The range of refill-at-home options for household cleaning product packaging has so far run the gamut—from concentrates in cartridges, sachets, and tablets to refills in pouches, cans, and bottles. Now New York, N.Y.-based brand Cleancult has added another alternative: product refills in paper-based gabletop cartons. According to company founder and CEO Ryan Lupberger, Cleancult is the first in the world to successfully use this type of packaging for soap and detergents.
As the story goes, Cleancult was founded in 2019 when Lupberger looked on the back of his laundry detergent bottle and didn’t recognize one ingredient on the list. This led him, along with co-founder Zachary Bedrosian, to design a cleaning system with zero single-use plastic waste packaging and clean formulations. Shares Lupberger, “Cleancult is dedicated to helping retailers reach their sustainability goals and reduce plastic waste in the cleaning aisle while also making sustainable cleaning options more accessible for customers.”
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Cleancult’s packaging system comprises a refillable, reusable, shatter-resistant glass bottle paired with Eco Refills in 32-oz cartons that together are said by the company to reduce plastic waste by 90%. In addition, it adds, by using this packaging system, consumers can save up to 55.8 lb of plastic per year.
“Unlike other sustainable alternatives such as concentrates, pouches, etc., Cleancult’s refillable system reduces the need for a user to change their behavior and allows them to easily transition from traditional household cleaning products to a more sustainable alternative,” explains Lupberger. “Once a customer purchases a refill carton and reusable dispenser, they just need to pour the product into the bottle. Unlike other products, such as concentrate tablets that require consumers to add water to create their own cleaning solutions, Cleancult is formulated and ready to use once purchased and transferred into its respective refillable container, ultimately making it easier for customers to swap to a more sustainable cleaning routine.”
To design the system’s triangular, beaker-shaped glass bottle, which Lupberger describes as “a blend of beauty, functionality, and sustainability,” Cleancult worked with industrial design agency Guerrera Office (formerly Vibility). “Every detail was carefully considered, from the geometric lines and clean silhouettes to the ergonomic design,” says Lupberger. “We also minimized the use of plastic to ensure a more sustainable solution that is even dishwasher safe. From the shatter-resistant glass to the protective silicone sleeve, the bottles are crafted with durability in mind, so they are meant for you to refill continuously and rely on them for a lifetime—they are the last bottle you will ever need to buy!”
The cartons, from a proprietary supplier, include layers of polyethylene, aluminum, and paper, with the paper being FSC-certified, “to ensure sustainability and responsible sourcing,” Lupberger notes. The cartons have been categorized by How2Recycle as being “broadly recyclable,” meaning that greater than 60% of the U.S. population has access to carton recycling, and bear the How2Recycle label.
Beginning as a digitally native brand, Cleancult has expanded since 2019 into retail stores that include Kohl’s, CVS, Walgreens, Meijer’s, and others. In March, it announced its products would be rolling out in Walmart, bringing its retail presence to 31,000 points of distribution. With this massive shift from its D2C roots, Cleancult redesigned the graphics for its packaging to ensure they would stand out on shelf while clearly communicating the company’s mission to reduce plastic waste for consumers.
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“We teamed up with [brand design agency] Robot Food to help elevate our brand identity and also redesign our packaging to have consumers connect our refill cartons directly with the reusable dispensers while in-store,” says Lupberger. “This resulted in our paper-based refill cartons featuring an image of the corresponding dispenser, and the refillable glass bottles now include a hangtag to visually correlate to the specific refill product.”
With the launch into Walmart, Cleancult also updated its scent portfolio to include fragrances that include Wild Lavender, Lemon Verbena, and Sea Minerals. Its products include liquid dish soap, hand soap, and laundry detergent along with reusable bottles in three sizes with different dispensing closures and in different colors, all available at retail and online at Cleancult.com and Amazon.com. At Walmart, Cleancult’s refill cartons start at $7.48, and the glass dispensers can be purchased for $8.98. PW