Q: What are enzymes and how do they remove soils?
A: Enzymes are natural chemical agents that break large molecules of soils into small molecules of soils so they can be easily removed during the wash process. Different enzymes are needed to break down specific soils. Four types of enzymes used in the laundry industry are amylase, protease, lipase, and cellulase.
Amylase breaks down starch and is useful in removing stains from restaurant linens.
Protease breaks down protein stains, such as blood, egg, gravy, and milk, as well as stains found in linens from operating rooms or health care facilities.
Lipase breaks down fats and is used on restaurant linens.
Cellulase breaks down cellulose from plant fiber, i.e., cotton and is useful in the textile industry and in home laundering for reducing linting and pilling.
The effectiveness of enzymes can be diminished with improper water temperatures or excessively high or low pH. Enzymes are expensive, but detergent industry experts report their use reduces the amount of bleach, alkali, water, and washing time necessary for good soil removal.
For more information on using enzymes in commercial laundry, refer to Shirt/Laundry Procedures Bulletin No. 21, in DLI's Drycleaning Encyclopedia.