Cleanliness is essential for maintaining a healthy environment at home. When it comes to effective products, enzymatic cleaners have gained recognition for their remarkable abilities.
These cleaners utilise the power of enzymes to break down organic matter, eliminating stains, odours, and germs. You can find these substances at chemical stores, or you can make them at home.
Read on to find out everything you need to know about enzymatic cleaners, including their composition, working mechanism, applications, benefits, and tips for choosing the right product.
What Are Enzymatic Cleaners?
Enzymatic cleaners are a type of cleaning product that utilise enzymes to break down and remove organic matter, such as stains, odours, and dirt. Their peculiarity is that they contain these natural substances that act as catalysts, speeding up chemical reactions without being consumed in the process.
Enzymatic cleaners are designed to target specific types of organic substances, depending on the enzymes they contain.
For example, proteases break down protein-based stains like blood or food, amylases target starch-based stains, lipases work on grease and oil-based stains, and cellulases break down plant-based stains.
The enzymes work by breaking down complex organic molecules into smaller, more soluble components that can be easily rinsed away or wiped off. This enzymatic action helps to effectively remove stains and odours rather than just masking them.
In addition to the enzymes, these cleaners also contain surfactants. These agents enhance the cleaning action of the enzymes by reducing the surface tension of water and allowing it to penetrate and lift away the soiled material more effectively.
Moreover, enzymatic cleaners may contain other ingredients such as stabilisers, fragrances, and preservatives to improve their performance and user experience.
The specific formulation and composition of enzymatic cleaners may vary depending on the intended use and the brand.
However, the key component that sets enzymatic cleaners apart from traditional cleaners is the inclusion of enzymes that target and break down organic substances, resulting in a more thorough and efficient cleaning process.
How Do Enzymes Work in Cleaning?
Enzymes work in cleaning by accelerating the breakdown of complex organic molecules into simpler, more soluble components.
They do this by targeting and catalysing specific chemical reactions that break down the bonds holding the organic matter together.
- Recognition: Enzymes have specific shapes that allow them to recognize and bind to specific substances, such as proteins, starches, fats, or other organic compounds present in stains or dirt.
- Activation: Once the enzyme binds to its target, it undergoes a conformational change that activates its catalytic site, also known as the active site. This activated site allows the enzyme to interact with the substrate (the organic substance it’s targeting) and initiate the breakdown process.
- Catalysis: The activated enzyme facilitates and speeds up the chemical reactions required to break down the organic matter. Depending on the type of enzyme and its specific function, different reactions occur. For example, protease enzymes break down proteins by hydrolysis peptide bonds, while amylase enzymes break down starches by breaking glycosidic bonds.
- Conversion: As the enzyme catalyses the reaction, the complex organic molecules are broken down into smaller, soluble fragments. These fragments are often simpler compounds that are easier to rinse or wipe away.
- Rinsing/removal: Once the organic matter is broken down, the enzyme’s action enables the soiled material to be easily rinsed away with water or removed through wiping or vacuuming, depending on the surface being cleaned.
- Inactivation: Enzymes are designed to work under specific conditions, such as a specific pH range or temperature. Once the cleaning process is complete, the enzymes become inactive or denatured, and their cleaning action ceases.
Different Types of Enzymes Used in Cleaners
Enzymatic cleaners utilise different types of enzymes to target and break down specific types of organic substances. Here are some of the common types of enzymes used in cleaners:
- Proteases: These are enzymes that break down proteins. They are effective in removing protein-based stains like blood, urine, grass, and food residues.
- Amylases: Amylases target and break down starches, which are common components in food stains like pasta, bread, and sauces.
- Lipases: Lipases are enzymes that work on fats and oils. They are effective in removing grease stains, oily residues, and lipid-based substances.
- Cellulases: Break down cellulose, which is the main component of plant-based stains like grass, fruit juices, and vegetable residues.
- Mannanases: Are enzymes that target and break down complex carbohydrates called mannan, which are found in stains like coffee and gum.
- Pectinases: Pectinases break down pectin, a complex carbohydrate found in fruit stains, such as berry or citrus stains.
- Xylanases: Xylanases are enzymes that break down xylan, a complex carbohydrate found in stains like wood, paper, or coffee.
These are just a few examples of the types of enzymes used in cleaners. Different cleaners may contain different combinations of enzymes, depending on the specific cleaning purpose they are formulated for.
6 Applications Of Enzymatic Cleaners
As explained, there are various types of enzymes used in enzymatic cleaners. This variety makes these cleaners suitable for a wide range of applications, both at home and in commercial or industrial settings.
1. Cleaning Kitchen and Bathroom Surfaces
Enzymatic cleaners are highly effective in cleaning kitchen and bathroom surfaces due to their ability to break down organic matter.
In the kitchen, where food residues, grease, and oil can accumulate, enzymatic cleaners containing lipases and proteases can effortlessly remove tough stains and residues from countertops, stovetops, sinks, and appliances.
In the bathroom, where soap scum, mineral deposits, and organic stains are common, enzymatic cleaners with proteases and cellulases can effectively tackle these issues, leaving surfaces clean and fresh.
2. Cleaning Carpets and Upholstery
Enzymatic cleaners are a popular choice for cleaning carpets and upholstery due to their ability to remove organic stains and odours.
Enzymes such as proteases and amylases break down proteins and starches commonly found in food stains, pet accidents, and other organic spills.
These cleaners can penetrate deep into the fibres, effectively breaking down and removing the source of the stain or odour, resulting in refreshed and clean carpets and upholstery.
3. Laundry and Fabric Stain Removal
Enzymatic cleaners are widely used in laundry and stain removal due to their remarkable stain-fighting capabilities.
By incorporating proteases, lipases, and amylases, enzymatic laundry detergents and stain removers effectively treat various stains, including grass, blood, food, and sweat.
The enzymatic action helps to pre-treat, lift, and break down the stains, increasing the chances of successful stain removal during the wash cycle.
4. Hospitals and Healthcare Facilities
Enzymatic cleaners play a vital role in maintaining cleanliness and hygiene in hospitals and healthcare facilities. These cleaners can effectively break down and remove blood, bodily fluids, and other protein-based stains.
In these settings, enzymatic cleaners with proteases are commonly used to clean medical instruments, equipment, and surfaces, ensuring thorough disinfection and reducing the risk of infections. They help to maintain a safe and sanitary environment for patients, healthcare professionals, and visitors.
5. Restaurants and Food Service Industry
Enzymatic cleaners are also highly valued in the food service industry, where kitchen surfaces, equipment, and utensils often come into contact with food residues, grease, and oils.
Enzymatic cleaners with lipases and proteases effectively break down these organic substances, ensuring thorough cleaning and maintaining a hygienic environment.
Additionally, enzymatic cleaners help eliminate odours from food preparation areas, garbage disposals, and grease traps, contributing to a pleasant dining experience.
6. Janitorial and Maintenance Services
Enzymatic cleaners are widely used in janitorial and maintenance services for various cleaning tasks, including cleaning floors, walls, restrooms, and common areas.
These cleaners provide an efficient solution for tackling dirt, grime, food residues, and other organic substances encountered in offices, schools, hotels, and other public facilities.
5 Benefits of Enzymatic Cleaners
In addition to the wide range of applications, enzymatic cleaners come with multiple benefits compared to the traditional chemical cleaners.
1. Effectiveness in Breaking Down Organic Matter
Enzymatic cleaners excel in breaking down organic matter due to their specific enzymatic action. These molecules target and catalyse the breakdown of complex organic compounds into simpler, more soluble components.
Whether it’s proteins, starches, oils, or other organic substances, enzymatic cleaners effectively break them down, making it easier to remove stains, grease, and residues.
Their ability to target and break down specific types of organic matter makes them highly effective in tackling even the toughest stains and grime.
2. Odour Elimination
Enzymatic cleaners not only remove visible stains but also remove odours, as bad smells often stem from the decomposition of organic matter.
The enzymes in these cleaners break down the organic molecules responsible for the odours, effectively eliminating them rather than just masking them with fragrances.
By targeting and breaking down the source of bad smells, enzymatic cleaners provide a more thorough and long-lasting solution for odour control, resulting in a fresh and clean environment.
3. Environmentally Friendly and Biodegradable
One of the significant benefits of enzymatic cleaners is their environmental friendliness. Many enzymatic cleaners are made with biodegradable ingredients, meaning they can naturally break down over time without leaving harmful residues in the environment.
Enzymes themselves are derived from natural sources and are non-toxic. Additionally, enzymatic cleaners rarely contain harsh chemicals, making them a greener alternative that minimises the impact on ecosystems and waterways.
4. Safe for Humans and Pets
Enzymatic cleaners are generally safe for humans and pets. The reduced content of harsh chemicals and irritants makes it ideal for both households and public settings that hypersensitive individuals could frequent.
Typically, these cleaners are formulated to reduce the risk of skin irritation, respiratory issues, or other adverse effects. However, it’s still important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and use any cleaning product responsibly to avoid side effects.
5. Non-Corrosive and Gentle on Surfaces
Enzymatic cleaners are known for being non-corrosive and gentle on surfaces. Unlike some traditional cleaners that can damage or discolour certain materials, enzymatic cleaners are generally safe to use on a wide range of surfaces, including fabrics, carpets, tiles, wood, and more.
They are designed to be non-abrasive and gentle while still effectively breaking down organic matter.
Thanks to these properties, enzymatic cleaners offer a balance between thorough cleaning and surface protection, reducing the risk of damage to delicate surfaces, and extending their lifespan.
How To Use Enzymatic Cleaners
Enzymatic cleaners are less harmful than traditional products, but you must still use them properly. While each brand is different, the steps below apply to almost all products.
1. Prepare the Surface
For enzymatic cleaners to be effective, you should remove as much dirt or grime as possible before using the product.
Get rid of any loose dirt, debris, or excess liquid from the surface you’re cleaning. This can be done by wiping, vacuuming, or rinsing the area, depending on the nature of the surface.
2. Pre-Test the Cleaner
Before using any enzymatic cleaner, carefully read the instructions provided by the manufacturer. Different products may have specific guidelines and recommendations for use.
It’s always a good idea to pre-test the enzymatic cleaner on a small, inconspicuous area of the surface or fabric you intend to clean. This helps ensure that the cleaner is compatible with the material and doesn’t cause any damage or discolouration.
3. Dilute the Cleaner
Some enzymatic cleaners need to be diluted before use. Follow the instructions on the label to determine the appropriate dilution ratio, if applicable. Prepare the solution by mixing the cleaner with water as directed.
4. Clean the Surface
Depending on the type of surface, apply the enzymatic cleaner directly or use a clean cloth, sponge, or sprayer to apply the solution. Ensure that the affected area is adequately covered with the cleaner, focusing on stains, dirt, or bad smelling areas.
Follow the recommended dwell time provided by the manufacturer, allowing the enzymes to break down the organic matter. This could range from a few minutes to several hours, depending on the product and the severity of the issue.
5. Rinse or Blot
After the dwell time has elapsed, thoroughly rinse the surface with water to remove the enzymatic cleaner along with the dissolved organic matter. For fabrics or carpets, you can use a clean, damp cloth or sponge to blot the area and remove any residue.
Depending on the severity of the stain or odour, you may need to repeat the application and cleaning process to achieve the desired results.
Enzymatic Cleaners Dos and Don’ts
Like all cleaning products, enzymatic cleaners come with their dos and don’ts. Follow the tips below to make the most out of this cleaning method.
- Read and follow the instructions: Always carefully read the instructions provided by the manufacturer before using an enzymatic cleaner. Following the instructions ensures proper usage and maximises the effectiveness of the product.
- Pre-test on a small area: Before applying an enzymatic cleaner to a larger area or fabric, perform a patch test on a small, inconspicuous area. This helps ensure that the cleaner is compatible with the material and does not cause any damage or discoloration.
- Allow sufficient dwell time: Enzymatic cleaners require time to break down organic matter. Follow the recommended dwell time specified by the manufacturer to allow the enzymes to work effectively. Patience is essential to achieve optimal cleaning results.
- Use gentle agitation: For stubborn stains or heavily soiled areas, gentle agitation may help the enzymatic cleaner penetrate and loosen the organic matter. Use a soft brush, cloth, or sponge to lightly agitate the surface without causing damage.
- Rinse or blot thoroughly: After the cleaning process, it is essential to remove all traces of enzymatic cleaner. Since the enzymes can break organic materials, leaving traces of cleaner behind could damage organic surfaces, such as hardwood floors, natural fabrics, etc.
- Don’t mix enzymatic cleaners with other cleaning products: Avoid mixing enzymatic cleaners with other cleaning products, as it can compromise their effectiveness. Enzymatic cleaners are designed to work on their own and combining them with other chemicals may interfere with their enzymatic action.
- Don’t use enzymatic cleaners on non-washable or delicate fabrics: Enzymatic cleaners are generally safe for fabrics, but some delicate or non-washable materials may be sensitive to the enzymes. Avoid using enzymatic cleaners on such items unless specified by the manufacturer.
- Don’t use excessive heat: Enzymatic cleaners may lose their effectiveness at high temperatures. Avoid using excessive heat, such as hot water or direct heat sources, as it can denature the enzymes and reduce their cleaning power.
- Don’t let enzymatic cleaners dry on surfaces: To prevent residue build-up, avoid letting enzymatic cleaners dry on surfaces. Rinse or wipe away the cleaner after the recommended dwell time to ensure thorough cleaning and prevent potential streaks or residue.
- Don’t assume one application will always suffice: Depending on the severity of the stain or odour, one application of an enzymatic cleaner may not be sufficient. For stubborn stains or persistent smells, repeat the application and cleaning process as necessary, following the manufacturer’s recommendations.
How To Choose The Right Enzymatic Cleaner
One of the most common mistakes when choosing an enzymatic cleaner is assuming that all cleaners were created equal. However, there are a few things to keep in mind before buying.
Specific Cleaning Needs
Consider your specific cleaning needs when choosing an enzymatic cleaner. Identify the type of stains or organic matter you want to remove, such as protein-based stains, grease, or pet accidents.
Different enzymatic cleaners are formulated to target specific types of organic matter. For example, if you need to remove protein-based stains like blood or food residues, look for an enzymatic cleaner with protease enzymes.
Understanding your specific cleaning needs will help you select a cleaner that is tailored to tackle your specific cleaning challenges.
Ensure that the enzymatic cleaner you choose is compatible with the surface you plan to clean. Read the manufacturer’s instructions or labels to determine the recommended surfaces for use.
Some enzymatic cleaners are designed for specific surfaces like fabrics, carpets, kitchen countertops, or bathroom fixtures. Choose a cleaner that is safe and effective for the surface you intend to clean to prevent any damage or discoloration.
Concentration and Dilution Options
Consider the concentration and dilution options available with the enzymatic cleaner. Some cleaners come in ready-to-use form, while others require dilution before use.
If you prefer convenience and ease of use, a ready-to-use formula may be suitable. However, if you have specific cleaning requirements or prefer to customise the cleaning strength, choose an enzymatic cleaner that allows dilution.
This way, you can adjust the concentration based on the severity of the stains or odours you need to address.
If you or anyone in your household has allergies or sensitivities, consider allergen considerations when choosing an enzymatic cleaner.
Some cleaners may contain fragrances or additives that can trigger allergic reactions. Look for cleaners that are labelled as hypoallergenic, fragrance-free, or specifically formulated for sensitive individuals.
Additionally, check the product labels for any potential allergens or irritants to ensure they are safe for use in your environment.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are enzymatic cleaners safe to use around children and pets?
Enzymatic cleaners are generally considered safe to use around children and pets. They are designed to be non-toxic and have reduced content of harsh chemicals compared to traditional cleaning products.
However, it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and use any cleaning product responsibly.
While enzymatic cleaners are considered safe, it’s still advisable to keep children and pets away from the cleaning area until the surface is completely dry to avoid any potential ingestion or contact with wet cleaner.
Can enzymatic cleaners replace traditional cleaning products?
Enzymatic cleaners can be effective alternatives to traditional cleaning products in many cases. They offer specific benefits in breaking down organic matter, eliminating odours, and being environmentally friendly.
However, there may still be situations where traditional cleaning products are needed, such as for disinfection or for cleaning non-organic stains.
Enzymatic cleaners are not a one-size-fits-all solution and may not replace all traditional cleaning products entirely. It’s important to assess your specific cleaning needs and determine if an enzymatic cleaner is suitable or if a combination of enzymatic and traditional cleaners is more appropriate.
Do enzymatic cleaners work on all types of stains?
No, enzymatic cleaners generally don’t work on non-organic stains, such as ink or chemical-based stains.
For these types of stains, other specialised cleaners may be more suitable. Consider the nature of the stain and read the product label to determine if the enzymatic cleaner is specifically formulated to target the type of stain you need to remove.
Are there any surfaces or materials that enzymatic cleaners should not be used on?
Some delicate or non-washable materials, such as silk or leather, may require specialised cleaning methods or should be tested in a small, inconspicuous area before using enzymatic cleaners.
Additionally, some enzymatic cleaners may not be suitable for use on natural stone surfaces, as the enzymes can break down the sealant or finish.
Always check the instructions and surface compatibility guidelines provided by the manufacturer before using enzymatic cleaners on specific surfaces or materials.
Enzymatic cleaners are a great alternative to harsh chemicals, but there are several things to consider before using them. While they are effective against organic stains and messes, enzymatic cleaners are not effective against inorganic stains. If you do need an enzymatic cleaner, we hope this guide can help you use it effectively.