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Cleaning with the power of nature Traditional use of plants for cleaning purposes

Symrise AG. 190 Pandan Loop, Singapore 128379.


The earliest cleaning product was plain water, back in prehistoric times. From the very beginnings of washing off dirt and mud, to the start of the Middle Ages, most cleaning compounds were made from mixes of ashes, fats, and oils. Natural ingredients were prevalent and cheap and our ancestors had a deep knowledge of their use for food, medicine and for cleaning. When investigating this topic we found out that, non-surprisingly, the use of plants for cleaning and hygiene purposes is not at all a new invention.


Following food, beverages and personal care, home care is yet another area that is becoming highly influenced by the continuing growth in popularity of natural and organic ingredients. The growing consumer health-consciousness and environmental awareness have stimulated demand for eco-friendly options across all consumer product categories. This pressure is being felt particularly strong in home care, as traditional cleaning products are widely perceived to have a harmful impact on the environment (1).

The origins of personal cleanliness date back to prehistoric times. Since water is essential for life, the earliest people lived near water and knew something about its cleansing properties - at least that it rinsed mud off their hands (2).Our ancestors relied on naturally occurring materials to help them with the cleaning. They included soaps, ashes, oils, clay, sand, pumice, salts, beeswax, vinegar, baking soda and essential oils either in their personal hygiene or to clean and sanitize the house. The main advantages of these ingredients comprise that they were easily available, cheap and safe to use.

For most of human histor ...

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