Tapping into fruit’s natural cleaning power
by Katherine J. Igoe
February 27, 2019
Pineapple packs a healthy dose of vitamin C and has long served as a symbol of welcome. But fermenting the tropical fruit also produces a nontoxic cleaning agent, says Peter Wainman ’92, who harnessed that property to develop what he says is the world’s safest line of cleaning products. His company, Equator Pure Nature, invented a globally patented system to ferment pineapple and make a natural cleaning solution out of the resulting enzymes and acids.
“There’s a traditional method for creating natural cleaning solutions in Asia by putting a plant in a jar, sealing it, and letting the sun ferment it,” says Wainman, a Course 6 alumnus. “We took that idea and, after thousands of experiments, determined which plant was most effective. Then we optimized the process so that the resulting cleaning product is efficient, inexpensive, and aesthetically pleasing.”
Wainman says Equator Pure Nature’s Pipper Standard brand cleans just as well as, if not better than, chemical soap. A market leader among natural cleaning products in Asia, where the demand for natural products is growing, the Bangkok-based company offers 18 products and counting, including detergent, hand soap, and an all-purpose cleaner.
Wainman’s innovation began with an all too common problem—an allergic reaction. After earning a master’s in electrical engineering at Berkeley, he had switched gears to pursue investment banking and VC investing. In 2010, while living in Thailand, he suffered months of agonizing skin reactions and discovered that he had developed an allergy to the chemical residue in his fabric softener. Upon researching remedies, he discovered that there were virtually no natural cleaning solutions being sold in his region.
“About a third of the population [in Asia] now has an allergy of some kind,” he says. “I turned to my wife and said, ‘Let’s just make these ourselves.’” Wainman tapped into the problem-solving spirit and skills in R&D he had honed at MIT, where he worked for Professor Markus Zahn ’67, SM ’68, EE ’69, SCD ’70, in the Laboratory for Electromagnetic and Electronic Systems as a UROP.
Since launching in 2014, Equator Pure Nature has established a presence in 16 Asian markets and approximately 1,500 stores. The US and Western markets are on his radar, too. “As individuals, we can’t do much to change the very real problem of air pollution [in Asia],” he says.
“But if we decrease unnecessary chemical exposure, particularly in the home, we may have a positive impact on allergy rates. A healthy environment starts at home.”
Katherine J. Igoe, MIT Technology Review