1. Can you tell us a bit about you and your family run business, Fill Refill?
I grew up seeing my dad testing products in the neighbourhood - cleaning graffiti off bus stops and washing football kits at home. He likes solving problems and getting stuck in. I guess I inherited his maverick spirit, although we’re addressing different problems nowadays. My dad is a wonderful man and a cool dude. He’s allowed me total freedom and respect to try to build a brand around refill and to try and keep making everything we do better… which means making radical changes. That keeps things exciting. We have some cool plans.
Before joining my dad, I worked for a music magazine as a photo editor for a while and then managed a band… refillable eco cleaning and laundry products is the logical next step, right!? I always liked a Leonard Cohen line from ‘ladies and gentleman’ that stuck with me … “my path is infinitely wide but without direction’. One thing is for sure, I try to give anything I do, everything I’ve got. More importantly, we have some truly wonderful people in the FILL team who believe in what we are trying to do and that is everything!
2. How and why did you start working with eco products in this way?
We had always manufactured and supplied bulk detergents in large returnable vessels on reclaimed pallets from the start, for economy more than anything! That’s where the idea about supplying in 200l drums to stockists really came from. I guess sometimes things don’t need reinventing.
It must have been around 2011 that I became interested in the idea of refill for folks at home, but it honestly took until 2015 to get it to launch in a way that you might recognise today. We couldn’t give away the first 1l glass bottles but then (slowly) people just started to find out about us and word spread. We’ve never gone out and sold fill products and we don’t advertise. People that find us just seem to get it and that feels good. It only started to gather momentum in 2018 after Blue Planet, as more zero waste, low waste and refill stores opened up and we’ve grown alongside the folks who have supported us. Most of our work nowadays is on refining packaging, logistics and being more radical with the formulations. There is always so much to do.
3. Can you give tips on how you might use your kitchen products/recipes to clean our enamelware?
Right now it’s hard to think of anything to beat our FILL Scrub Powder. It’s becoming a real favourite out there and we only just dropped it in November. Vicky developed this in the lab over the summer and we just had to make it available as a refill. It works like an old-style cream cleaner (but much nicer to use and easier to refill) without the water content.
We make everything with an unscented option but we’ve also made a fragrance version with clary sage essential oil and it smells like a beaut. I’ve been told by folks that it’s addictive to use on surfaces, sinks and especially hobs. It takes on even the toughest burnt on crud. I’ve tried it out on a Falcon dish after roasting root vegetables a little too hard and for too long – and it took care of business no problem at all.
It’s made with waste chalk from the marble cutting process and a few other ingredients but it’s fine enough to be non-abrasive. You just add a few drops of water, or a press of FILL Wash Up or even a spritz of FILL All Purpose Clean to make a cleaning paste. It’s registered with Vegan trademark and Plastic Free.
For harder baked on soils we can recommend our new Northamptonshire Cleaning Soap which is made from sustainably produced rapeseed oil. You can mix this with a bit of table salt to make a thickened paste or mix with the scrub powder for an alkaline mixture that will take on grease, fat or oily deposits (paint it on thick and allow it to do the business.)
The rapeseed cleaning soap has been a tough one for the lab to make at scale (and we’ve had a few mishaps along the road – but that’s part of the fun). We’re really pleased with it now. Farrington’s cold pressed rapeseed oil is grown down the road from our factory. Supplied in a closed loop!
There’s no one set way to clean a pan – the method will depend on the surface, the level of soiling and what you have to hand. We’re always trying out new combinations and recipes depending on what we have. Here are our top recommendations for cleaning a Falcon pan:
A few ml Wash Up (peppercorn is my favourite) for tackling everyday general cleaning. The new peppercorn essential oil is so good, it takes washing up to a new level and smells like nothing else out there.
NOT SO EASY
Got mild pan problems. Try these:
1 tsp Scrub Powder + 5-10ml Water
1 tsp Scrub Powder + 5-10ml All Purpose for a bit more bite
1 Scrub Powder + 5ml Wash Up to make a scouring paste for greasy deposits
WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH
Cleaning Soap + Salt (thick oven cleaner)
Cleaning Soap + Bicarb (slightly abrasive alkaline cleaning for cutting greasy deposits)
Cleaning Soap + Scrub Powder (Clary Sage) (this should shift tough burnt on dirt and take care of most any debris)
We have a load more cleaning recipes at https://raw.fillrefill.co
4. You personally use Falcon enamelware at home. What’s your favourite product and what do you use it for?
Yeah, I really dig Falcon enamelware. I’ve always liked the honesty and simplicity of the design. It feels good to use universal, permanent, utilitarian, intuitive, simple and clean – all the things we wanted Fill to be too. All the things good design should be.
I use the classic blue rim mugs to make hot oat milk or sometimes cocoa with a bit of coconut oil, cinnamon and a dribble of maple syrup when my son comes home from nursery– especially if it’s raining! We also like to make tiramisu in a big square enamel bake tray. It fits exactly the width of two rows of those sugary biscuits which makes it pretty satisfying and neat to assemble.
5. Do you have any particular advice for those wanting to shop more sustainably for their household supplies and beyond?
Most of the changes that need to be made are just logical… common sense: Choose better, buy less, avoid single use, think about waste and shop small. Folks soon find they can shop better, eat better, cook better, clean better and save money.
The stockists we work with are almost all independent stores, conscious businesses or ethical retailers. We know how difficult it's been for all of them this past year. All of the store owners that we work with are passionate, hard working and committed to making a real difference in their community and there is a whole lot of love, good vibes and kindness. Shopping smaller will help to support them and the businesses they choose to support too.
6. How have you been keeping during this time? Do you have any tips for small, independent businesses?
I’m okay, we’re okay. Nothing to complain about. There’s no time for that really… and we know how much tougher it’s been for so many others. We’re excited about this year now and determined to make it better!
I like listening to records, that makes everything better. Right now it’s some solo Jonathan Richman albums that I haven’t listened to for a long time. I like watching the river flow, hanging out with my wife and our son and eating good tomatoes.
I reckon I should be listening to tips rather than dishing them out… but I guess it would be pretty simple… Be nice. Be cool. Be patient. Be grateful. Don’t be greedy. Work hard. Wash your hands. We’ve felt like a part of a community through this all and people have been so patient with us whilst the factory was going a bit slower and we couldn’t get orders out as quick as we’d like. I’m grateful for that.