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HandWiki. Laundry Enzyme. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 30 May 2024).
HandWiki. Laundry Enzyme. Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed May 30, 2024.
HandWiki. "Laundry Enzyme" Encyclopedia, (accessed May 30, 2024).
HandWiki. (2022, November 09). Laundry Enzyme. In Encyclopedia.
HandWiki. "Laundry Enzyme." Encyclopedia. Web. 09 November, 2022.
Laundry Enzyme

Laundry enzyme is one type of biological enzymes that are frequently used in the laundry industry, and also it is still the largest industrial enzyme application and thus the laundry enzyme plays a significant role in helping both household laundry and the relative industrial business. Laundry enzymes are sub-class of enzymes, and thus they are also biological catalysts with poly-molecular structure. They usually exist as little blue particles or flecks in both liquid and powder detergents, and once contacting with water they dissolve rapidly, by acting as a catalyst, the laundry enzymes boost the rate of the reaction between stains and aqueous solution. Therefore, laundry enzymes are good at stain removal. The addition of laundry enzymes in detergent products improves laundry efficiency and also makes the process more environmentally friendly, and thus detergent manufacturers are willing to update the products with laundry enzyme formula added. With the consumers' high interest in new bio-technique gradually growing, laundry enzyme detergents are becoming more and more popular in the globe, which reveals the success of laundry enzyme's application in the industry. However, there are still several concerns from consumers brought by laundry enzymes such as the potential allergies and cloth damages, but the experimental result shows the concerns are unnecessary.

industrial enzyme experimental result poly-molecular

1. History

Otto Röhm introduced the use of enzymes in detergent, to which he added trypsin extracted from the tissues of slaughtered animals. Röhm's formula, though successful compared to the traditional cleaning methods employed in German households, was considered unstable when dealing with alkali and bleach. In 1959 yields were improved by microbial synthesis of proteases.[1]

2. Main Compounds

There five classes of enzymes found in laundry detergent include proteases, amylases, lipases, cellulases, and mannanases.[2]

3. Properties

Laundry enzymes must be able to function normally in a wide array of adverse conditions: water temperatures as high as 60°C. or as low as 0℃.; alkaline and acidic environments; solutions with high ionic strength; and the presence of surfactants or oxidizing agents.[2][3]

4. Merits

4.1. Household Energy Saving

Conventionally, the household laundering machine would heat up the tap water to provide a better laundry condition for the dirty stain on the cloth to dissolve.[4] This is because most stubborn stain have better solubility in the hot solvent. However, the energy used in this process is not negligible and thus it is a cost-worthy way to do traditional household laundering. After laundry enzymes were introduced into the market, the situation has been improved significantly. For energy saving, there are no longer extra usage of high temperature in household or dishwashers because the temperature used has been lessened recently.[2] It is mentioned that laundry enzymes are still in highest performance even in cold tap water, and thus for most of the household laundry, there is no need to heat up for a household washing machine to heat up the tap water. From this perspective, laundry enzymes are considered indispensable in helping save household bills[4]

4.2. A Wider Variety of Clothes at One Time

As a consequential benefit, consumers can freely choose a larger range of clothes with diverse materials. Lower temperature laundry condition allows more delicate materials like wool and silk that are easily affected when placed into a high-temperature environment. Moreover, lower temperature also avoids fading jeans and denim which are usually dyed with dark colors. Thus there will be less color transfer.[4]

4.3. Better Laundry Process for Leather Manufacture

There is another evidence that emphasizes the merits of using laundry enzyme in the leather industry. The traditional procedure was complex. First, animal hides with a mixture of urine and lime were soaked altogether to get rid of unwanted hairs, flesh, and fat.[5] Then, the skins were softened by kneading them in dogs or pigeons' feces, which was usually done with bare feet.[5] What really made the leather industry infamous was the discharges and refuse disposal. They caused severe hazards and problem both on human health and environmental eco-system because of the enormous amount of effluents with highly concentrated sulfide and chromium.[6] Therefore, leather making was considered a noxious and redundant trade without any doubt.[5] After laundry enzymes were introduced into the leather pre-treating procedure, the leather industry discarded the foul method[5] to pre-process the leather and also the situation has changed apparently better.[4] The use of sodium sulfide, a hazardous iconic compound to remove hair from animal hides, is lessened by 60%,[5] water usage for soaking and hair cut is lowered by 25%,[5] the most remarkable one is toxic pollution and emission has been greatly reduced by 30%.[5] These laundry enzymes have never completely substituted the industrial chemical compounds, nevertheless the working conditions, wastewater and the processing time have been greatly improved.

4.4. Phosphate and Synthetic Surfactants' Replacement

With the more completed legislative files and contexts coming towards the laundry industry. The environmentally unfriendly synthetic surfactants and phosphate salts are no longer allowed to use without any usage limit. Consequently, synthetic surfactants are then used with lower concentration in combination with enzymes.[7] Currently, laundry industry manufacturers have recognized the importance of producing environmentally friendly detergents, and to fulfill the achievement, laundry enzymes have been added to reformulate the detergent and replace the previous chemical surfactants and phosphate.[7] Laundry enzymes are biological active factors such as bacteria, yeast or even mushrooms[8] that are biologically sourced, and hence there will be less chemical pollution from the enzymes and they decompose some toxicants[7]

5. Public Concerns

5.1. Damage on Clothes

Indeed, it is found that the laundry enzyme has a side effect on the cloth made from delicate materials. According to the test, untreated knit and woolen fabrics were soaked in a solution with household laundry enzyme formulation.[9] Other variables, time and temperature up to 10 days and 40℃ respectively, were kept constant.[9] As a result, it was found that the loss in strength was proportional to both soaking time and the laundry enzyme concentration[9] and these materials were weakened also to some extent.[9] The loss was also accompanying with reduced mass and the relationship between the loss and soaking time was linearly logarithmic, suggesting laundry enzymes would damage the fragile textile if soaking in a long time[9]

5.2. Skin Allergy and SPT

After laundry enzymes have been popular for a few decades, consumers’ response also varies personally. It is reported that some Philippine consumers who are used to laundering by hand slightly suffered from powder detergents and the noticeable granular components were found to be mainly with laundry enzyme formulation.[10] Moreover, it is also said laundry enzymes have potential to increase the likelihood of getting occupational type 1 allergic responses.[11] Due to this, an increasing number of consumers are confused about whether laundry enzyme detergents are still safe to use. To test the safety of commercial laundry enzyme, an unbiased experiment called skin prick tests (SPT) has been introduced to test how human skin respond with laundry enzyme and the key is to understand the exposure to laundry enzymes.[11] The main test process was rigorous and under surveillance: More than 15,000 volunteers with diverse genders participated in the test, and 8 different types of laundry enzymes were used to proof their safety.[11] A drop of the sample laundry enzyme solution was placed on the surface of the forearm and the prick test was done at the surface epidermis using sterile needles.[11] Each observation lasted 15 minutes to present any symbol of wheals or rashes.[11] And to guarantee the accuracy, there would be further confirmation for any of the positive observations by repeating the test with another arm.[11] The results reveals that the allergy reaction is extremely rare among the public consumer.[11] Only 0.23% of the 15,765 were diagnosed with the allergy.[11] Also, the cause for the Philippine case is the mighty and rush way of rubbing laundry with hands.[10] After various with abundant volunteers worldwide, it is found that exposure to laundry enzymes leads to neither skin allergy (Type I sensitization) nor skin erosion.[10][11] Therefore, consumers’ concern about laundry enzyme on skin allergy is actually unnecessary.


  1. Leisola, Matti; Jokela, Jouni; Pastinen, Ossi; Turunen, Ossi; Schoemaker, Hans "INDUSTRIAL USE OF ENZYMES" Physiology and Maintenance II: 2–3 
  2. Kirk, Ole; Borchert, Torben; Fuglsang, Claus (1 August 2002). "Industrial enzyme applications". Current Opinion in Biotechnology 13 (4): 345–351. doi:10.1016/s0958-1669(02)00328-2. PMID 12323357.
  3. Yim, Joung Han; Lee, Jun Hyuck; Koo, Bon-Hun; Kim, Jung Eun; Han, Se Jong; Do, Hackwon; Kim, Dockyu; Lee, Chang Woo et al. (2018-02-21). "Crystal structure of a cold-active protease (Pro21717) from the psychrophilic bacterium, Pseudoalteromonas arctica PAMC 21717, at 1.4 Å resolution: Structural adaptations to cold and functional analysis of a laundry detergent enzyme" (in en). PLOS ONE 13 (2): e0191740. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0191740. ISSN 1932-6203. PMID 29466378. Bibcode: 2018PLoSO..1391740P.
  4. "Enzymes in Biological Detergents – The Facts About Laundry Detergents and How They Work" (in en). 
  5. says, Novozymes. "From excrement to enzyme: How biotech helped clean up leather production – Rethink Tomorrow" (in en-US). 
  6. Choudhary, R; Jana, A; Jha, M (September 2004). "Enzyme technology applications in leather processing". Indian Journal of Chemical Technology 11: 659–671. 
  7. Gaubert, Alexandra; Jeudy, Jérémy; Rougemont, Blandine; Bordes, Claire; Lemoine, Jérôme; Casabianca, Hervé; Salvador, Arnaud (2016-07-01). "Identification and absolute quantification of enzymes in laundry detergents by liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry" (in en). Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry 408 (17): 4669–4681. doi:10.1007/s00216-016-9550-8. ISSN 1618-2650. PMID 27098933.
  8. Waldhoff, Heinrich; Spilker, Rudiger, eds (2016-04-19). Handbook Of Detergents, Part C. doi:10.1201/9781420030334. ISBN 9780429132605.
  9. Friedman, Mendel (April 1971). "Effect of Enzymes and Enzyme-Containing Detergent On Strength of Untreated Woolen Fabrics" (in en). Textile Research Journal 41 (4): 315–318. doi:10.1177/004051757104100405. ISSN 0040-5175.
  10. SARLO, K; CORMIER, E; MACKENZIE, D; SCOTT, L (January 1996). "749 Lack of type I sensitization to laundry enzymes among consumers in the Philippines". Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 97 (1): 370. doi:10.1016/s0091-6749(96)80967-5. ISSN 0091-6749.
  11. Sarlo, Katherine; Kirchner, Donald B.; Troyano, Esperanza; Smith, Larry A.; Carr, Gregory J.; Rodriguez, Carlos (May 2010). "Assessing the risk of type 1 allergy to enzymes present in laundry and cleaning products: Evidence from the clinical data". Toxicology 271 (3): 87–93. doi:10.1016/j.tox.2010.03.007. ISSN 0300-483X.
Subjects: Cell Biology
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Update Date: 10 Nov 2022
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