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Probiotics or Enzymes? Why Probiotic Cleaning has the Edge

We are often asked to explain the difference between two types of microbiological cleaning – probiotics and enzymes. I.e., why are sustainable cleaning products with added probiotic ‘good’ bacteria a better choice than those with added enzymes?

The good news is, both cleaners are usually safer and healthier for people, pets and the environment than chemicals and QUAT disinfectants (quaternary ammonium compounds).

However, cleaning products with added probiotics have key advantages over cleaning products with added enzymes only. This article explains why.

Probiotics or Enzymes in Cleaning?

In brief, enzymes are proteins. They are produced by bacteria (and other living cells) and act as a catalyst to facilitate and speed up specific chemical reactions within living organisms. They play a critical role in many biological processes including digestion, metabolism and cell function.

However, enzymes are highly specific. This means that each type of enzyme can typically only catalyse one type of reaction. In cleaning, this means that the enzyme is ineffective if it is not the correct enzyme type for the cleaning required.

In contrast, probiotics are living, helpful microorganisms (‘good’ bacteria). A single probiotic bacterium can produce many diverse enzymes that can clean dirt components such as oil, carbohydrates and proteins all at once.

So, whereas enzymes facilitate cleaning by preparing the ground, probiotics increase cleaning effectiveness and efficiency.

Enzymes in cleaning

An enzyme is a protein that can catalyse or speed up a specific reaction. They:

  • Are specific to a single reaction.
  • Accelerate a reaction.
  • Cut molecules down in size.

In cleaning, enzymes are key players that prepare the ground. They act like scissors, cutting complex organic waste molecules into smaller molecules that are easier for bacteria to consume. Enzymes have been used for years, especially in laundry detergents and other multi-purpose detergents.

The action of enzymes upon a substance (called a substrate) is very specific. Different types of enzymes used in detergents have different roles:

  • Amylases break down starch molecules – food, eggs, sauces, ice cream – into simple sugars.
  • Cellulases break down cellulose material – particulate soil and oily wastewater.
  • Lipases break down fat molecules – butter, grease and oil – into glycerol and free fatty acids.
  • Proteases break down protein molecules – wine, egg, milk, blood, urine, faeces – into polypeptides or free amino acids.

The advantage is that enzymes remain active and are not changed or degraded during the reaction process.

The disadvantage is that enzymes are specific to a single reaction. An enzyme cannot carry out several different reactions; it is always catalyses the same reaction. This means that the enzyme is ineffective if it is not the correct enzyme type for the cleaning required.

probiotics or enzymes in cleaning products

Enzymes prepare the ground for cleaning and are specific to one reaction. The ‘substrate’ is the substance on which an enzyme acts. The initial molecules are the substrates of the enzyme and the molecules formed from these substrates are the products of the reaction.

Probiotics in Cleaning

Probiotics are microscopic, living organisms often called ‘good’ bacteria. When applied in sufficient quantities, probiotics confer one or more health benefits for the host (Ref: the World Health Organisation).

A single probiotic bacterium can produce many diverse enzymes that can clean dirt components such as oil, carbohydrates and proteins all at once. In fact, bacteria DNA contains ‘blueprints’ for the production of several thousand different enzymes.

When added to sustainable detergents, probiotics have key advantages over using enzymes alone:

1. Probiotics produce thousands of different enzymes – many more than a product containing one or a few enzymes. They adapt to the substrate and produce the enzymes needed in the right amounts. They completely degrade and eliminate organic waste molecules (instead of cutting them in half).

Probiotics degrade a much larger variety of substrates more efficiently than enzymes alone.

2. Probiotics extend cleaning efficiency. They remain on surfaces for up to 72 hours and continue to multiply and colonise the space whilst there is organic matter to degrade. They develop and adapt their numbers according to the conditions.

The helpful probiotics remain dormant in the product (in spore form) to ensure the stability of the formulation. When used on a surface, the contact of dormant probiotics with water and organic substances activates the spores and the probiotics start working. They multiply around the dirt stain and start to produce degradative enzymes. They can remove organic dirt on everyday inanimate surfaces at home or work (e.g. countertops, tables, floors etc.) and on animal skin.

The Benefits of Provilan Probiotic Cleaning

Not all probiotics produce the same enzymes, and not all enzymes from the same family have similar degradation efficacy.

Our Provilan probiotic cleaning products therefore use two different probiotic cocktails depending on the product range. A mixture of probiotics is more effective than pure strains in cleaning products.

probiotic cleaning products or enzymatic cleaning products - which is better?

Both cocktails contain food-grade Bacillus bacteria and are safe for the user. Their efficacy is fully proven in the laboratory before being added to the final product.

Summary – Probiotic Cleaners or Enzyme Cleaners

In summary, enzymes make cleaning easier, whereas probiotics make cleaning more effective and longer lasting. Probiotics can adapt to different environments and substrates and can be used for various cleaning purposes, including surfaces, fabrics, and even in the air. Enzymes have specific substrate requirements, which limits their versatility:

Added bonus! The probiotics in our Provilan probiotic bio-detergents also:

  • Are safe for people, pets and the planet.
  • Are natural microorganisms that do not contain harmful chemicals.
  • Can effectively disrupt biofilm.
  • Aid long term odour prevention as they eliminate source odour molecules.
  • Outcompete harmful bacteria that cause infection.
  • Have a longer term action that continues working after application.
  • Are able to travel into inaccessible nooks and crannies.
  • Restore a healthy microbiome balance (the community of microorganisms that live on any surface). This supports health and immunity.

Discover More About Probiotic and Enzyme Cleaners

Read the report Enzymatic Activity of PBGL Probiotic Cocktails to find out more.

Read more about the benefits of probiotics or enzymes and our probiotic cleaning product ranges in the brochure Environmentally Positive Solutions.

Get in touch to find out how probiotic cleaning will enhance your cleaning and hygiene results – whether for home, commercial or fitness and wellness use. Email or call 01268 544530 today.

Images credit: Probiotic Group, Luxembourg.