For some people, our Ecover Zero laundry liquid is an essential tool in their armoury against irritants and allergens. It’s why we make it without colours, fragrance and enzymes. So when we had to recall two batches in January, it was a real blow. For you. And for us.
Too much potassium hydroxide was accidentally added to the mix. This meant the undiluted liquid could harm your skin and eyes if it came into direct contact with them. However, if you’d already used it in a full wash and rinse cycle, the potassium hydroxide would’ve been sufficiently diluted. We decided the safest thing to do was to collect the affected bottles from people’s homes and dispose of them properly. We realise it caused worry and inconvenience, but we took the risk very seriously.
We’re really sorry this happened. As a company that lives and breathes clean, we’re as disappointed as you are. And we’re working harder than ever to make things better.
When we looked into what happened, we found that it was an error in our blending process. So we’ve put in extra safeguards and beefed up our quality controls. These stringent new measures began during the first week of recall, when we also re-trained all our quality and manufacturing team. We’re doing everything we can to make this right for our customers.
You’d expect us to take immediate action in our factory, but getting word to our customers was also incredibly important. We sent out a press release about the recall far and wide. From national and regional papers, both print and online, to social media, supermarkets and more. Working with waste specialists, we’ve been collecting bottles (following covid-safe protocol) from homes across the UK. It might sound alarming, but we think it’s the safest thing to do. And we’d like to thank them for their amazing support.
Our Zero laundry liquid is now starting to be restocked on supermarket shelves and available online. This is a big relief for us and hopefully for those of you who rely on it. We want to reassure you that our formula is still exactly the same – 0% fragrance, 0% colouring and 0% enzymes. Nothing has changed. It’s still specially formulated to minimise the risk of allergies, getting the thumbs-up from Allergy UK.
Potassium Hydroxide is a pH regulator. It’s an alkali that’s widely used to make liquid soap, like laundry detergent. Ours is mineral based. There is an alternative – ethanolamine – but it’s derived from petroleum, so that’s a no-go for us.
In a process called saponification, the potassium hydroxide is added to fatty acids to produce liquid soap. When the two ingredients are blended together, they become a third, different, molecule. Which is why potassium hydroxide isn’t listed as an ingredient on our bottles. A lot of people mentioned this and it’s given us food for thought about how we list our ingredients. Talking of which, our fatty acids come from high oleic1 sunflower oil – the high-quality grade stuff.
The process of saponification is as old as time. Our ancestors mixed animal fat with the ashes of a fire (alkali) to produce early soap. It might’ve been an accidental by-product of cooking dinner.
1 monounsaturated fats
We’re known for choosing plant-based, biodegradable ingredients as much as we can. And we’re always looking to source from sustainable partners. Which is why we use things such as corn sugars, coconut, rapeseed, sunflower oil and RSPO certified palm oil. But these ingredients don’t go straight into our products fresh from the field.
To become an effective ingredient in our formulas, these plant-based ingredients go through a chemical process. Some of the ingredients used in the process are synthetic or mineral-based. This is where something like potassium hydroxide (ours is mineral-based) comes into play – to transform fatty acids (from sunflower oil) into liquid soap. When these plant-based cleaners reach your socks or saucepans, they create yet another chemical reaction to remove the dirt. We always prioritise plant-based ingredients, but sometimes we use carefully chosen synthetic ones. This could be for safety, efficacy or because there’s no alternative.
So while the word ‘chemical’ gets a bad rap, it’s worth remembering that even us humans are made up of chemicals. A banana. Also chemicals. Water, yup – hydrogen and oxygen. For us, nothing has changed. Our commitment to choosing plant-based, biodegradable ingredients is as unwavering as ever.
Or if you’d like to speak to someone in our team please call:
UK: 00800 0000 2655 (free for landlines, but mobile phone rates may apply) Ireland: +44345 130 2230 (charges will apply)