looking for didn’t exist here at that time, so we decided to create them ourselves.
That was the birth of Pipper Standard. Peter had a background in engineering, with degrees from MIT and the University of California – Berkeley, as well as extensive experience in investment banking, and today he is our company’s CEO.
Our basic lesson is this: People with allergies or other health issues can live normal lives by adopting a “preventive approach” and avoiding chemicals or fragrances that stir up their allergies or health problems. Generally, people should be cautious about chemical exposure, since there is a risk it can lead to health problems in the future. The better way is to avoid it altogether and embrace as much of a natural lifestyle as possible.
Pipper Standard products are widely available in Thailand. The brand launched at Tesco Lotus in 2019 and at 7-Eleven online and Lemon Farm this year. It is also sold through Lazada, Shopee, Organic Pavilion, Watsons online, JD and www.PipperStandard.com.