Loana Costello and Sean Costello launched LUUM in May 2022 to market cleaning products manufactured without dyes, fragrances, or harsh chemicals and sold in refillable containers. LUUM products are made with seven primary ingredients, including vinegar, citric acid, and baking soda. The non-toxic formulas result in powerful cleaning products.
We asked co-founder Ioana Costello about the company and what it takes to succeed in the highly competitive green cleaning supplies market.
Grit Daily: With a saturated market that targets the green and clean consumer, what is different about your formulation and/or packaging that differentiates you from your competitors?
Loana Costello: At LUUM, we’re dedicated to creating products that use only simple and safe ingredients. Our tablets are inspired by DIY cleaners that use tried and true ingredients like vinegar, baking soda and salt. We use only 7 ingredients in our “for everything” cleaning tablets, and we are 100% transparent about everything that goes into our products. Many companies market their products as “green”, but “green” has no universal definition. Our website lists each of our ingredients, with a clear explanation of the purpose for each one, although you probably don’t need much of an explanation because 6 out of 7 of the ingredients can be found right in your pantry! Our tablets don’t use artificial fragrances, dyes or anything else.
Our tablets were also formulated to be truly all-purpose – effective on everything from greasy kitchens to scummy bathrooms and everything in between. While disinfecting kitchen and bathroom surfaces is important from time to time, it’s not something that you need to do every day. In fact, many germs are effectively removed when they are lifted from surfaces and then wiped away, so we created one cleaning formula that can be used safely and effectively on all surfaces.
Grit Daily: Does LUUM have plans to expand within the cleaning solution system? Can we expect to see new scents, packaging, solutions?
Loana Costello: Absolutely! Our tablets are purposefully fragrance-free, but we plan to roll out additional essential oils in addition to our signature LUUM No. 01 Citrus Blend. We’re also launching new silicone sleeve colors for our reusable glass bottles, and will be rolling out new bundles soon. LUUM’s mission is to simplify your home cleaning routine with thoughtfully designed products that just make more sense, so you can expect to see more from us beyond home cleaning!
Grit Daily: Is there a personal experience you can share as to why you decided to break into this industry? Was there something missing that you felt you could contribute?
Loana Costello: We began developing LUUM in the early days of the pandemic, when you couldn’t find any household cleaning products in the stores. Like many others, I went on the internet to find DIY cleaning recipes that I could make with the few ingredients left in my pantry. Luckily, I had some of the essential ingredients – vinegar, baking soda, alcohol and some essential oils. I started experimenting with different essential oil combinations and found that I really loved cleaning with simple, food-grade ingredients. My daughter was very young at the time, and we also had a dog (we miss you, Tucker!), so I was mindful of harsh, toxic chemicals.
While I loved using these at-home ingredients, it was cumbersome to measure out the correct proportions and to keep big, bulky bottles of vinegar in the kitchen. I started wondering if there was an easier way to use some of these same ingredients, but in a more streamlined way. Again, I went to the internet and found that there were companies using concentrates and tablets. We tried several different versions, but they weren’t hitting the sweet spot for me. Some felt cheap and their solutions didn’t clean well. I especially disliked the products with artificial fragrances. Others were very expensive and I couldn’t keep up with the cost of the refills. We felt that there was a gap in the market to create a simple, effective product that took the idea of DIY cleaning, but removed all of the hassle. Nearly 2 years later and countless iterations, we launched our starter kit, which includes 4 cleaning tablets, a premium reusable glass bottle, and our signature citrus essential oil blend.
Grit Daily: Can you share any details about the process of developing your product formulation? With cleaning solutions primarily filled with toxic chemicals, what is the vetting process for those ingredients that are safe and effective?
Loana Costello: Our first priority was to create a formula that used simple, safe ingredients – ideally, those that are commonly found in a kitchen pantry -, but was also able to tackle tough grease and grime. Ingredients like vinegar and baking soda have been used to clean long before the grocery aisles were stocked with endless bottles of cleaning formulas, and we felt that we could create an effective formula from these household ingredients. We knew right away that we wanted to avoid artificial fragrances, which can be filled with harmful chemicals that aren’t fully disclosed in ingredients lists.
Our second priority was to manufacture our tablets in the USA. It was important to us that we partner with small, independent business owners, like ourselves, to build a long-standing partnership. We found that by partnering with a small business, we had the flexibility to create a custom formula without the incredibly high order minimums that come with creating products overseas. We were able to find a partner that understood our vision and was willing to work with us, even though we were just a small business getting started.
In our vetting process, we only approved of ingredients that were classified as “low concern” on the EPA Safer Chemical list. We prioritized common household ingredients, and we also referenced the EWG (Environmental Working Group) database to ensure that all of our ingredients had a low EWG score, meaning low or no known hazards. Each of our ingredients is biodegradable, meaning that it will naturally break down and decompose over time.
Transparency is one of our core principles, so you’ll find a detailed summary of all of our ingredients and their purpose directly on our homepage, with additional details on our dedicated ingredients page.
Peter Page is the Contributions Editor at Grit Daily. Formerly at Entrepreneur.com, he began his journalism career as a newspaper reporter long before print journalism had even heard of the internet, much less realized it would demolish the industry. The years he worked a police reporter are a big influence on his world view to this day. Page has some degree of expertise in environmental policy, the energy economy, ecosystem dynamics, the anthropology of urban gangs, the workings of civil and criminal courts, politics, the machinations of government, and the art of crystallizing thought in writing.