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How enzymes boost cleaning performance

How enzymes boost cleaning performance

Detergent enzymes cleave the bonds in the molecules of a soil’s components. This results in smaller, more water-soluble components. These are easier for surfactants to remove, so effective cleaning requires less mechanical action. For complex soils, multi-enzyme blends are needed.

By Bitten Plesner, PhD, Head of Technical Services Europe, Novozymes Household Care
May 1, 2019

Natural, fast, accurate and catalytic

Found everywhere in nature, enzymes speed up biochemical processes and allow efficient catalysis of reactions. They work with complete accuracy, targeting one specific substrate only. For example, amylases only cleave the bonds in starch molecules, while proteases only cleave the bonds in protein molecules. Enzymes are also catalytic. They can cleave the bonds of a substrate infinitely, without ever being ‘used up’.

Figure 1. 
Enzymes efficiently catalyze reactions by speeding up chemical processes. They are natural, fast, accurate and catalytic.

Designed for detergents

Through protein engineering, detergent enzymes are designed for compatibility with detergents. Protein engineering can solve issues related to detergent enzyme stability, a challenge commonly encountered with non-engineered enzymes. In some cases it can even improve performance. 

All detergent enzymes break down soils by cleaving the bonds in the molecules of a soil’s components into smaller, more water-soluble fragments. That makes mechanical removal more effective. Surfactants and builders also help the process.

  

Reducing soaking and scrubbing time

Including enzymes in hand dishwash formulation reduces both soaking and scrubbing time. It also boosts the benefits of both. That’s because enzymes speed up the reaction that breaks down starch and protein soils.

 

How amylases speed up the breakdown of starch soils

Amylase enzymes and surfactants efficiently remove starch soils from foods like rice, pasta and potatoes. Amylases break down the soil into smaller components, which makes them easier for surfactants to solubilize and remove.

Like all enzymes, amylases become active immediately after coming in contact with water. When the activated amylase enzyme comes into contact with a layer of starch molecules, it adopts a specific orientation. This exposes a particular region of the enzyme.

This region is called the enzyme’s active site. It’s partly made up of residues that form temporary bonds with the starch molecules. It also consists of residues that cause a reaction of the starch molecules. 

 

Cleaving the bonds

Amylases cleave the bonds in the molecule at the point indicated by the arrow in the model below. That breaks the starch molecule down into smaller molecules such as glucose. Because these molecules are smaller, they’re easier for surfactants to solubilize.

Figure 2. 
A model of a starch molecule. The arrow indicates the point at which amylase cleaves the bond in the molecule, breaking it down into smaller molecules.

Starch soil removal with less scrubbing and soaking

This combined action of the enzyme and surfactant allows hand dishwash detergents that contain amylases to efficiently remove starch soils. Dishware and cookware can be scrubbed clean of stubborn starch soils like rice, pasta and potatoes more quickly, with less effort and shorter soaking times. A lab demonstration of Novozymes Achieve Alpha demonstrates this effect.

Watch a powerful amylase help remove tough starch-based food soils from dishware.These soils are typically created by pasta, rice and potatoes.

How proteases break down protein soils

Protein soils from foods like like eggs, dairy and meat are efficiently removed by surfactant micelles and protease enzymes. The process works in a similar way to amylases. On contact with a layer of protein molecules, the activated protease enzyme adopts a specific orientation, exposing the enzyme’s active site. Close contact with the active site on the enzyme causes a reaction of the protein molecules. See below for a visualization of that reaction.

 

Cleaving the bonds in a protein molecule

Proteases cleave the bonds in the molecule at the point indicated by the arrow in the model below. That breaks the molecule down into smaller peptide molecules and – eventually – amino acids.Because these molecules are smaller, they’re easier for surfactants to solubilize.

Figure 3. 
A model of a protein molecule. The arrow indicates the point at which a protease enzyme cleaves the bond in the protein molecule, breaking it down into smaller molecules.

Removing protein soils with less soaking and scrubbing

This combined protease-surfactant action allows hand dishwash detergents that contain proteases to efficiently remove protein soils. Dishware and cookware can be scrubbed clean of stubborn protein soils like eggs, dairy and meat more quickly and with less effort and shorter soaking times.

 

Complex soils need combined solutions

Most popular dishes are made up of a combination of tastes - and result in a combination of soils.  Examples include lasagna, pasta carbonara and meat pies, which create the soils that can be most difficult to remove: starch-protein complexes. Enzymes are specific to one substrate. That means that amylases will break down the bonds in the starch component of these soils, but will have no effect on the protein component. And proteases are needed to attack the proteins. 

 

“Cracking” stubborn protein-starch complexes

Catalyzing combined starch and protein soils from dishes like lasagna takes a combination of amylase and protease. They work together to "crack" stubborn starch-protein complexes, as shown by this lab demonstration of Novozymes Intensa® Core.

Watch a powerful multi-enzyme solution help remove stubborn soils formed of starch-protein complexes on dishware. These soils are typically created by dishes like lasagna, pasta carbonara and meat pies.

Cutting down on scrubbing time and effort

Below you can see the effect of Intensa® Core on carbonara sauce – one of the toughest stains consumers face.

Figure 4. 
Intensa® Core is highly effective on carbonara sauce, one of the toughest soils consumers face.

For consumers, including enzymes in hand dishwash detergents cuts soaking and scrubbing time. The result is faster, easier cleaning of some everyday soils that normally take a lot of time and effort to soak and scrub clean.

Find out more about the power of enzymes

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The world is constantly changing and changing needs require new cleaning technology and a greener and more sustainable detergent business. Enzymes, nature’s own building blocks, can be a solution to these challenges. Produced in fermentation processes, enzymes for industrial use are based on fungi or microbes found in nature. The challenge is to find the right enzyme for any given application and to determine gene encoding for this enzyme.

Pots and pans – pain points and opportunities

To uncover the truth behind the assumption that most people don’t like doing the dishes, we conducted a range of studies into people’s emotions about the task. We also commissioned an in-home video ethnographic study for unique insights into how people do their dishes.
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