The use of enzymes in laundry detergents is a centuries-old concept. But just as the world is moving toward ethical and sustainable consumer choices, this idea is gaining more attention.
You must have come across many detergent TV ads boasting the bio-enzymatic formula of their products, and for all the right reasons. Many of our daily-use laundry detergents are now created with a decent amount of enzymes along with other chemicals.
What exactly are enzymes? How do they work in your detergent? And are they eco-friendly? This article will lay out everything you need to know about enzymes in laundry detergents.
What Are Enzymes?
Enzymes are proteins that carry out many important processes in living organisms. Our bodies use different enzymes to perform tasks such as digesting foods and helping us build muscles. They are also found in animals and plants to support life.
These molecules work wonders in household applications. Enzymes have been used in the dairy, brewing, and detergent industries for a long time and they are now a part of almost 400 household products that we use every day!
Whenever we shop for detergents in a grocery store or online, we see many kinds of laundry detergents available with a variety of different ingredients. You must have noticed how some of the detergents are labeled “green,” but do you know how they work and affect our environment? It is important to understand what we are putting down the drains.
While some detergents are labeled as eco-friendly, they may not entirely consist of enzymes. You may find detergents with a blended formulation of both biological and nonbiological ingredients. Always read the list of ingredients before buying a laundry detergent, as this will help you be sure you’re making sustainable choices.
The Role of Enzymes in Detergents
What do enzymes do in a washer that makes them so special? Enzymes perform the same job in the washing machine as in our bodies! They break down proteins, fats, and oils and wash away these stains from our clothes. Their ability to turn organic stains into smaller molecules is important in many cleaning products.
Moreover, enzymes clean our clothes deeply by targeting the fibers and preventing any dirt or soil particles from sticking to the threads. These naturally occurring substances are very gentle and don’t damage the clothes in any way.
All bio-detergents that contain enzymes can tackle many stains head on. Stains like ketchup, juices, and sauces are pretty easy targets for enzymes in your detergents. So the next time you soil your shirt while having a cheeseburger or french fries, sweat not!
What Types of Enzymes Are in Your Detergent?
Biological detergents can contain a wide range of enzymes in their ingredient list. But there are mainly five types of enzymes used in detergents, each adding to the overall cleaning power of your product.
Proteases break down proteins and are perfect for removing blood, sweat, egg, meat, gravy, and other protein stains from your clothes. So, whether you have to clean stains from your kids’ sports uniforms or a mess created by your pet, these enzymes can wash away all your worries. They’re mainly extracted from bacteria found in marshy areas and are the most widely used enzymes in washing products.
Oil and grease stains are pesky little devils that don’t come off very easily. But an enzyme called lipase can easily wash away fat and oil stains, no matter how stubborn and old they are. Food stains such as chocolate, desserts, and ice creams are no big deal for lipases.
These molecules show the best results after several wash cycles and remain active until the fabric dries out completely. Moreover, they are quite gentle on the skin.
Amylases wash away starchy stains. Stains caused by grass, cereals, pasta, cherry pie, soft drinks, beans, sauces, vegetables, flour, and fruits are best washed with amylases. Such enzymes are sourced from foods like rice and barley and are 100% safe for the environment. Amylases do not cause any skin problems, either. In fact, they are also used in your sunscreens and conditioners.
Not only do enzymes clean stains, but they also help bring out the original colors of your clothing. Cellulase, for example, targets the dullness and removes the fuzz of fibrils on surfaces. They act on the cotton fibers of your clothes and wash away all the dirt and dust particles. Due to these enzymes, your laundry turns out brighter, softer, and smoother than before. One of the many benefits of cellulases is that they help keep the strength of the fabric. In addition to that, they remove stains caused by vegetables, fruit juices, and legumes.
Mannanase is yet another laundry enzyme widely used for its action against foods like tomato ketchup, ice creams, chocolates, and toothpaste. Such enzymes can easily wash away stains from skin care creams and lipsticks.
Biological detergents contain small amounts of all of these enzymes working together as a team to fight stains.
The Impact of Enzymes on the Environment
So, are detergent enzymes really eco-friendly? Absolutely yes! Using biological detergents will save you from hours of scrubbing to fight off stains. At the same time, you can reduce your carbon footprint and pat yourself on the back for making an eco-friendly choice.
Enzymes are biodegradable
All enzymes are proteins in nature and are derived from living organisms found on the earth. This makes them biodegradable, which means they can easily dissolve in soil and water.
Enzymes are the most eco-friendly solution in the detergent industry because the waste produced during the making of these products is safe for the environment.
Enzymes replace harmful chemicals
Biological detergents containing enzymes can clean your clothes the same way as any chemical detergent does. There is no huge difference in cleaning performance, which is why many laundry detergent brands are replacing harsh chemicals with enzymes. While cleaning power remains the same, there is indeed a huge difference in their environmental impacts.
According to research, nonbiological detergents are responsible for reducing fishes’ ability to reproduce. Ingredients like phosphates, formaldehyde, dioxane, bleach, and synthetic fragrances are highly toxic and are commonly found in chemical detergents. So, if you’re using such a detergent, it’s likely that you’re contributing to the destruction of aquatic life!
The next time you go to a store and see detergents with “green,” “eco-friendly,” and “enzyme-based” labels, they are all probably safe for you and our environment, but the most conscientious consumers read ingredients lists to make sure.
Enzymes reduce carbon emissions
The detergent footprint is as bad as the carbon footprint! Chemical detergents are made by petrochemicals that are obtained from mining the earth’s surface. It’s a disastrous activity that harms our environment in many ways. Laundry detergents usually come in nonrecyclable and nonreusable plastic packages. Imagine how much plastic we are adding to the landfills, given the weekly purchase of chemical detergents.
On the other hand, biological detergents containing enzymes are likely to last longer, as you only need a small amount of detergent in every wash. They come in forms like pods, sheets, and tablets that use little packaging material and can be easily shipped and stored.
By adding enzyme-based products to your washing regime, you can cut down the release of a small amount of carbon dioxide with every wash cycle. As the saying goes, “little drops of water make the mighty ocean,” these little acts can help protect the earth for generations to come.
Here’s a fun fact: If we all swap just one bottle of regular detergent with a biological detergent, we could save 149,000 barrels of oil used for burning every year!
Enzymes promote sustainable fashion
Did you know that a large truck full of clothes is dumped in a landfill every second? For context, there are 86,400 seconds in a day! This is a result of fast fashion—a term that describes companies making new clothes rapidly to meet the latest trends.
The cycle of fast fashion can be broken if we use detergents that keep our clothes fresh and new. By using enzyme-containing detergent, people will keep their clothes for a longer period of time and won’t feel the need to buy new articles every week or month.
Enzymes lower the washing temperature
The best thing about enzymes in detergents is they don’t need high water temperatures to wash off the stains. This way you can save about 70%–90% of the energy used to warm up the water every time you do your laundry. Enzymes can help you save on time and huge electricity bills.
Washing laundry in cold water also means you can throw in all types of fabrics, such as silk, cashmere, wool, and denim, without worrying about damaging them. You don’t have to run the washing machine again and again for different fabric materials.
Some Other Benefits of Biological Detergents
The benefits enzymes offer us do not end here! Keep reading to see what else you can get from using enzyme-based laundry detergents.
Better at fighting tough stains
Enzymes are just as powerful as other stain removal products. They can quickly wash away any kind of organic stain in just a few cycles. This reduces wash time and the effort needed to rub off a tough stain. If you’re a mom who’s always washing baby and kids’ clothes, enzyme-based laundry detergent is the best choice for you. It can clean stains like chocolate milk and cereals in just a few minutes and save you a lot of effort!
For stubborn stains, gently rub a small amount of detergent on the stained area and leave for a while, then rinse with water. However, make sure you read the washing instructions on your garment, as well as the instructions that come with your detergent because every product has different ingredients.
Enhance color and brightness
Chemical detergents have a bad history of damaging clothes and making them dull, fuzzy, and out-of-shape after only a few washes. But enzyme detergents are gentle and powerful enough to fight off all the stains while keeping your clothes as good as new. What’s interesting is that while enzymes fight stains, they also make the clothes brighter and softer.
Act as fabric softeners
Enzymes can make your clothes feel soft and smooth on the skin. Instead of using a fabric softener separately in washers, you can just stick to these “2-in-1” products and save time and money!
Offer compact formulations
The best thing about enzymes is that they don’t get used up after one wash. Because of their high performance, enzymes in detergents continue to work for many wash cycles. This is the reason why detergents contain only a tiny portion of enzymes in their total formulation. You only need a few spoonfuls of the detergent to wash one load of laundry.
Detergent manufacturers are now making products that can be shipped in small-sized packages, such as soap bars, pods, balls, and sheets. Small products save factories from using huge amounts of packaging materials and bearing high shipping expenses. This saves a lot of energy and resources used to produce detergents.
Do Enzymes Cause Any Bad Effects?
There is a myth floating around that the use of enzymes harms your skin, as well as your clothes, but it is entirely false! Enzymes don’t cause any skin disorders. In fact, it’s the use of fragrances and chemicals in the detergents that causes skin irritations.
As you know by now, detergents are made up of different ingredients, along with enzymes. Some of these ingredients may irritate your sensitive skin, but enzymes are totally safe to use. Moreover, this is backed by the fact that enzymes only form a small portion of the total formulation. A small amount of such harmless molecules can cause no damage to your clothes or skin.
Do you know that an average family does 50 pounds of laundry every week? That’s a lot of detergent waste added to drains and water sources every year. As a caring consumer, you should be aware of how your choices affect this planet. If you want to choose sustainable laundry detergents then go for enzyme-based products.
Enzymes in detergent can significantly reduce environmental pollution. They are harmless to your skin and clothes, they fight tough stains, and they prevent your wardrobe from becoming baggy or worn out. This choice can save you money and time every time you do laundry. Enzyme-based laundry detergents aren’t the only product making waves in the cleaning industry. As consumers move away from those huge plastic jugs filled with phosphates, laundry detergent sheets are emerging as a sustainable alternative. To learn which laundry sheet brand is the best, check out my article on the eight best laundry detergent sheets.
You can play your part in keeping the environment clean and healthy without compromising on cleaning action. This small switch can improve your family’s health, along with the environment’s. So, what are you waiting for? Let’s swap the nonbiological detergents with green products!