Enzymes in medical cleaning: facts vs myths

Enzymatic detergents are recommended for use per many medical industry guidelines, and are often used as part of medical device reprocessing. But despite their prevalence, there are many misconceptions about how enzymes function and their importance to the cleaning process.

That’s why, today, we’re going to set the record straight about a few of the misconceptions we hear most often. Let’s get to it!

Myth #1: Any amount of enzymes will make detergent more effective.

In medical device reprocessing, time is of the essence to get the optimized effect of enzymes. To get the full benefit of a medical cleaning detergent, it’s necessary to have a proper dose of enzymes to effectively function under limited time constraints. Without the proper amount of enzymes included, the medical detergent may not be as effective as needed for optimal cleaning.

When choosing detergent for your hospital, make sure you inquire about enzyme dosage included in your product used.


Myth #2: Enzymes will die if environmental variables change.

First things first: While enzymes are biological molecules, they are not actually living organisms, so they cannot die. Enzymes will still be active at different conditions but if conditions change drastically though, then they could lose their shape (inactivate) and therefore lose their effectiveness. 

This is one reason why it’s important to choose the right enzyme for the job, as different enzymes are better suited for particular tasks. These tasks might be, for instance, breaking down fatty soils like adipose tissue, or proteinaceous soils commonly found in bodily fluids.

Want to see an enzyme in action? Take a look at this short demo video to see how effectively a specifically chosen protease removes a protein-based soil – no washing or scrubbing needed.


Myth #3: If I leave detergent on my medical device, it will continue working for days.

Enzymes need to be kept wet to keep working. So, once the medical device becomes relatively dry, the cleaning process will stop.


Myth #4: Enzymes will get “full” and they will stop working.

As mentioned above, enzymes are not living organisms and are not “eating” anything. Enzymes will always look for more organic matter to break down, and they will do this as long as they don’t lose their shape (inactivate) due to drastic changes in environmental conditions such as those previously mentioned.


Myth #5: Enzymes damage medical devices and power tools.

As opposed to many of the harsh chemicals often found in cleaning detergents, enzymes are actually quite gentle!

As mentioned above, each type of enzyme performs a specialized task – proteases, for example, are designed to break down protein-rich soils like blood, while amylases target starches that can be found in feces. Enzymes cannot, however, act on materials such as the metal of surgical knife.

It’s also worth noting that enzymes are easier on the planet than harsh chemicals as well. These processing aids that are found in nature are completely biodegradable, making them safe and effective for your instruments while also helping you reach your sustainability goals. So, when choosing a detergent, look for gentle formulas containing a high enzyme dosage for both improved performance and a reduced environmental impact.


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Let’s talk about how we can help

Are you interested learning how to optimize enzymes in your detergents? Contact us today to learn more.