Superfried – Walk the Talk
Testing eco friendly products by smol
Hi, Mark here. Having studied environmental science rather than design, I need to do more, reduce my environmental impact, and walk the talk. I am fortunate to have a eco shop around the corner, but what about those that have not?
So I decided to test some eco friendly products by smol, who deliver them to your door.
From an initial inspection, smol seems to be a genuinely good company. Although they do not mention exactly how it started, they have gone into great detail concerning every aspect of what they do. In addition to their eco friendly products, they have also established social initiatives working with organisations such as the Ocean Recovery project and The Hygiene Bank. Their approach seems so thorough, I was surprised they have not registered for B Corp status.
I will admit that I found the website a bit annoying. I know they are trying to be convenient by immediately setting you up via free trials and bundles etc, but it made me immediately feel like I was being manipulated. Maybe because I am old skool or a control freak, but I like to read about the product, see the benefits, costs and then opt for a deal. Therefore a more obvious, separate page per product, in addition to some quick, fast-track links would be better. Also, once you have selected a trial, you are automatically subscribed, which is a bit of a cheeky approach adopted by insurance companies. Having said that, when I forget to renew all is forgiven and I am eternally grateful – I am so fickle! : )
Initially, it arrives in a big box, but after this, most refills can be simply posted through the letterbox.
I opted for the beginner bundle for £11 with a saving of £5.50.
This includes the following:
9 x non-bio laundry capsules
9 x dishwasher tablets
1 x multi purpose surface spray starter pack
1 x 500ml fabric conditioner starter pack
1 x 500ml washing up liquid starter pack
1 x 500ml stain gel starter pack
However, in the interests of balance, I will base all of my price comparisons on the normal rate for each product. The design and cardboard packaging of the Smol products are very good, which is dangerous for a graphic designer like me, but I promise to be objective.
In the initial bundle, they supply forever bottles made from recycled plastic, which is a great idea. To distinguish between clear bottles, they provide colour-coded rubber bands.
For the fabric softener and stain remover the bottles are opaque, which seemed strange – why not make them all transparent to improve production efficiency and easier to know when a refill is required?
Also, if they are manufacturing different colour bottles, could this be an easier way to distinguish between them rather than manufacturing the additional rubber bands?
In the leaflet for the softener, it explains that the bottle is grey due to the recycled plastic material it is made from. But, they also state the clear bottles are recycled plastic and the receptacle for the stain remover is white, so perhaps they need to clarify here as it is a little bit confusing.
Perhaps, the bands enable them to distribute the transparent bottles back to customers regardless of the product that was previously used.
I will investigate and cover these in more detail as I test the eco friendly products, since I am still not totally sure how the bottle refill system works.
Tablets and capsules
For the dishwasher tablets and laundry detergent, new tablets / capsules are simply posted through your letterbox when you have run out. You can control the frequency of delivery and cancel at any time. They are delivered in plastic free, cardboard packaging. For safety, they have devised a child-safe opening system that requires the removal of multiple tabs before access is possible. I can certainly confirm this system is effective as it almost thwarted me! ; )
Smol states that the dishwasher tablets also include salt and rinse-aid, so in theory, they should be more convenient and save customers money in the long term. In addition to this, further packaging will be saved via the purchase of fewer products.
What about the eco credentials?
In 2020 Smol moved their tablets to completely plastic free, FSC cardboard packaging that is fully recyclable or compostable. It is a shame that the containers were not made from recycled cardboard – I assume there was a good reason for this. Also, I assume they use non toxic or vegetable inks since they state the biodegradable packaging can be home composted.
With regard to ingredients, smol states that they use fewer chemicals per wash with no loss of performance. They include a link detailing the ingredients – see the reference links below.
I am not an expert in this department, but a quick glance does suggest there is more lab action here than the hand-made tablets from Taylor Made Refills.
I have conducted some further research. If you are looking for a convenient way to reduce your volume of recycled plastic, I think smol may provide a solution. However, if you are keen to go all the way, including the ingredients, better options are available. Sophie at Sustainably Lazy has a detailed post on smol’s eco credentials – see the reference links below.
With regard to cutting carbon, smol state that:
A full life cycle analysis by independent analysis by sustainability experts found that their tablets provide a 46% reduction through their production and delivery compared to the big brands.
This is great, but I think they should include a link to the report for clarity.
Lastly, like all of their products, they are Leaping Bunny approved – vegan and cruelty-free – 100% free of any animal-derived ingredients.
So how did the dishwasher tablets perform?
The tablets performed well. Everything was crystal clear. Best of all, unlike the tablets from the Taylor Made Refills, there was never an issue trying to fit them in the compartment : )
Smol states on its website:
smol technology means our dishwasher tablets are perfectly dosed to deliver a sparkling clean that includes rinse aid, salt and glass protector. Industry testing found smol performs just as well (or better) than the big brands.
Which is a big claim. They also go on to say:
The most-rated UK cleaning brand with our trusted partners Feefo. Independent, bona fide, real-life reviews from genuine customers.
This sounds impressive, but who are Feefo, and why is there no link to this organisation?
How do they perform on price?
A pack of 30 dishwasher tablets from Smol costs £6.30 / £0.21 per wash. This is cheaper than Taylor Made Refills from the no-plastic shop costing 23p per wash. As mentioned previously, our usual product from Aldi costs just 8p per wash. Aldi's Magnum range is also highly rated and uses cardboard packaging.
However, as discussed, the comparison with Aldi is unrealistic. Therefore, looking at the bigger brands at the next cheapest supermarket – Asda – they are much more competitive. Fairy and Finish range from £0.14 - £0.38 a wash and use plastic packaging.
Continue with this product – MAYBE
I have been deliberately harsh on smol as they have obviously received funding, and as a small business owner, I know how tough it can be. Consequently, I will always route for a small independent like Taylor Made Refills. Trying to do the right thing with limited resources is highly commendable.
If I am totally honest I really want smol to work for multiple reasons. Firstly, a bigger difference can be made with scale, and at present, unless I am mistaken, I do not think Taylor Made is ready to achieve this yet. Although I admire their endeavours and eco credentials, not ensuring the tablets were sufficiently sized to allow for inconsistencies in form is a big concern. I would have expected this to be addressed in the very first tests. If a product is difficult to use and more expensive, it has no chance of succeeding regardless of its eco benefits or good intent. Lastly, like most people, I crave a simpler life. If I can cover several products via just one company I will be very happy – but I am still going to be stringent when testing the remaining eco friendly products by smol.
To be continued...
I hope you found this initial eco test of smol’s eco friendly products useful. The transition to a more eco friendly lifestyle is challengning, and will require further research. Next time I will be testing smol’s laundry capsules and fabric conditioner.
If you have any tips or know of alternative products I should try drop me a message. Alternatively, if you would like to discuss how Superfried can develop a bespoke design solution to help your organisation achieve its goals, book a call.