Laundry – The Mother of Invention
“Pick battles big enough to matter, small enough to win” – Jonathan Kozol
Carson Lyons used to be content with laundry detergent that “didn’t suck”. If it got her clothes clean she was happy. But then she had a child and her brother got cancer. She couldn’t help but think that little things like laundry detergent are more important than we realize.
“I got interested in organic food when I was pregnant with my daughter; it meant more to me because now another person was involved. My brother was diagnosed with cancer, and he’s younger than me so it seemed odd that he was sick for no obvious reason.
The more I learned, the more I realized how important everything is. We’re contaminating our food and water, and it’s all adding up. Chemicals are polluting the indoor air quality in your home and once released into the water system they have an impact there. There’s also a personal environmental impact. Your skin is in contact with your clothes and your sheets, so you’re in contact with chemical residue from laundry products 24 hours a day.”
Carson initially tried the “green” laundry detergents already on the market.
“I felt the prices forced you to choose whether to help the environment or save money. I was not finding it at the price I wanted and some didn’t work, or didn’t work effectively.”
Carson decided to make her own laundry soap and founded Squeaky Green, LLC.
“I looked on the internet – that’s easy and cheap – and searched for different formulas. I determined why each ingredient was important and only used what was necessary. In order to be make it into my formula, everything I included had to be: (a) effective; and (b) necessary.
Once I had a basic formula, and an idea of what it was going to take, I started tweaking the ingredients to determine what was going to work the best, at the best price point.”
What made you think you could, and should, do this?
“I had no background in chemistry. I just have that kind of personality. I already had two careers before I became a ‘laundry soap mogul.’ I went to business school and was an accountant for a while. I was an accountant for a construction company and I was bored. I started looking over the buildings and plans and discovered I had a knack for finding issues. So I went to school again, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Architecture and was in construction. Then I got laid off in 2009…
All it takes is research; you just have to do the work. You learn how to do research and how to figure things out. That’s how you make a cake, that’s how you build a building. As far as I’m concerned, I was building laundry detergent. Everything there is to know already exists, and I know it’s out there, so if I put it together that’s my contribution. I didn’t invent laundry detergent, I just figured out how to make it better.”
Has it been hard to promote your product and sell people on the idea of changing their laundry soap?
“I believe in it. I know it works. I’m not just hoping someone’s going to like it. I don’t have to talk anyone into anything. I’ve given out 200 samples; it’s easier for people to understand it if they use it. I never expected to have to talk about it but I was confident that this was an effective product. I did the trials. It’s not hard to talk about something I believe in and share what I found out.”
What’s your production facility like?
“Right now I make the soap in my home. Sometimes I feel like I am making soap constantly. I keep inventory on hand and I have a regular delivery of the ingredients. I don’t want to make anybody wait.”
Carson gave me the scoop on what makes Squeaky Green Laundry powder different and eco-friendly:
- No extra ingredients, fillers, or dyes.
- Vegetarian ingredients. My earlier formulas had animal ingredients in them but I discovered that tallow is a bit sticky and prone to leave a residue. Now I use coconut oil based soap.
- Highly dissolvable – works in all water temperatures.
- Available in natural or unscented. The natural scent has no added or artificial scent; it just smells like the ingredients. Unscented that means they actually “de-scent” the ingredients.
- No giant box or bottle to lug home from the store.
- One bag washes 80 loads in a high efficiency washing machine (one Tablespoon per load) or 40 loads in a standard machine (2 Tablespoons per load).
- Environmentally and economically friendly when you ship and store. Why pay to transport and store water? You’re already adding water when you wash your clothes.
- The containers are PLA lined (corn products) recycled/recyclable paper bags.
- The bags are 25% post-consumer waste and compostable. I don’t want to just talk about helping the environment. I really want to be environmentally friendly.
Do you have plans to expand the line to include fabric softener or softener sheets?
“People have requested it, but the honest truth is if you put a half a cup of vinegar in your rinse cycle your clothing will be softer and static cling is caused by over-drying. I did extensive research into fabric softeners and they do three things: reduce static cling, smell good and soften. Vinegar takes care of the softening. Don’t over dry your clothes and you won’t have static. For scent, I just spray lavender essential oil on a cloth and toss it in the dryer with the tumbling.
I really need to focus on the detergent. I don’t want to spread myself too thin and do too much. I feel comfortable with the formula. I’m really solid on that and I just tweaked the packaging and the labels to make that even more environmentally friendly.”
What are your long-term goals?
“My goal is evolving as I go along. I intended to just sell it at the Farmer’s Markets but a chiropractic clinic offered to sell it after they did a seminar on how products affect our health. Zerbos health food store sells it too. It’s already bigger than I thought it was going to be. I also have a Facebook store. I never envisioned it evolving into this. I’m excited about it. I just have to make sure that I’m planning in advance.
Now that I’m in real brick and mortar stores, I keep putting it out there and pushing the boundaries further. I’m talking with Hiller’s Market. They have seven stores and they’re in Michigan, so I can do that – and learn what it will take to do more.
My goal is to make it environmentally friendly and not cost prohibitive. You don’t have to use a soap that’s bad for you to save money. You have to make choices in your life. My part of this can be laundry soap. If I can do that, I feel I’m doing the right thing.”
To learn more about Squeaky Green and where to buy it,