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Enzymes are proteins that occur naturally in the body, but have also been engineered for use in commercial cleaning products for many decades.
Enzymes help dissolve stains attached to material or dishes by converting them into substances that are more easily removed in the cleaning process.
Four types are commonly used in laundry products to remove stains —protease, amylase, lipase and mannanase. Protease enzymes break down protein, amylases attack starch to break it into simple sugars, lipases help to break down fat so it’s water soluble, and mannanase enzymes break down sugar compounds.
How does ecostore use enzymes?
We previously avoided using enzymes in laundry products because of suspected risk of respiratory or skin irritation, particularly in those more prone to these sensitivities. This was in our line with our precautionary principle – if there is ever any doubt about the safety of an ingredient we don’t use it.
We have recently done a full assessment of the risks associated with enzymes and have changed our stance – concluding that there is no risk to consumers by using enzymes in cleaning products. The reasons are outlined below.
Firstly, they are now now coated in a waxy substance to make them heavier and less likely to be airborne, effectively removing the potential for airborne respiratory allergy. Granulation of enzymes has resulted in no widely reported cases of respiratory allergy, occupational asthma or other allergen responses.
Secondly, extensive testing in large scale human studies has shown no evidence for the ability of enzymes to induce skin sensitisation. The large molecular weight of enzymes suggests it would not be able to penetrate intact skin. Any contact with wash solutions does not lead either to irritation or to allergy and residues on fabrics are trivially low and do not give rise to any skin effects.
The risk of respiratory exposure and skin irritation from enzymes in household laundry detergents was explored by HERA in 2007 (Human & Environmental Risk Assessment) and potential risks were found to be below the recommended exposure limit (0.00006 mg/m3 over a 60-minute period).²
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) classifies subtilisin as a low hazard, with a score of 0-1.³
We recommend you use our Ultra Sensitive product range if you have very sensitive skin.
There are also added environmental benefits of enzyme use - lower water use, environmentally friendlier effluent (no phosphates, and reduced alkalinity).
1 British Journal of Dermatology (The British Journal of Dermatology. 2008;158(6):1177-1181)
Learn more on the EWG website