Even more challenging, we have to face the fact that the detergent business plays a role in the increased use of fossil fuels and other non-sustainable resources. All steps towards more sustainable detergents are therefore welcome – and have the chance to substantially contribute to a greener world. The trend of washing at lower temperatures is one move in this direction as savings in electricity is obvious. But, this again calls for adjustments of detergent technology to live up to the expected cleaning performance.
Enzymes: The little tools of nature and the perfect stain remover
A supreme match to both the requirements of new functionality as well as a greener technology is the use of enzymes. Detergent enzymes have been used to boost the cleaning since 1963, when the first protease was introduced to the market. The strengths of enzymes are their cost efficiency and the specific activity on their target molecules. An amylase type of enzyme only affects starch-containing stains, lipase only acts on specific types of fat stains, and so on. This means that the enzymes will not destroy the fabric or the washing machine, needless to say, unless these would be made by the target material of the enzymes. Due to their efficiency, only small amounts of the enzymes are needed. Typically, enzymes make up less than one to a few per cent of the total detergent and yet they cause a profound difference in washing results. Furthermore, enzymes are of natural origin, and completely biologically degradable. Because of this, enzymes are increasingly used within a number of different industries, not least Detergent.
Enzymes are often called ‘The little tools of Nature’. They are proteins made by all living creatures and are used to degrade or build up structures and functions, inside or outside of the cells. Enzymes are not alive themselves. Fungi and bacteria are examples of microorganisms, which often live in nature by secreting enzymes onto the substrate they nourish upon and thereafter transport the degraded products into the cells as nutrition and energy. Because they secrete these enzymes out into their environment, scientist can harvest and test them. Most enzymes used in the industry are derived either from fungi or bacteria.