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What is an Enzymatic Cleaner?

By S. Gonzales
Updated: May 16, 2024

When someone talks about an enzymatic cleaner, he or she is usually referring to a specific type of biodegradable, non-toxic cleaning agent. While an enzymatic cleaner is a special type of cleaning agent, its uses are not confined to any particular product. Enzymatic cleaners can be used on various home and personal items including carpets, laundry, and contact lenses.

Enzymatic cleaners are popular because of their ability to break down soils, stains, and other debris with the use of natural enzymes. Typically, the enzymes used to create an enzymatic cleaner include species of the bacteria Bacillus. Out of this bacteria, proteases and amylases are used the most, though lipases have also been known to be incorporated into detergent formulations. Each of these enzymes function differently. Proteases combat protein-based stains, amylases work on carbohydrates and starches, and lipolases break down lipids or fats.

Many laundry detergents formulations include enzymes. Detergent formulations that have enzymes in them are generally recognized as having the ability to remove stains such as sweat, blood, milk, and grass with ease. The amount of enzymes in each detergent formulation may vary significantly between brands. Generally, though, enzymes work faster on stains than regular chemical cleaners and they can also clean in lower temperatures, thus requiring less electricity to complete a load of laundry.

Enzymes speed up chemical reactions, which gives them their reputation for being efficient cleaners. While speeding up reactions, enzymes can remain relatively independent of them. They are also not in danger of being consumed or destroyed by the reactions. For this reason, individual enzymes are able to continue combating a stain long after a regular chemical cleaner. In fact, enzymes may be able to keep cleaning until the enzyme itself breaks down.

Since enzymatic cleaners use naturally-occurring proteins to combat stains, they are an especially useful alternative cleaner for those concerned with green living or who do not react well to typical chemical cleaners. Using an enzymatic cleaner can reduce environmental impact and help keep the user safe from adverse, allergic reactions associated with using average cleaning products. When choosing an enzymatic cleaner, consumers should take care to select one that seeks to maximize the enzymatic cleaning process, since many cleaners include enzymes in cleaner formulations by default. Though even a small amount of enzymes in a formulation can have significant effects on the agent's cleaning abilities, more enzymes can mean more cleaning benefits. Consumers should also select an enzymatic cleaner that is most appropriate for the item to be cleaned.

HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon326501 — On Mar 22, 2013

Actually, this recipe is not really an “enzyme”, but actually a recipe for homemade citrus vinegar. (The fruit/sugar/yeast ferments 1st to create alcohol, and then ferments a 2nd time to create acetic acid, i.e., vinegar) I use regular white vinegar water 1:1 as an all-purpose cleaner. After I make my homemade vinegar, I would bet that it will be a bit stronger than store-bought vinegar so it will need to be more diluted

By anon300140 — On Oct 28, 2012

Contact lens cleaners are enzymatic because it is effective. Lenses need cleaned because protein deposits accumulate on them, and enzymes are very effective at breaking down proteins.

By naturesgurl3 — On Jan 18, 2011

I am such a huge fan of natural enzymatic cleaners -- they do the job really well, and they're easy on your body and the earth as well.

I have to admit, I used to be very skeptical about enzymatic cleaners after using one that I got at a healthfood store that just didn't work at all.

However, I was still really curious about it, since I always read about how bad all the chemicals are in most cleaners, so I found a recipe for making a natural enzymatic cleaner online (actually very similar to @closerfan12s) and went with it.

I was just shocked to see how well it works. I use it to scrub my bathrooms, and it takes off lime scale and calcium build up with ease, and without all the nasty chemical smells. In fact, it's a two for one, since it cleans the bathroom and also makes it smell nice.

I also use it to mop my floors, and it makes the wood very shiny and clean without having to go over it 8 times like I used to have to do with my old mop cleaner. Best of all, you can then use the leftover enzyme water to water your plants!

So yeah, I would definitely recommend people to use an enzymatic cleaner, preferably a home made one. It's cheap, effective, and very good for your health.


By googlefanz — On Jan 15, 2011

So why do contact lens cleaners have to be enzymatic? I've always wondered this, because it seems like every contact lens solution on the market has some kind of enzyme in it. If you don't know what I'm talking about, just head down to your local drug store and look at the contract solution -- pretty much any "complete" contact lens solution has it, whether that's Alcon enzymatic cleaner, Opti Free enzymatic cleaner, etc.

So why is this? Is there something about the nature or composition of contact lenses that mean that they have to be cleaned with enzymes? Can anyone clear this up for me?

Thanks all.

By closerfan12 — On Jan 14, 2011

Did you know that you can also make enzymatic cleaners yourself? I read about this a few months back on one of those saving money blogs, and they were talking about how easy it is to actually make effective cleansers out of household materials.

Here's a recipe for one that worked really well for me.

OK, you take an air tight plastic container, 100 grams of brown sugar, 300 grams of lemon or orange leftovers (peels, etc), and a liter of tap water. All you do is put it all together in your air tight container (I use left over juice bottles, but anything will do), and let it ferment for three months.

Every day for the first month, be sure to open the container to let the excess gas out. Alternatively, you can also just leave the cap about halfway tightened.

After three months, your enzymatic cleaner will be ready to go, and you can really use this stuff for just about anything. I personally use it to replace my old enzymatic carpet cleaner, and I've heard that some people even use it as a face wash, so as you can see, tons of uses. Hope you guys enjoy using it as much as I do!

By hyrax53 — On Jan 14, 2011

I love that liquid enzymatic cleaners can be used for so many different things. Too many cleaning products on the market today are single task items, obviously as a way to get people to buy more things; I personally will always go for something with multiple possible uses.

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