What is biological detergent?

Let’s start with the easy bit: How do you know if you are using a biological washing detergent?  Usually the front of the bottle will tell you, but if you aren’t sure, you can #checkyourbackside and look for the word “enzyme” in the ingredient list. Biological cleaners contain enzymes and non-biological cleaners do not.  But what are enzymes anyway, and what do they have to do with cleaning?

Biological means living.  Biological detergents include ingredients that are actually made by living things…bacteria, to be precise. See, bacteria aren’t all bad!

Bacteria create enzymes to help them digest their food in the same way that we create saliva (which is an enzyme) to help us break up our food.  Saliva isn’t alive and neither are the enzymes produced by bacteria.  It is the enzymes that are included in our products, NOT the bacteria.

The reason they make such a good addition to detergents is that they break up deposits on fabrics, making them easier to wash away.

Each type of enzyme is able to bond with a specific protein (substrate) and break it down. 

Step 1: The enzyme fits together with a molecule like a jigsaw.

Step 2: A chemical reaction occurs.

Step 3: The molecule splits into its component parts. 

A biological detergent for clothes can include 2 or 3 enzyme types, which are good at breaking down certain proteins:

  • Lipase- breaks down fats
  • Protease- breaks down poo, pee, blood
  • Amylase- breaks down starches

Your detergent won’t necessarily tell you which type of enzyme it includes but you should see the word enzyme in the ingredients list.  You may also see “brighteners” or “bleaches”.  This lets you know that there are other chemicals in your product that will brighten or whiten fabrics.  These ingredients can cause reactions for people with sensitive skin, and this is why non-biological detergents are recommended for babies and young children. 

The chemical action of enzymes is why biological detergents can be a great all round cleaner in the home. 

Here are 3 ways you can use biological washing detergent:

1. Accidents on carpet, mattress stains and upholstery

Add 2 capfuls of detergent to a bucket of water and use a cloth or a soft brush to rub the mixture into the stain. Do not over-wet fabrics. (May take more than 1 application)

2. Cleaning stained pillows

Put 2 capfuls of detergent to a bath of water. Soak your pillows in the mixture for a few hours. Rinse, wring out and put in a spin only cycle in the washer.  Hang up or tumble dry.

3. Pre-treating stained clothing

Rub detergent neat on stains before adding to the wash to give it a chance to work.

The Secret Cleaner


One comment

  1. Always happy to help with proving your knowledge to the mother in law!!

    I quoted you to the mother in law today. “Read your back sides”
    She asked why I had two different washing liquids and how I kept the children’s school shirts so white.
    Optical brightners came up and she knew nothing about them.
    You made me feel ten feet tall. Thank you xxx


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