Have you ever wondered why floor bleaches leave you with a throat itch? These home cleaning products contain allergens. Research has identified 1,4-dioxane, a known carcinogen, among the harmful chemicals in home-cleaning bleaches.
Frustrated by the limited availability of safe home-cleaning products, Ruby Giroux and Simona Sotirovska took it upon themselves to address the issue directly. Giroux had already started creating her cleaning products at home. Inspired by this, Sotirovska partnered with Giroux to establish The Botanist — a startup offering non-toxic home care products in the UAE.
Launched in 2020, utilizing safe, plant-based ingredients, one of the primary objectives of The Botanist’s founders was to promote transparency by offering a comprehensive list of ingredients—a feature often absent in other products that relied on generic terms and broad ingredient categories. “Harsh chemicals and single-use plastics have dominated the home cleaning category. We wanted to disrupt this,” says Sotirovska.
The founders recognized the need to go beyond mere functionality to align with its sustainability values. According to Sotirovska, “home care” is as significant as self-care. Hence, each cleaning product is made of botanical essential oils, integrating the benefits of aromatherapy. Recognizing the need to reduce toxic exposure in everyday life beyond cleaning products, they expanded their range to include items like hand soaps, room sprays, and candles.
INTEGRATING FUNCTION AND FORM
“Many of our products were made from castile soap, a vegetable-based soap (we use olive oil), one of the oldest known ways of soap production. Castile soap is a natural and gentle cleanser, and very few ingredients are needed to make it, although the process is extensive. But the result is a product that ticks our criteria,” she says.
However, one of the constant challenges as a manufacturer in the UAE is sourcing raw materials locally, especially sustainable ones, Sotirovska says. Despite the production being local, “we import many of our materials, so sourcing and delivery timeframes have been a challenge in the past and, like many businesses over the last two years, having to weather shipping and cost increases.” As the range grows, the product development process has taken center stage, “we usually go through many formula iterations and testing before deciding on the final formulation.”
SUSTAINABLE BY DESIGN
The founders aimed to tackle another issue within the cleaning products industry: the use of single-use items. “We knew we wanted to create a range that would dramatically reduce the amount of packaging used in the home,” says Sotirovska. Hence, each cleaning product is housed in glass bottles.
By introducing bulk or concentrate options and enabling customers to refill their bottles, the startup claims to have achieved a 90% reduction in plastic usage. In a continued effort to promote eco-friendly practices, the brand recently launched refill stations for empty bottles.
This initiative aligns with the emerging refill movement in the UAE, encouraging a more conscious approach towards reducing single-use plastic and embracing a circular economy.
The founders are conscious of the drawbacks of establishing a unique market for safe products; the biggest drawback is that prices are higher than their counterparts in stores within the same category.
To make a significant difference to help people embrace a circular model, Sotirovska says, “While it can be challenging, it is not impossible.”
In terms of what’s next, she says there’s a lot in the pipeline. “Over the next few weeks, we start to ship outside of the UAE,” she says. “We’re excited to see how our products are received.”