The household packaging space usually is not one to show off fancy designs and neat packaging. However, many brands in the sector have worked on sustainable efforts for their packaging — and the product inside.

Mintel reports that 37% of household care buyers in the U.K. say that product refills are the way to go, and that refill services would encourage them to choose one retailer over another. Many stores in the U.K. have seen independent packaging-free refill stores, though the U.S. is yet to see its share.

We talked with Alex Reed, co-founder of Truman’s, a household cleaning brand that just launched last year. The company’s surface cleaning products for appliances and kitchen surfaces, floors, showers and glass surfaces have fun names, which is part of the appeal.

Just three months ago, Alex and co-founder Jon Bostock came out with a new line of non-toxic cleaning bars to tackle laundry, dishes and toilets. The simple and sustainable packaging was designed for home delivery. And not to outdo the surface cleaners, more humorous names were included. Read on for more.

Why did the company choose a minimalist packaging design?

We started Truman’s because, while we’re somewhat obsessed with cleaning, we’re totally obsessed with reducing waste and clutter — and we found loads of it with the typical cleaner’s packaging. The typical cleaner comes in a single-use plastic bottle designed to catch eyes glancing across store shelves.

Because we sell directly to customers, both our product design and shipment packaging is designed to be minimalist in all ways. Our surface cleaners use refillable bottles and refill cartridges with water added at home. Our laundry, dish and toilet cleaners are also concentrate-based and dissolvable. Each concentrate is film-bound, so requires no packaging other than the individual corrugated boxes for shipment.

Beyond the goal of reducing single-use plastics, we also strived to ensure our packaging is simple to open and easy to recycle. All Truman’s packaging is 100% recyclable and includes instructions printed directly on the cardboard itself, so there are never extra instruction manuals. We use the cardboard as the cushioning, so you won’t find packing peanuts or air cushions.

How about those names? Does that resonate with consumers?

You bet. We believe companies should be authentic and have some real doses of humanity, and our unique product names are a big part of that. The names also get a great response on social media, which is the focus of our marketing efforts because it enables us to speak directly with our customers. All of our customer service work is handled in-house, and our team responds to every message received through social media, email, live chat on our website, text message and more. Our approach is helping us stand out in an industry in which the consumer relationship typically starts and stops at the retail shelf.

What are the other Truman’s products?

Beyond our new laundry, dish and toilet products, we offer four surface cleaners — all non-toxic — that clean virtually all hard surfaces in a home. They are Everything and the Kitchen Sink, The Glass Is Always Cleaner, More Shower to You and Floors Truly. Our Starter Kit includes these four cleaners in reusable bottles and concentrate-filled cartridges, so you simply add water at home. Customers can select refill plans that match their cleaning habits.

Who created the packaging design?

Jon and I oversaw the design of all our packaging, which is made in America.

Are the new cleaning bars biodegradable as well?

Our laundry, dish and toilet cleaners are all designed as bars, also commonly called pods, and are completely water-soluble. They use a new proprietary anti-microbial technology that provides a deep clean to laundry, dishes and toilets without toxic chemicals. We’ve also avoided artificial scents or dyes. These new products all ship directly to consumers’ doorsteps just like the surface cleaners — in fully recyclable and compostable packaging made of 100% post-consumer recycled corrugate.

Tell me more about the products and the materials used to create them.

Our products are all made from ingredients found in the Cleangredients database, avoiding harmful agitating chemicals. They’re vegan, and our newest products are made with natural colorings like carrot, lemon, beet and blueberry extracts.

What is used inside the boxes so no tertiary packaging is used?

Our cardboard packaging uses the cardboard itself as the cushioning to hold bottles and cartridges in place. In the case of the surface cleaners, the packaging has die-cut holes to hold the concentrate cartridges. Because of our focus on sustainable design, there are no extra materials such as packing peanuts or air bags.

What is the supply chain like for your products?

We’ve kept things simple with our packaging, designing it ourselves and making it in America. Keeping that process close is what helps us avoid supply chain disruptions.

Our biggest aim was to completely rethink the supply chain behind the direct shipping. We developed a totally different “demand chain” route that uses less packaging, involves fewer overhead costs and results in lower overall energy consumption and carbon-dioxide emissions. Thanks to our direct contact with customers, we’re able to keep close tabs on demand. We manufacture and ship only the number of products that have been ordered, and we deliver them straight to customers’ doors, carefully packaged to minimize waste.

Does Truman’s belong to any organizations that promote sustainability?

We are actively seeking certification by the Forest Stewardship Council, which sets standards for responsible forest management. Our work also was recognized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in the Sustainable Business space, as a finalist for the organization’s Dream Big Award in 2019 for Green/Sustainable businesses.


Standing Out from The Crowd

Last year, Dow twice honored Truman’s sustainable packaging design as part of its annual Packaging Innovation Awards. At its core, Truman’s packaging demonstrates that the company’s commitment to green cleaning goes far beyond cleaning itself to all elements of the customer experience. Dow honored Truman’s as one of eight Diamond Award finalists, as well as one of six honorable mentions in its ecommerce category.

Also, AFast Company honored Truman’s as part of its World Changing Ideas Awards. Launched just two months before receiving the award, Truman’s brings stark simplicity to the home cleaning products industry.

Beyond convenience and simplicity, Truman’s boasts today’s greenest cleaners by offering refill cartridges that eliminate single-use plastic bottles. All you do is fill your bottle with water and pop in a cartridge. To compare carbon footprints, it takes 30 semi-trucks filled with ready-to-use cleaners to equal just one semi-truck of the equivalent of Truman’s refill cartridges.

A few top design trends for 2020 from Design firm 99designs resonates in Truman’s packaging: Ecologically aware packaging, natural and earthy pastels and neatly structured layouts. One can even argue that the quips on these household cleaning products come in “packaging that tells a story.” Truman’s cleaning products are available direct to consumer at