Don't Prewash: Today's Detergents Lick Your Plates Clean

You'll be surprised to hear what's in your suds.

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Ever wonder what miracle of chemistry is responsible for getting your clothes white in the wash? Or better yet, why some stains are no match for your home washing machine, while others seem to stick on no matter what? The answer is enzymes—or, more specifically, enzymatic detergents.

Enzymatic detergents are products of decades-long biochemical engineering efforts, and one of the key ways that detergent makers are compensating for recent bans on phosphates. Interestingly, enzymatic detergents have been adapted from the enzymes that occur naturally in your stomach.

Like little Pac-Men in your guts, enzymes are nature’s nano-machines, disposing of proteins quickly and efficiently. By accelerating the breakdown of organic materials to a rate much faster than what would naturally occur, today’s washing machines and dishwashers not only saturate stains with water then drain them away, but actually destroy proteins on fabrics and dishes, as well.

LIPASE_2NDARY.png
A 3D rendering of the enzyme Human Gastric Lipase, which is responsible for breaking down fat.

Enzymes "unlock" the bonds of food molecules, allowing them to give up their hold on your dishes and clothes. It wasn't easy to adapt enzymes native to your warm and overwhelmingly acidic stomach to work in the cold, alkaline environment of a washing machine. But today's enzymatic detergents are now working with minimal use of toxic chemicals, which is good for your health, clothes, dishes, and the environment.

For a lot more detail on enzymatic detergents, check out the Reviewed.com Science Blog.

Photo by Mike Legend CC-BY-SA-3.0

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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