Launched in March 2018 to 500 founders and then fully in April of the same year, Smol began delivering laundry capsules direct to its customers using a simple but effective subscription business model. Born from wanting to disrupt the 3 big players in the £1bn UK laundry market, Smol wanted to change how we thought about the humble laundry detergent capsule. The existing and entrenched companies no longer focused on the customer but instead play a game against each other. Could a small, customer-centric company succeed? Let’s find out, here is our Smol laundry capsules review. (edit – now with added Smol Dishwasher Tablets review too).
Before we go any further I just want to be clear. I am a paying customer of Smol and have been for over 12 months. The following words and opinions are my own and have not been paid for or endorsed in any way.
Move over huge mega conglomerates
For all of its money, there has been little real innovation in the laundry space for many years. The founders of Smol, Paula Quazi and Nick Green, who incidentally are both ex-Unilever (one of the big 3 mentioned earlier), had an idea that a low cost, simple, customer-focused product that could cut through the noise would really appeal and be able to steal people away from the big brands.
The big brands had seemingly taken their eye off the ball, repackaging existing products as new innovations, with the latest trend being to separate out the individual ingredients of the laundry tablet and give them different colours. The ingredients are all the same as they were before, it just looks different – hardly an innovation. The thinking is if we make our tablet prettier than the competitors then more people will buy it.
Market share over customers.
Even punks need to do laundry
Smol’s vision is to build trust by having a real 2-way dialogue with its customers, to really listen to feedback and to be honest. So much so that their website lists a “No Bullshit” policy. That’s a policy I can get behind. Those two words carry such weight and you instantly get a feel for what the company are about. Can you imagine Bold or Persil saying the same on their website? Smol are the punks of the laundry world.
Trust in brands can be complex, we can be die-hard fans of a product because the product is so good, even though the company might not have the best credentials, or we can be fans of the company and buy everything they make without question, even if the product is pretty mediocre.
What if you could have both? A great product and a company that is worth being a fan of. We are increasingly basing our purchasing decisions on the company themselves and the ethics behind the team at the top.
What’s the company’s vision and values?
How do they treat their customers?
What are they doing to improve and reduce their ecological impact?
How do they treat their staff? What’s it like to work for them?
In the two years since the company launched its laundry capsules, they haven’t rested on their laurels. Launching a dishwasher tablet in January 2019 and just recently completely removing plastic from their packaging (even though the plastic was 75% recycled and recyclable itself), Smol seems to be constantly evolving their product in meaningful ways. Not just by adding a different colourant.
The big 3 have taken some notice with Unilever launching its rival service “Homey”. However, it didn’t last long. As of November 2019, Homey is “no longer running”.
Smol must be doing something right.
Smol Laundry Capsule Review
It took 2 years for them to develop the formula in their laundry capsule. The goal was to:
- Reduce the size of the capsule to reduce waste, reduce packaging and make it easy to get them to you through the normal postal service.
- Reduce the number of chemicals in the product.
- Do the above without compromising on quality and performance.
It really wouldn’t matter what Smol are like as a company if the product was crap. I’m pleased to say it isn’t.
How does it clean?
The tiny little capsules seem to handle our washing no problem, everything from dog towels to endless amounts of school uniform. Our family of 6 produce a fair amount of washing and we have had no issues. I haven’t done anything scientific (I’ll leave that up to the good folks over at GHI, who noted its cleaning performance at “well above average”) and I also haven’t smothered my clothes in red wine or grass stains. What I have done is done the washing and have been pleased by how clean the clothes have come out. It’s a very rare occurrence that something has to go in again.
The clothes come out smelling great, that’ll be the ethically sourced essential oils. It’s a fresh, clean scent that isn’t too strong and does stay with the clothes for a while after washing.
Sometimes we use 1 tab but for bigger loads (our washing machine can handle 7kg) or for dirtier loads we use 2. We still use fabric softener but we have been able to stop using a branded “scent booster” as the clothes smell great.
Two of our kids have more sensitive skin and I’m also happy to report that even with the bio capsules no-one has had any irritation.
Firstly the packaging is made out of FSC certified cardboard (meaning the cardboard comes from responsibly managed forests) and is still childproof through a really clever system of interlocking cardboard flaps (patent pending no less). Being cardboard means its obviously 100% recyclable.
It’s also printed using vegetable ink.
Big tick for the packaging
The capsules themselves are never tested on animals (leaping bunny approved), don’t contain any animal derivatives (vegan friendly!) and have reduced the number of chemicals by almost 50% over some of its competitors.
Per wash, Smol uses 10.4g of “Chemical Dry Matter” with competitors using between 16.1g and 18.5.
Another big tick.
Ultimately this means per 24 washes you are:
- Saving 60 grams of plastic.
- Preventing 163 grams of chemicals (based on an average of the chemicals found in its competitors) from entering our waterways.
- Ensuring a reduction in the number of products being tested on animals.
Finally, as it’s a liquid it means it cleans really well at 30° (powders struggle at this temperature) which, fun fact, will save 57% of the energy needed to wash at 40°. Crazy huh?
All this means that while not completely free of chemicals, Smol is striking a really good balance between being mindful of its ecological impact but also delivering a product that performs as well as, and in lots of cases, exceeds its competitors.
You can be plastic free and wash your clothes.
Oh, that’s not plastic that encases the detergent either – its Polyvinyl alcohol, a non-toxic synthetic polymer that is soluble in water. So there.
Smol Dishwasher Tablets review
We also use the Smol dishwasher tablets. They are also pretty great.
We bought our dishwasher based on our lifestyle. It can hold 16 place settings. When all 6 of us are here that means the dishwasher goes on every day. At other times it can be 3 or 4 days before it goes on. That means plates sitting in the dishwasher going a little crusty before putting it on. Running the dishwasher half-empty is not an option, too much water and energy wastage! We also do not rinse our things before they go in the dishwasher – doesn’t this defeat the purpose of having a dishwasher?
So, no rinsing and 4 day crust build up.
Everything comes out of the dishwasher sparkly clean.
The glasses look great, the cutlery has no water spots.
I mean what else is there to say? My dishes go in dirty and come out clean. Every. Single. Time.
Is it cheaper?
Let’s take a look at the Smol costs which includes the delivery to your door.
|Cost||Cost per wash|
|Smol Laundry Capsules||£4.50 for 24 capsules||18.75p|
|Smol Dishwasher Tablets||£4.60 for 30 tablets||15.33p|
As of June 2020 the laundry competitors stack up as follows (taken from the Asda website):
|Cost||Cost per wash|
|Fairy Laundry Capsules||£7.00 for 25 capsules||28p|
|Ariel Laundry Capsules||£11.00 for 51 capsules||21.56p|
|Bold Laundry Capsules||£4.00 for 15 capsules||26.66p|
This isn’t quite the 50% saving that Smol promises but it’s still a significant saving on the other major brands.
As of June 2020 the dishwasher competitors stack up as follows (taken from the Asda website):
|Cost||Cost per wash|
|Fairy Platinum||£9.00 for 43 tablets||20.93p|
|Finish Powerball||£12.00 for 63||19.05p|
Again, the savings are significant but not quite the 50% stated by Smol.
You are going to save money switching to Smol from the bigger brands. You’re also getting the convenience of having these things delivered to your door and not taking up huge amounts of space in your cupboards.
Ok, how does this all work.
So, we have a good company and a good product. Both for nothing if the distribution method is garbage. Luckily it’s not, it’s actually really simple, there’s even a trial for both the laundry capsules and the dishwasher tablets (just pay £1 for delivery).
The sign-up process goes something like this:
- Head on over to the Smol website.
- Hit the big button that says “Get free trial”.
- Pick bio or non-bio capsules.
- Decide how many capsules per wash.
- Tell the nifty calculator how many times a week your washing machine is on.
- That’s it – the nifty calculator now knows how often to send you more capsules.
- Sit back all smug about how easy that was. Smug about going a bit greener and saving money at the same time.
The delivery is through the standard Royal Mail postal service so you don’t need to be in to sign for the parcels and the packaging has been designed to fit through a standard letterbox.
If you decide you are running low on either product you can log in to the website (you create an account when you sign up) and hit the “need it now” button to get some sent out straight away or in a similar fashion you can delay it a week. You can, if you wish, change your whole schedule. We found we were running short sometimes, due in part, to the sporadic change in the number of people in our house (between 2 and 6!) so we changed our whole laundry capsule plan to get 2 boxes at the same time every 36 days….so far it seems to be working and we don’t run low anymore.
Companies like Smol are taking the fight to the big players. Shaking up industries once thought unshakeupable. Yes, that’s a word, no need to check.
Their products are great, fix problems we didn’t know we had (space under the sink for homebrew!) and help us to reduce our impact on the planet. All while saving us money.