What Our Daughters Taught Us About Cleaning

The founders of Figgy & Co, specialising in pared-back, non-toxic cleaners, talk about detergents and cleaning our homes well, but not to the detriment of our skin. And it all started with their daughters.

When Jane Anderson was pregnant with her daughter she was finding the smell of commercialised eco cleaners overwhelming—everything’s overwhelming when you’re pregnant but being scientifically minded, Jane knew that if she was affected the baby would be too.

This led to some serious DIY, making her own cleaning products using old fashioned ingredients, the kind her grandmother would have used, that didn’t wreak havoc on her senses, or the planet.

Then, when her friend and colleague, Aimee Fake was struggling with her infant daughter’s eczema Jane taught her how to make her own laundry powder.

Using a pared-back formula, free from industrial ingredients, settled the eczema right down.

The clothes Fake’s baby wore, the sheets she slept in, and the towels she was dried with were not adding to her skin’s trauma.

That was in 2014 and numerous cups of tea, experimentation and nappies later, the idea for Figgy & Co was born.

Cleaning products that do no harm.

Both being paramedics, Anderson and Fake knew the harsh effects of heavy cleaners, detergents and sanitizers in medical situations.

“We would get red, irritated dermatitis on our hands that would crack and bleed from all of the handwashing with the cheap stripping detergents. We would use so much bleach our mop heads would literally rot!” explains Anderson.

The pair knew they wanted to make a range of home cleaners that were not so harsh but it was imperative they also worked.

And worked well. “With no greenwashing!” says Fake.

With five degrees between them in Genetics, Pathology, Anatomy, Physiology, and Fake’s PHD in Cardiology, their approach was all science.

“Between us we have a great perspective and understanding of the human body, its systems and disease processes,” says Fake. “Cleaning advertising has you thinking your home must be sterile when your home has its own microbiome, which is needed for your immune health. Stepping up cleaning should be reserved for when someone is unwell or infectious and is a vastly different strategy from what is required for everyday cleaning.”

Alarmed by the chemicals allowed in formulations for many home cleaners—even commercial ‘eco’ brands—they were determined to make detergent-free products.

Jane Anderson & Amiee Fake, Figgy & Co Founders

In current hand-washing COVID times, ‘soap’ and ‘detergent’ are used interchangeably but they are different “with different consequences,” explains Anderson.

“Detergents are harmful to us and the environment when used in excess, even plant-based ones, and they are resource expensive in their manufacturing with petrochemicals, fossil fuel and packaging”.

All Anderson and Fake needed was their own castile soap*, which proved to be no easy task for the small business owners with big morals.

“Importing soap did not meet our values with a heavy carbon footprint, deforestation, and use of palm oil, so we embarked on a massive R&D project to develop and manufacture our own in our Kapiti Coast workshop,” says Fake. 

Using a base ingredient of fair trade coconut oil, grown in the Pacific, and after some trial and error, they had their own soap.

“It was a tough learning curve, mastering the art of soap making, but it sets us apart. Our castile soap is the backbone that makes our cleaners safe to use over the long term, safe for the environment and clean so very well.”

Now, with five children between them including some sons, Fake and Anderson provide a cleaning range accessible to anyone in Aotearoa who wants total transparency. 

Figgy & Co have ready-to-go products, plus some kits with raw ingredients for those who like to not only know what goes into their products, but put them in themselves. More information about Figgy & Co can be found here.

*Castile soap is vegetable-based soap made free of animal fats and synthetic ingredients.

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