How do enzymes remove odors?

Enzymes remove odors by causing a biological or chemical reaction. A type of protein, enzymes are produced by living organisms, but they are not alive. An enzyme is made up of a chain of amino acids, and it’s the changes to the sequence in the structure that dictates the function of the enzyme.
The two most common enzymes used in cleaning products are proteases and amylases, because they are food-based and are the catalysts behind removing and changing the physical properties in most protein related stains and odors.                                                                                                
Proteases act on soils and protein-based stains — blood, foods, urine, feces, wines, other beverages, etc. The enzymes in the spotter break down the proteins into more manageable substances. The actual composition of the stain changes when an enzyme-based product is applied (after debris is removed from the surface).

Amylases, another commonly used enzyme, removes starch-based soils that contain eggs, sugars, sauces, ice cream and gravy. They break down starch chains into smaller sugar molecules, which in turn, are more easily lifted.
Lipases are effective in removing oily body and food stains and cellulases provide general cleaning benefits for dust and mud. Cellulases may also be used to soften fabric and restore color to fibers that are also made up of cellulosic material.

— Brent Crawford, president, Core Products Co., Inc., Canton, Texas

Enzymes do not remove odors. Rather, the product’s bacteria eliminate the malodor. For a product to work well, it requires the use of both bacteria and enzymes, selected for the appropriate soil. There are more than 40,000 bacteria one can use in a formula. The general formulas are not as good as specialized/dedicated products for the various applications/soils. Also, the quantity and quality of bacteria and enzymes used are very important.  Be sure the product is certified green and never use disinfectants on the same surfaces. Lastly if a bio-enzymatic product is older than 1 to 1.5 years old, be leery of it.

— Mike Sawchuk, vice president, Enviro-Solutions, Peterborough, Ontario, Canada

Enzymes assist in breaking down organic odor-causing bacteria. They consume the odor causing bacteria, therefore reduce malodors. This is done by the enzyme breaking down the organic material into smaller parts.

— Jonathan Rice, vice president of sales - corporate account, Amrep Inc., Marietta, Ga.


What surfaces can enzyme-based products be used on?

For years the medical industry has cleaned with enzymes to remove organic material before moving to any sterilization process. Without thorough cleaning, harmful bacteria can simply return to grow in a friendly environment. By working in neutral conditions, they save energy, provide safer working conditions, and are easier to use. Your only caution is to not subject enzymes to extreme cold or heat, below freezing or above 170 degrees, where they lose their efficacy.

— Brent Crawford, president, Core Products Co., Inc., Canton, Texas

Not just enzymes, but bacteria and enzymes, work great on all sorts of soils and mal-odors on and in both hard and soft surfaces. The key is to ensure no disinfectants are also used, and allow surfaces to remain damp or wet as long as possible, for example, flood mop, not simply light damp mop.

— Mike Sawchuk, vice president, Enviro-Solutions, Peterborough, Ontario, Canada

Enzymes work really well on carpet and fabric. They have the ability to penetrate substrate and typically will not cause a stain or leach out coloring. Of course, like all fabrics you will need to test a small inconspicuous area before using. Typically urine, food and any material that is ingested into the body are a good source for enzymes to assist in the cleaning and neutralizing of malodors.
Enzymes can be used on a wide variety of substrates, tile in kitchens and restrooms. Hard floors and most surfaces can be surfaces cleaned by enzymes. However, remember that most enzymes are not neutral; therefore cleaning may cause a residual haze.

— Jonathan Rice, vice president of sales - corporate account, Amrep Inc., Marietta, Ga.

next page of this article:
Combatting Floor Drain And Restroom Odors