Why are natural household cleaners gaining popularity?

What social media data can tell us about the rising segment of green cleaners

Gone are the days when consumers wanted harsh chemicals in their surface cleaners. These days, they are all ready to replace Lysol with lime water.

As they spend hours every week cleaning their homes, and thousands of dollars a year buying the right products to do so, consumers are well aware that household cleaning will remain an inescapable part of their lives. And to make their lives better, they have begun to demand more out of everyday cleaning products.

If shoppers had their way, they’d shop for surface cleaners in the kitchen section at stores replacing their Clorox and Swiffer with homemade concoctions of baking soda and vinegar. It’s this demand for greener and cleaner sanitation products that has propelled the size of the industry to grow from $5 billion in 2011 to a projected growth of $8 billion by 2018.

Crimson Hexagon looked at six years worth of social media and forum data to see how consumer sentiment about household cleaners had changed. In this post, we highlight the consumers’ concern of the presence of toxic chemicals in cleaners that has propelled the demand for natural and eco-friendly solutions.

The cleaner conversation

As consumers expect more out of everyday products, they flock to social media to talk quite a bit about their preferences, annoyances, likes and, dislikes. Unsurprisingly, social media and forums are huge storehouses of consumer conversations about household cleaners and disinfectants. In fact, since 2010, there have been nearly 300,000 posts about surface cleaners on social.

Although there are a wide range of cleaning topics and brands that elicit conversation from consumers, we were able to narrow it down to five specific brands that dominate the social discussion: Lysol, Clorox, Mr. Clean, Scrubbing Bubbles and Swiffer.

Among these, Clorox leads the discussion with 38% share of voice, followed by Lysol at 28%, and Swiffer at 17%, while Mr. Clean and Scrubbing Bubbles are talked about at much lower levels with 7% and 10% share of voice respectively.

When the volume of conversations comparing cleaner brands were analyzed, Lysol and Clorox appeared to be the major brands being compared to each other. And, Mr. Clean was  more frequently compared to Scrubbing Bubbles and vice-versa. Swiffer is compared most to Clorox. Parents who discuss cleaning products with regards to children’s safety also frequently mention Lysol and Clorox while looking for alternatives.

To understanding why consumers look for alternatives to mass market brands we wanted to find out how they feel about different brands.

Unsanitized sentiments

Analyzing consumer sentiments can provide a window into purchase decisions and understanding brand perception. When we studied the sentiments associated with top cleaner brands, we found that Clorox and Lysol drive a lot of chatter on social, but the sentiment driving the conversation is mostly negative. These two brands garnered 36% and 37% negative sentiment in the overall discussion. Mr. Clean emerged as the most positive brand on social, even with 25% negative sentiment followed by Swiffer and Scrubbing Bubbles.

Don’t you know that you’re toxic?

Now that we established how consumers feel about these brands, can we identify what’s driving this negative sentiment? Absolutely.

While grouping the overall conversation into common topics, we were able to determine the top three topics associated with the general household cleaner discussion: Cleaning up after children topped the list, followed by complaints about the unpleasant scent emitted by cleaners, and lastly, an topic of conversation that emerged as a solution to the first two — the rise of natural and homemade alternatives to store-bought cleaners.

Focusing the discussion further, on what drives the need for natural and eco-friendly cleaners, it appeared that it is driven by three main factors: 1) The presence of toxic chemicals in mass market cleaners. 2) The concern among young parents to keep kids away from these chemicals and 3) the strong and unpleasant cleaner smell.

Chemicals: Among parents who flock to social media and forums to ask for tips and express their anxiety about kids and cleaners, most mention the presence of toxic chemicals as their main concern. That conversation is lengthy and indepth, and 61% of it takes place on forums. Chemicals in cleaners has made parents jittery, who take to forums to discuss alternative solutions, particularly on children’s items that may get put in their mouths or where children crawl.

Cleaning up after kids: On social, children and household cleaners have a tight relationship — so much so that children are one of the biggest reasons people talk about cleaners online. The toxicity of cleaner chemicals being the major topic of discussion.

 

In discussing the category that has become almost synonymous with cleaning up after kids, people discussed a range of topics from seeking out the most effective product for disinfecting, to advice on the easiest method for cleaning up their children’s messes, and exchanging tips on which products are best used for different cleaning purposes.

Unpleasant odor: The third major factor pushing consumers to consider alternatives to cleaning solutions is the strong and overbearing smell that cleaners emit. Consumers are put off by the odor to an extent that, according to our sentiment analysis, of the 40% of conversation classified as disgust, 13% is about smell. Many find the scent of cleaners, especially those containing a strong bleach smell, to be overpowering and even nauseating.

Cleaner and greener all the way

The presence of toxic chemicals along with the pungent odor has left consumers desiring for more from household cleaning products. Subsequently, this has led to an increased demand for eco-friendly and natural cleaning solutions. One would think that that’s enough to build a thriving market for these products? Well, think again.

Reports suggest that the market for green household cleaners and laundry solutions declined at a compound annual growth rate of 2 percent between 2010 and 2014. What gives? The market for eco-friendly cleaners is still niche — at 3% of the entire household cleaners segment. Secondly, the products are expensive for an average consumer — in the period that sales tanked, prices of natural cleaners went up by 8% at a compound annual growth rate.

This probably explains why consumers prefer making their own solutions with a combination of cheaper and safer substitutes. Among these, many discuss simple ingredients they mix together themselves, such as vinegar or baking soda, to make a safer, more natural solution.

Household products that make up fair bit of consumers’ daily routines garner a lot of discussion on social media, which reveals even more about what makes shoppers wary about some of them. Even if cleaning is a constant part of daily life, the cleaners themselves keep changing. And as consumers replace them, they first consult with social media.

This is a part of a larger series on consumer packaged goods. Download below the larger report on consumer opinions of household cleaners in the consumer packaged goods industry.

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