Enzymes are catalysts that boost chemical reactions by lowering the activation energy required for the reactions to occur. Added to detergents, they help break down the dirt into smaller pieces that can be more easily removed with water. While enzymatic detergents do work better than non-enzymatic ones, they are also more expensive. But what if the enzymes could be reused? A recent study by C.S. Pundir and Nidhi Chauhan, members of The American Chemical Society, may lead to cheaper laundry days and less in the way of valuable enzymes going down the drain.

The main enzymes responsible for breaking down mud, oils, proteins and starches in your stained pants are cellulase, amylase, protease and lipase. Previous studies had shown that individual enzymes could be attached to different surfaces and reused. Now, the researchers have managed to attach all four enzymes to pieces of plastic (PVC).

The durability and efficiency of the enzyme-enhanced PVC have already been tested. The researchers first adhered all four enzymes to the inside of a PVC bucket and to the plastic bristles of a cleaning brush. Then they washed white garments stained with starch, grass, egg, mustard and oil in the bucket or using the scrub brush. Of course, the same treatment was applied to a control-group pile of laundry.

As it turned out – when used with the enzymatic cleaning utensils – cheap, non-enzymatic detergents did an equally good, or even better job at removing stains than the expensive enzymatic detergents. The enzymes remained active for about 200 cleanings, over the period of three months.

This could mean new cleaning products down the road, along with some savings for the family budget and a big headache for the enzymatic detergent manufacturers.