Cleaning could be getting cheaper, with reusable enzymes


April 19, 2012

Cheaper, non-enzymatic detergents can be used with enzyme-enhanced cleaning utensils for greater effectiveness (Photo via Shutterstock)

Cheaper, non-enzymatic detergents can be used with enzyme-enhanced cleaning utensils for greater effectiveness (Photo via Shutterstock)

Enzymes are catalysts that boost chemical reactions by lowering the activation energy required for the reactions to occur. Added to detergents, they help break down the dirt into smaller pieces that can be more easily removed with water. While enzymatic detergents do work better than non-enzymatic ones, they are also more expensive. But what if the enzymes could be reused? A recent study by C.S. Pundir and Nidhi Chauhan, members of The American Chemical Society, may lead to cheaper laundry days and less in the way of valuable enzymes going down the drain.

The main enzymes responsible for breaking down mud, oils, proteins and starches in your stained pants are cellulase, amylase, protease and lipase. Previous studies had shown that individual enzymes could be attached to different surfaces and reused. Now, the researchers have managed to attach all four enzymes to pieces of plastic (PVC).

The durability and efficiency of the enzyme-enhanced PVC have already been tested. The researchers first adhered all four enzymes to the inside of a PVC bucket and to the plastic bristles of a cleaning brush. Then they washed white garments stained with starch, grass, egg, mustard and oil in the bucket or using the scrub brush. Of course, the same treatment was applied to a control-group pile of laundry.

As it turned out – when used with the enzymatic cleaning utensils – cheap, non-enzymatic detergents did an equally good, or even better job at removing stains than the expensive enzymatic detergents. The enzymes remained active for about 200 cleanings, over the period of three months.

This could mean new cleaning products down the road, along with some savings for the family budget and a big headache for the enzymatic detergent manufacturers.

Source: American Chemical Society

About the Author
Jan Belezina Formerly in charge of Engadget Poland, Jan Belezina's long time fascination with the advance of new technology has led him to become Gizmag's eyes and ears in Eastern Europe. All articles by Jan Belezina

This seems to be a real advance but the picture suggests use on the drum of a washing machine, so if the enzyme coating remains active for 200 cleaning cycles, does this mean the washing machine drum would need either replacing or re-coating after 200 washes?


I just hope they quit the cartoon commercials that make people believe that enzymes are alive. They are only molecules. Some actually remain on the stomach lining. Wine and pineapple have large amounts of enzymes which help tenderize meat. So always drink wine with your steak!


Bind them to a sponge thrown in with the wash. Or what about an outer fabric layer?

Frank Meriwether
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