The Science Behind Enzymatic Cleaners

Your pet makes a mess in the house and leaves a stain - you apply the enzyme cleaner, and the stain vanishes within a few seconds. Is it magic? Sadly not. There’s always a scientific explanation for everything and the same can be said for enzymatic cleaners. How do they work?

Enzyme Cleaners - An Introduction

Serving as natural catalysts, enzymes are considered long-chain proteins. In short, this means that they accommodate chemical reactions at speed. Enzymes play an important role in society because they’re used to clean medical devices, in paper processing, and even in the food manufacturing process. Due to the ability to take advantage of a chemical reaction quickly and efficiently, enzymes are also used in cleaning products. 

While some people use enzyme products in their dishwashers and washing machines, others use them as a spray to clean up pet stains. By using an enzymatic cleaning agent, you can quickly remove stains from upholstery, carpet, and other surfaces while also eliminating the associated odour. 

Types of Ingredients 

Often, people talk about enzyme cleaners like they exist as one product. In reality, they come in different forms and ingredients depending on the stain that you’re attempting to clean. Although you’ll find several types on the scientific side, three main enzymes exist on the market: 

1. Amylases 

Designed to break down starches and carbohydrates, these enzymes will remove stains from foodstuffs such as pasta, potato, cereals, and gravy. By using amylases in the laundry process, you can remove starch from clothing. 

2. Proteases 

This time, the aim is to break down stains caused by proteins. For this reason, you’ll find proteases in the majority of laundry detergents. These days, proteases are a key ingredient in cleaning products all over the world. Proteins are broken down into soluble amino acids and peptides. As well as food, proteases help to eliminate grass and blood stains from clothing (useful for children who like to climb trees and are prone to the odd accident!). 

3. Lipases 

Finally, lipases join proteases and amylases in cleaning products because of their ability to break down lipids (triglycerides) into glycerol and fatty acids. Lipases help to eliminate butter, lipstick, vegetable oil, and other oily stains from clothing. 

As discussed, other ingredients don’t play as important a role, but you might also find the following in your cleaning products: 

  • Cellulases - designed to improve the overall cleanliness of materials and improve colour care 

  • Mannanases - removes stains from mannans (anything with locust bean gum or guar gum)

  • Pectinases - degrades pectin by breaking the backbone of the structure 

Production Process

Those who love to learn the science behind things that are normally taken for granted will be enjoying this article, but how are enzymatic cleaners actually made? We know that they break down stains through a chemical reaction using the different enzymes (each offering a speciality), but how are enzyme cleaners produced? 

In the past, the important enzymes were taken from animals (glands, in particular). Now, they’re taken after a process of fermentation of bacteria and fungi. Through genetic modification and protein engineering, scientists can make advanced cleaners with optimum performance. 

Whether you use enzyme cleaners for your clothing or pet stains, you now know the science behind how it all works. If you want to impress your friends, tell them about the chemical reactions that enzyme cleaners accommodate effectively and efficiently. What’s more, different enzymes work on different types of stains - that’s why multiple types are used in household products. 

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