Here's information on how enzyme laundry detergent and stain removers work to remove stains and get clothes clean, as well as how to use them properly and effectively.
I bet you've heard about various cleaning and laundry supplies which contain enzymes, since this is something manufacturers often brag about.
They're shown in commercials happily munching on stains and odor, breaking them down so they can get washed away.
Well, scientifically it is a bit more complicated than that, but not too much.
Basically, enzymes are a type of protein that catalyze other chemical reactions, and as it relates to your laundry, they are used to break down other protein or greasy stains and dirt.
Not all enzymes are the same, and each type has evolved to best deal with specific types of stains or dirt on clothing.
Therefore, although the specific enzymes present in various enzyme laundry detergent or stain removers may differ, here are some common ones that may be in your laundry supplies:
Enzymes are naturally occurring, and as such are well designed to deal with organic (meaning, in this instance, substances made by living things) stains. Examples of such stains include:
As with any stain remover, you should techically test any product that contains enzymes first in an inconspicuous area of the fabric, before using it.
However, as a practical matter one of the common ingredients in many detergents are enzymes, and the reason for this is they are safe for most fabrics, at least from the perspective that one wash with them will not damage the fabric.
Therefore, only if you're really concerned about a fabric because it is expensive or has sentimental value, or you are washing something delicate that you wouldn't use regular laundry detergent on, do you really need to do this step of testing in an inconspicuous area before use.
(In fact many, but not all delicate wash products don't contain enzymes, but a couple do.)
I mentioned above that one wash will not cause damage from enzymes above, but in fact the majority consensus among detergent manufacturers is that enzymes are generally safe for use on most clothing, on a constant basis.
I personally have washed my clothes in detergents containing enzymes for years, and chances are you have too, since most detergents do contain them.
I personally have not seen evidence that enzymes adversely affect fabrics over time, and my belief is that many detergent manufacturers feel the same since they continue to add this laundry detergent ingredient to most formulas.
However, there are some companies which do think enzymes, over time, damage fibers, as well as are an irritant for sensitive skin. The one that comes to my mind is Dropps detergent, which makes a big point out of not having enzymes in any of its detergent varities. Here is a blog post from Dropps explaining why they don't put enzymes in their detergent.
I have personally tried Dropps detergent, and noted in my review that it didn't do a very good job of removing stains that I missed pretreating before I threw them in the washing machine (here's my Dropps review where I made this observation). I personally didn't like that much, and now I understand why the brand didn't do as well on certain stains as most other detergents which would have knocked such stains out despite my lack of pretreating.
As for the statement from Dropps that enzymes can irritate sensitive skin, I could see that being an issue for some people, because there is most likely someone out there allergic to almost anything.
In fact, I've gotten many reviews from readers who've shared how certain hypoallergenic laundry detergents have still caused them to have allergic reactions, so nothing is perfect for everyone.
However, when I did a video interview with a dermatologist, specifically to discuss laundry detergent allergy symptoms and their cause (click the link to watch the interview) she said the top two things which cause allergic reactions are scent and dyes. She did not list enzymes.
Most hypoallergenic products remove their scents and dyes, but don't advertise removing enzymes, which makes me think that enzymes, to the extent that they can bother sensitive skin, do so at a much lower rate of the overall population than these other two ingredients.
My personal belief, as a person who uses strictly hypoallergenic laundry supplies, is not to avoid enzyme laundry detergent, at least not until you eliminate both the use of products containing scents and dyes first. Then, only eliminate enzymes from your detergents if removing the first two allergens doesn't fix your allergy problems.
Enzymes are found in many types of laundry supplies, from detergents, presoaks, certain oxygen bleaches, and laundry pretreaters. How you use them varies slightly with the type of product, but they're all pretty easy to use.
Some laundry stain removers contain enzymes within them.
You should follow label instructions, because typically these products also contain other ingredients that may be harsher on fabric, but you can usually spray these enzymes onto your stained fabric and let it sit for several minutes (perhaps even dry - if the instructions say this is OK) to let it work, before throwing it in the washing machine.
A very popular way to use enzyme laundry detergent is as a presoak. In such a situation you add detergent to water, and soak the stained clothing in the water for a while, to allow the enzymes to do their stain fighting job.
There are also some commercially available stain removers which contain both enzymes and oxygen bleach, such as Biz stain remover, which work really well for presoaking.
The key, when using detergent or presoaks in this way is to give the enzymes time to do their job, which means the item should soak for at least 30 minutes.
Along with using enzymes prior to washing your clothes, they are often added as one of the laundry supplies that are put into your washing machine as well.
When using either an enzyme laundry detergent, or a stain remover containing enzymes, make sure you give it time to work before adding chlorine bleach, since this type of bleach deactivates enzymes.
That's why it is best to add the detergent to the water, and then let the washing machine run with the clothes in it for at least five minutes before adding the chlorine bleach to the wash water.
There are a lot of laundry supplies which contain enzymes, and along with the enzymes they often also contain many other ingredients.
That means lots of them work better than others, and you of course want to use only the best ones.
I've been collecting enzyme cleaner and laundry supplies reviews here, from readers, who've shared how various products have worked for them. You can read these reviews, plus I would love for you to share your own too, telling me what products have worked well for you (or not), and why.
Hi, I'm Taylor, a busy mom with 3 kids, so I have lots of hands on experience with house cleaning, laundry and my fair share of spots, spills and other messy catastrophes. Thanks for visiting my site.
I update the website all the time with tips, tutorials, cleaning recipes, reviews of products from readers like you, and tests I've done on various cleaners, removers and laundry supplies.
I'd love to give you a gift! When you subscribe to my free weekly newsletter you will receive a free printable laundry stain removal chart that you can reference as needed.
I hope you enjoy this gift, and stop by again soon!
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CAUTION: This website is provided for informational purposes only. It is provided as is, without warranties or guarantees. Some stains and messes just won't come out, and are permanent. Further, some cleaning methods can harm your item, so if what you want to clean or launder is sentimental or expensive call a professional. See disclaimer of liability for more information.
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