Role of Enzymes in Detergents


The original idea of using enzyme as detergents was described in 1913 by Dr Otto Rohm, who patented the use of crude pancreatic extracts in laundry pre-soak compositions to improve the removal of biological stains. In the same year, the first enzymatic detergent named Burnus was launched, but was not popular because of its own limitations. Subsequently, Bio- 40 - a detergent containing a bacterial protease was produced in Switzerland and launched in the market in1959 and it gradually became popular. In the period from 1965 to 1970, use and sale of detergent enzymes grew very fast.

In 1970, the use was distorted due to dust production by formulations leading to allergies to some workers. This problem was overcome in 1975 by encapsulating the granules of enzyme. From1980s to the 1990s, several changes took place in the detergent industry like development of softening through the wash, development of concentrated heavy-duty power detergents, development of concentrated or structured or non-aqueous liquid detergent.

Enzymes have been used to improve the cleaning efficiency of detergents for more than 35 years, and are now well accepted as ingredients in powder and liquid detergents, stain removers/laundry pre-spotters, automatic dish washing detergents and industrial/institutional cleaning products. Detergent enzymes account for about 30% of the total worldwide enzyme production and represent one of the largest and most successful applications of modern industrial biotechnology.

Detergent Enzymes:

Presently, detergent enzyme has become an integral part of detergent formulation. A look at the market share of detergent enzyme indicates it to be very high in comparison with other enzyme applications. Enzymes that have to be used as detergent composite must possess the following characters:

  • Stability at temperature over a broad range of 20C to 50C and even above
  • The optimum pH should be in alkaline or higher alkaline range
  • It should be detergent compatible
  • It should have specificity towards different proteins.

Major detergent enzymes include proteases, amylases, lipases, celluloses, miscellaneous enzymes such as peroxidases and pullulanase. A recent trend is to reduce this phosphate content for environmental reasons. It may be replaced by sodium carbonate plus extra protease.

Miscellaneous detergent enzymes:

  • Peroxidases
  • Pullalanases

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