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cleaning group
Forget the bargains to be had in purchasing jumbo-sizes of cleaning products at warehouse clubs. You deserve the best to make scrubbing fun.
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Good Scents

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

KAREN HOCHMAN
is the editorial director of THE NIBBLE.

 

April 2006
Updated November 2006

Home Zone / Good Scents / Household Cleansers & Laundry Products

Spring Cleaning ... Holiday Cleaning

Scrub to the Scent of Your Favorite Foods

 

 

CAPSULE REPORT: Why scrub the sink or clean your counters with harsh-smelling bleach- or ammonia-based products, when you can do as good a cleaning job while you enjoy the scent of a French herb garden or a pink grapefruit? We’ve been cleaning with three “designer” brands, Caldrea, Method and Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day, and and they actually make cleaning fun while doing as good a job as the “tough stuff.”  We’re hooked! We only live once, so we’re giving up jumbo-sized value-priced cleaners from warehouse clubs. We’re now full-fledged, food-fragranced, boutique-brand cleaning commandos!

Even if nothing makes you happier than a fresh-scrubbed kitchen or bath, those noxious scents from commercial cleansers don’t make getting to the end goal a joyous journey. A pleasing fragrance makes the task more enjoyable to scrub-lovers as well as to those who hate to as much as wipe down a counter. Harsh chemical odors aside, pleasant scents create an “experience” and express individuality as much as one’s personal fragrances.

In recent years, companies that make some of the big brands in the $3 billion cleaning products category have acknowledged both personas and have introduced milder-fragrance formulations (like Fantastik® Orange Action). Those cover up—a bit—of the chemical aromas of their predecessors. The growth of organic food store chains, like Whole Foods Markets and Wild Oats, have introduced more people to “green products,” previously sought largely by those with prominent environmental or allergen concerns. They are gentle with nice fragrances, but are still commercially-made—i.e., not of the highest grade materials.

That honor belongs to a handful of boutique companies that are green, but first and foremost fashionable. This growing category began with The Good Home Co. which, in 1995, launched the first fragranced line of chic but gentle, earth-friendly house cleaning and laundry products*. Since THE NIBBLE’s focus is food scents, our “moment” begins with the launch of Caldrea Company in 2002. Since then, a number of companies have gotten into the act; as well as companies that simply exist to private-label product lines to specialty stores. Of course, as with food products, just because a cleaning line sounds delicious doesn’t mean that it delivers on its promise. So we sprayed and wiped and scrubbed and laundered our way through many bottles’ worth, and vote for:

*The Good Home Co. is not included in this review because its two main fragrance lines are not food-focused.

Overview

Is there a difference? Absolutely! They all did their cleaning jobs well, but each product line has different items, scents, styles of packaging and price points.

  • METHOD and the slightly costlier MRS. MEYER’S are priced to sell at the high end of fine supermarket products. Method is a futuristic “Jetsons” look, while Mrs. Meyer’s looks like it came from the country store. Method is the largest of the lines. There are products for every dedicated purpose, from stainless steel to wood.
  • NEU HOMECARE, in the middle price range of the group, strikes a nice chord with its elegant Eurostyle packaging, making its gift package appropriate for cleaners of both genders.
  • CALDREA has been a hot gift shop item since its introduction, and includes gifty items such as matching scented candles. It’s pretty and pricey and we wouldn’t spend our own money on it, but we love to receive it as gifts.

Each brand has cleaning products made from essential oils—natural, not artificial, scents that take housekeeping to a new level for food enthusiasts, in food scents like basil blue sage, pink grapefruit and lemon verbena.  Some have laundry products as well as household cleansers.

  • The products are naturally-derived, phosphate-free, biodegradable and not tested on animals. Instead of the chemicals on the labels of mass-marketed cleaners, you’ll notice dish soaps made of soap bark extract and countertop sprays made of vegetable protein extract, e.g.
  • There are no corrosives. Gentle formulations are easy on the skin—and on and the lungs, too. Yet, the products get things clean!
  • The packaging is attractive—there’s no need to rush to hide cleaning products under the sink. They’re meant to look good on countertops.
  • Yet the main reason most people spend the extra money—$4.99 on a can of powdered scrub with lemon verbena instead of 79 cents on a can of Comet® powder with bleach—are the scents. They transport one from the drudgery of the scullery to—if one can make the analogy—a spa-like experience with one’s chores.

How Well Do They Clean? We found that all of the products worked exactly as they should. The powdered scrubs worked as well as Comet®, the all-purpose cleaners were as effective as our Orange Fantastik®. And the laundry products made us positively dance with the lovely fragrance they imparted to our sheets, towels and duds.

  • It’s important to note that our home doesn’t have “tough stains” like the homes in the T.V. commercials. We do not require industrial-strength cleaners. If we were taking on a monster cleaning project, we might consider the strongest products we could find.

How To Choose The Scent? Scent preferences are highly individual. Even names like “lavender” or “citrus” don’t help much. As with a shelf of perfumes similarly labeled, it’s each individual’s nose-to-product experience. Ideally, you’ll be able to sniff things out at a store that carries the line; but the good thing about cleaning products is that you’ll always need to buy more of them soon. You can start at the beginning of the list and work your way to the end until you’ve found your” fragrance(s).

Caldrea

 

Why It’s Different: Caldrea is the high-end choice, a line designed to look like what ladies who lunch would have on their kitchen counters. Positioned as a line of aromatherapy-based cleaning products, it features multiple-note scents (e.g., citrus + mint + ylang ylang) rather than single notes like the other brands. It is sold largely through gift shops, and at price points intended for gifting.

  • BucketThe essential oils and other plant-derived ingredients are cosmetic-grade quality.
  • The company also makes cleaning tools—brushes, feather dusters, cloths, and an attractive 8-quart bucket (photo at right), which matches several of the different fragrance lines. So, a nice gift package can be put together for a bridal shower, a college graduate, or any friend who just loves to clean.

Caldrea Company also owns Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day (see below) and makes private-label products for high-end retailers like Williams-Sonoma.

Fragrance Products Example
Basil Blue Sage: A French herb garden blend of basil, blue sage, rosemary and thyme, touched with cinnamon and spearmint.
  • All-Purpose Cleaner
  • Dish Soap Liquid
  • Countertop Cleanser
  • Fabric Softener
  • Hand Soap
  • Hand Lotion
  • Laundry Detergent
  • Linen Spray
  • Stainless Steel
    Spray
  • Powdered Scrub

Countertop Cleaner
Basil Blue Sage Countertop Cleaner

Citrus Mint Ylang Ylang: A sophisticated blend of orange, lemon and bergamot. Resembles the smell of citrus incense.

Same as above plus:

  • Shower Spray
  • Window Spray
Dish Liquid
Citrus Mint Ylang Ylang Dish Soap Liquid
Green Tea Patchouli: Refreshing, earthy aroma of patchouli, a small shrub found in Southeast Asia, along with green tea undertones.
  • Same
Green Tea Scrub
Citrus Ylang Ylang Powdered Scrub

Other scents available include Lavender Pine, White Clover and White Tea  (complete line); Rose Pink Peppercorn and Rose Tobacco (powder room products and linen spray); and Sweet Pea Baby (baby products).

Most products $8.00 to $12.00; laundry products are in larger sizes and cost $15.00 to $16.00. They can be purchased at fine retailers or online at Caldrea.com. For all products in this article, product availability is verified at publication but is subject to change.

Sink Set Mini Sink Set Candle
Basil Blue Sage Sink Set Citrus Mint Ylang Ylang Mini Sink Set Green Tea Patchouli Candle

 

Method

 

Why It’s Different: Method truly “has it all”—great fragrance, product performance and style. It also has the best selection of pure fruit† scents: based in downtown San Francisco not far from the famous Farmers market at the Ferry Building, all that fresh fruit may be its inspiration. The brand is mass-distributed (e.g. grocery and drug chains, Target).

  • It’s apparent that the company cares about the environment, not just fragrance and packaging. They explain how the naturally-derived surfactants (cleansing agents) in the all-purpose spray and wipes, e.g., work by absorbing dirt rather than by chemically degrading it.
  • Caldrea is pretty, but we like the unisex packaging the best, designed by Karim Rashid: the Dish Soap and Cleaning Wipes containers evoke the Jetsons. The containers and their plastic-coated labels are also the most durable.
  • Most fun riff: instead of an ammonia-scented blue glass cleaner, you can get one that smells like mint!

†To sharp-eyed people who look at the list below: from a botanical point-of-view, the cucumber is actually a fruit, not a vegetable. Mint, we grant you, is an herb.

Fragrance Products Example
Cucumber: Smells like freshly cut cucumber slices.
  • All-Purpose Spray
  • Cleaning Wipes
  • Dish[washer] Cubes
  • Dish Soap
Cleaning Wipes
Cleaning Wipes
Pink Grapefruit: Bold, rejuvenating grapefruit aroma. Permeates the room.
  • Same As Above
Dish Cubes
Dish Cubes
Mandarin Orange: Refreshing honey tangerine-like essences.
  • Dish Soap
Dish Soap
All Purpose Spray
Mint: Invigorating minty scent.
  • Dish Soap
  • Window Wash
Glass Spray

The four main cleaning products also are available in French Lavender. In addition, there are specialty sprays (bathroom, premium surfaces, wood); a laundry line (HE-compatible detergent, baby detergent, fabric softener and dryer sheets); a hand and body line (hand washes, body wash, lotions, hand sanitizer); and aircare (spray, candle, capsule, and pill).

Cleaning products are $4.00 to $5.00. Purchase at fine retailers or online at MethodHome.com.

Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day

 

Why It’s Different. Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day is owned by the Caldrea Company. It’s the company’s “value brand,” with most products priced $4.99 to $7.99 instead of Caldrea’s $8.00 to $12.00 price points, and has begun to get broader distribution at upscale household retailers and grocery chains like Whole Foods Markets. The packaging is the most basic of the three brands and the fragrances are one-note instead of its multi-note sibling. But the product line is as extensive as its pricey sister, and you can get essentially the same cleaning ingredients for 40% less cost than Caldrea.

  • Mrs. Meyer’s has only three fragrances. Two of the three fragrances, Lemon Verbena and Lavender are cooking herbs (note that Caldrea and Method also have lavender-based products, but we didn’t focus on them because of the variety of other fragrances).
  • There’s a Toilet Bowl Cleaner, Carpet Cleaner and Wood Furniture Cream.
Fragrance Products Example

Lavender: A soothing, tranquilizing scent believed to relieve fatigue, this fragrance includes essential oils of lavender and orange.

  • All-Purpose Cleaner
  • Candle
  • Carpet Cleaner
  • Countertop Spray
  • Dish Soap
  • Dishwashing Liquid
  • Hand Lotion
  • Hand Soap
  • Shower Cleaner
  • Shower Cleaner
  • Soap Bar
  • Stainless Steel
    Spray
  • Surface Scrub
  • Surface Wipes
  • Toilet Bowl Cleaner
  • Window Spray
  • Wood Furniture
    Cream
  • Plus laundry line
    below
Countertop Spray
Countertop Spray

Cleaning Wipes
Surface Wipes
Lemon Verbena: Soft lemony notes followed by a light citrus fragrance.  The refreshing scent is considered to be an invigorating pick-me-up.

All of the above plus:

  • Dryer Sheets
  • Fabric Softener
  • Ironing Spray
  • Laundry Detergent
  • Stain Remover
  • Unmentionable Wash
Laundry
Laundry Line

There are two gift kits: a Carry-All Cleaning Kit in a cardboard tote (All-Purpose Cleaner, Counter Top Spray, Dish Soap, Liquid Hand Soap) and a boxed Basic Cleaning Kit (All Purpose Cleaner, Dish Soap, Soap Bar, Window Spray, Wood Furniture Cream).

Prices are $4.99 and $7.99 for most items. Purchase at fine retailers or online at MrsMeyers.com.

Carryall Basic Cleaning Kit  
Carry-All Cleaning Kit Basic Cleaning Kit  


NEU Homecare

 

Why It’s Different: NEU homecare combines the best of all worlds. With elegant and graceful packaging that looks like a “home accessory” rather than a “cleaning product,” it is nice for gift-giving, with lovely scents. Sophisticated, unisex Eurostyle packaging and scents are a contrast to Caldrea’s more feminine presentation. The Gift Pak would be welcomed by your favorite Metrosexual.

Fragrance Products Example
Coconut Lime Verbena: A soothing blend of creamy coconut, tangy lime and aromatic verbena—a retreat to a clean and crisp tropical island.
  • All-Purpose Cleaner
  • Automatic Dishsoap
  • Disposer Cleaner
  • Floor Cleaner
  • Sinktop Dish Soap
  • Window Cleaner

coconut cleaner
Coconut Lime Verbena Window Cleaner

Lemon Mint: Made from the purple horse mint or lemon beebalm, the scent is an assertive mint with citrus undertones.
  • All-Purpose Cleaner
  • Floor Cleaner
  • Sinktop Dish Soap
lemon mint cleaner
Lemon Mint All-Purpose Cleaner
Rain: A clean and uplifting scent, reminiscent of a summer-time rain storm. 
  • All-Purpose Cleaner
  • Automatic Dishsoap
  • Floor Cleaner
  • Sinktop Dish
    Soap
  • Window Cleaner
rain cleaner
Rain Automatic Dishwashing Liquid
Rosemary Grapefruit: An aromatic combination of piquant grapefruit and fragrant rosemary.
  • All-Purpose Cleaner
  • Automatic Dishsoap
  • Disposer Cleaner
  • Floor Cleaner
  • Sinktop Dish
    Soap
  • Window Cleaner
grapefruit cleaner
Rosemary Grapefruit Disposer Cleaner

There’s also a non-scented stainless steel cleaner. Most products are between $6.95 to Neu Kitchencare Kit$9.95. Two assembled packages are available for $37.95: the Gift Pack (All Purpose Cleaner, Automatic Dishwashing Liquid, Disposer Cleaner, Floor Cleaner, Sinktop Dish Soap) and Kitchencare Kit (All Purpose Cleaner, Automatic Dishwashing Liquid, Floor Cleaner, , Manual Dish Soap, Window Cleaner—photo at left). NEU Homecare products can be purchased online at NeuCleaners.com.

Whichever cleaning choice you make, you’ll be be cleaning much more happily. Put on some calming music, and cleaning with these gentle, fragrant products can almost seem like a spa activity.



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