What is an enzyme cleaner?

Cleaning is an essential part of maintaining a healthy and hygienic environment, whether at home, in a commercial setting, or in an industrial facility. While traditional cleaning methods often rely on harsh chemicals, there is an alternative solution that has gained popularity in recent years: enzyme cleaners. These bio-based products harness the power of natural enzymes to break down and remove stubborn stains, grease, and other organic matter, making them an effective and eco-friendly choice for various cleaning applications.

What is an enzyme cleaner

Understanding Enzymes

Before diving into the specifics of enzyme cleaners, it’s essential to understand what enzymes are and how they work. Enzymes are proteins produced by living organisms, including plants, animals, and microorganisms like bacteria and fungi. These remarkable molecules act as biological catalysts, speeding up chemical reactions without being consumed or altered in the process.

Enzymes are highly specialized, with each type designed to catalyze a specific chemical reaction. For example, some enzymes break down complex carbohydrates into simpler sugars, while others facilitate the breakdown of proteins or fats. This specificity makes enzymes incredibly versatile and valuable in various industries, including cleaning, food processing, and pharmaceuticals.

How Enzyme Cleaners Work

Enzyme cleaners leverage the natural catalytic power of enzymes to break down and remove organic matter, such as grease, oil, food residue, and other soils. These cleaners typically contain a blend of different enzymes, each targeting specific types of organic compounds.

Here’s a closer look at how enzyme cleaners work:

  1. Targeted Breakdown: The enzymes in the cleaner target and bind to specific organic molecules, such as proteins, starches, or fats, present in the soils or stains.
  2. Catalytic Action: Once bound, the enzymes catalyze chemical reactions that break down these organic compounds into smaller, more soluble molecules.
  3. Removal and Dispersion: The broken-down compounds are then easily removed or dispersed, either through rinsing or wiping away the dissolved soils.

This biological process is highly effective at removing stubborn stains and residues that traditional cleaners may struggle with, making enzyme cleaners a popular choice for various applications.

Common Enzymes Used in Cleaners

Enzyme cleaners often contain a blend of different enzymes to target a wide range of organic compounds. Here are some of the most common enzymes used in cleaning products:

  • Proteases: These enzymes break down proteins found in stains like blood, grass, and food residues.
  • Amylases: Responsible for breaking down starches and carbohydrates, amylases are effective at removing starch-based stains like gravy, sauces, and pasta.
  • Lipases: Lipases catalyze the breakdown of fats and oils, making them ideal for removing grease stains and cutting through built-up grime.
  • Cellulases: These enzymes target cellulose, a plant-based material found in fabrics like cotton and linen, helping to remove tough stains and improve fabric softness.

By combining these enzymes, enzyme cleaners can effectively tackle a wide range of organic soils and stains encountered in various cleaning applications.

Applications of Enzyme Cleaners

Enzyme cleaners have a wide range of applications across different industries and settings. Here are some common areas where these bio-based cleaners are used:

  1. Household Cleaning: Enzyme cleaners are popular for tackling tough stains on surfaces like carpets, upholstery, and laundry. They are particularly effective at removing organic stains like food, grease, and pet messes.
    • Example: The Biokleen Bac-Out Stain+Odor Remover uses a blend of enzymes to break down and remove organic stains and odors from carpets, upholstery, and other household surfaces.
  2. Commercial and Industrial Cleaning: In commercial and industrial settings, enzyme cleaners are used for cleaning floors, machinery, equipment, and other surfaces that accumulate grease, oil, and other organic soils.
    • Example: Zep Enzyme Cleaner is designed for use in automotive, industrial, and institutional settings, effectively breaking down and removing grease, oil, and other organic soils.
  3. Food Processing: The food industry relies on enzyme cleaners to maintain cleanliness and hygiene in processing facilities, ensuring the removal of food residues and preventing contamination.
    • Example: Diversey Enzyme Cleaner is a line of enzyme-based cleaners specifically formulated for the food and beverage industry, helping to remove stubborn food residues and meet strict hygiene standards.
  4. Drain and Septic System Maintenance: Enzyme cleaners can help break down organic matter and prevent clogs in drains and septic systems, reducing the need for harsh chemical drain cleaners.
    • Example: Green Gobbler Enzyme Drain Cleaner uses a powerful blend of enzymes to break down organic matter and clear clogs caused by hair, food particles, and other debris in drains and septic systems.
  5. Livestock and Agricultural Applications: Enzyme cleaners are used for cleaning livestock facilities, removing manure and other organic matter, as well as for cleaning agricultural equipment and surfaces.
    • Example: Bioverse Enzyme Cleaner is designed for use in livestock and agricultural settings, effectively breaking down and removing manure, feed, and other organic soils from facilities and equipment.

In addition to these applications, enzyme cleaners are also used in industries like hospitality, healthcare, and more, highlighting their versatility and effectiveness across various cleaning needs.

Benefits of Enzyme Cleaners

Enzyme cleaners offer several advantages over traditional chemical-based cleaners, making them an attractive choice for various cleaning applications:

  1. Environmentally Friendly: Enzyme cleaners are typically bio-based and biodegradable, making them a more eco-friendly option compared to harsh chemical cleaners.
  2. Safe for Sensitive Surfaces: Since enzyme cleaners work through a biological process, they are generally safe for use on sensitive surfaces like fabrics, carpets, and delicate materials, reducing the risk of damage or discoloration.
  3. Effective on Tough Stains: Enzyme cleaners are highly effective at breaking down and removing stubborn organic stains and soils that traditional cleaners may struggle with.
  4. Versatile Applications: The versatility of enzyme cleaners allows them to be used in a wide range of settings, from households to industrial facilities, making them a practical choice for various cleaning needs.
  5. Reduced Odors: By breaking down organic matter, enzyme cleaners can help eliminate unpleasant odors associated with organic soils and stains.
  6. Biodegradable and Non-toxic: Many enzyme cleaners are formulated to be biodegradable and non-toxic, making them safer for the environment and human exposure compared to harsh chemical cleaners.
  7. Residue-Free Cleaning: Enzyme cleaners typically leave no residue behind, ensuring surfaces are thoroughly cleaned without any leftover chemical residues.

Considerations and Limitations

While enzyme cleaners offer numerous benefits, it’s essential to understand their limitations and considerations for proper use:

  1. pH and Temperature Sensitivity: Enzymes are sensitive to pH and temperature conditions. Extreme pH levels or temperatures can deactivate or denature the enzymes, reducing their effectiveness.
    • For example, most enzymes in cleaners work best at neutral to slightly alkaline pH levels (around 6-9) and moderate temperatures (between 20°C and 60°C).
  2. Cleaning Time: Enzyme cleaners may require longer dwell times or soaking periods to allow the enzymes sufficient time to break down the organic matter effectively.
    • Some enzyme cleaners may need to be left on the surface for 30 minutes or more to achieve optimal cleaning results.
  3. Compatibility: Not all surfaces or materials are suitable for enzyme cleaners. It’s essential to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and test on a small, inconspicuous area before applying the cleaner to larger surfaces.
    • For instance, some enzyme cleaners may not be suitable for use on certain types of fabrics or delicate surfaces.
  4. Shelf Life: Like any biological product, enzyme cleaners have a limited shelf life. Proper storage conditions and expiration dates should be followed to ensure maximum efficacy.
    • Most enzyme cleaners have a shelf life of 1-2 years when stored at room temperature and away from direct sunlight or extreme temperatures.

Choosing the Right Enzyme Cleaner

With the increasing popularity of enzyme cleaners, there are numerous products available on the market. When choosing an enzyme cleaner, consider the following factors:

  1. Intended Use: Select a cleaner specifically formulated for your intended application, such as household cleaning, industrial cleaning, or specific stain removal.
    • For example, if you need an enzyme cleaner for laundry purposes, look for products specifically designed for use in washing machines or for fabric stain removal.
  2. Enzyme Blend: Different enzyme blends target different types of organic matter. Look for a cleaner with enzymes suitable for the soils and stains you need to remove.
    • If you’re dealing with grease and oil stains, look for a cleaner containing lipases. For food and protein-based stains, choose a cleaner with proteases.
  3. Certifications and Safety: Choose enzyme cleaners from reputable manufacturers that adhere to safety and environmental regulations. Look for certifications like USDA Certified Biobased or EPA Safer Choice.
    • These certifications ensure that the product meets certain standards for environmental sustainability, safety, and performance.
  4. Compatibility: Ensure that the enzyme cleaner is compatible with the surfaces and materials you intend to clean.
    • Check the product label or consult with the manufacturer to ensure compatibility with materials like carpet, upholstery, tile, or specific equipment surfaces.
  5. Concentration and Dilution: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper dilution and concentration to achieve optimal cleaning results.
    • Some enzyme cleaners may need to be diluted with water, while others can be used straight from the bottle. Incorrect dilution can affect the cleaner’s effectiveness.
  6. Versatility: Consider choosing a versatile enzyme cleaner that can be used for multiple cleaning applications, such as household cleaning, pet stains, and outdoor surfaces.
    • Versatile enzyme cleaners can save you money and reduce the need for multiple specialized cleaning products.

By considering these factors, you can select the most suitable enzyme cleaner for your specific cleaning needs, maximizing its effectiveness while ensuring safe and environmentally friendly use.


Enzyme cleaners have emerged as a powerful and eco-friendly alternative to traditional chemical-based cleaners. By harnessing the natural catalytic power of enzymes, these bio-based products effectively break down and remove stubborn organic stains, grease, and soils. With applications ranging from household cleaning to industrial and commercial settings, enzyme cleaners offer versatility, safety, and environmental benefits.

As consumers and industries increasingly prioritize sustainable and eco-friendly solutions, enzyme cleaners are poised to become an even more prevalent choice for effective and responsible cleaning practices. By understanding the science behind enzyme cleaners, their applications, and considerations for use, you can make informed decisions and embrace this innovative cleaning technology for a cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable environment.

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As the founder of Clean It Spotless, I am Melissa Walker, a leading expert in removing tough stains from fabrics, carpets, and upholstery. With over 10 years of experience in the cleaning industry, I have developed my own natural, non-toxic stain-fighting formulas that lift stains while preserving the integrity of the underlying material. My stain removal tutorials are widely read online, and I have appeared on local TV segments demonstrating my techniques. I also present popular stain removal workshops at community centers and schools.

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