The Difference Between Probiotic and Enzymatic Cleaning Solutions
Robert Kabel | |
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PURTEQ believes cleaning should never be harmful. Our formulas were developed to provide a safer alternative to commonly used cleaning products that contain harsh chemicals like bleach, alcohol and quats. As we worked to formulate specific cleaners, we chose the ingredients that were safest and most effective. Some of our products use botanicals, some are colloidal, some use probiotics, another uses graphene. All of our cleaners’ harness nature’s power to clean. Since Probiotic cleaners and Enzymatic cleaners are often presented in the same category, there is naturally confusion about how they are different.
“Probiotic” literally means ‘for life.’ That’s a good start, we’re all for life, right? The entire chemical industry is seeing more demand for cleaning products that are safer for people, pets, and our planet, but there is much confusion about which products actually meet those demands and how they work. Some products use ‘enzyme’ in the name when they only contain probiotics. Some only contain added enzymes which target specific soils, some contain only probiotics, and some contain both probiotics and added enzymes. Why the difference and which is better? To simplify the explanation let’s define terms first.
Bacteria are living organisms that consist of a single cell that can generate energy, make its own food, move, and reproduce. They are present in most habitats, including soil, water, dust particles, and the human stomach. There are two kinds of bacteria: pathogenic (harmful) and “good” bacteria, such as probiotics that help our bodies with digestion. These beneficial bacteria, probiotics, serve many vital roles in nature, including efficient decomposition of organic matter, which is the function t we harness for cleaning and eliminating odors. Probiotics remove organic substances that we perceive as dirt, not only on surfaces, but also in the smallest cracks and in the most difficult to reach places. On any surface, these friendly bacteria are experts at eliminating dirt and odors. Just like probiotics used to balance our gut health, probiotic cleaners create balance inside our businesses and homes. They penetrate deep into tiny imperfections and pores where persistent dirt hides, continuing to work long after the product is applied.
Enzymes, contrary to widespread belief, are not alive. Enzymes are specialized proteins that catalyze or speed up specific biochemical reactions. For example, enzymes are used in laundry detergent to break down specific stains (lipases for fat stains, alpha-amylases for food stains, etc.) But these enzymes are produced and added to cleaners to target only a specific stain and they will eventually get used up. Enzymatic cleaners have no mechanism to provide long term effectiveness.
This is where it gets interesting and fun to figure out! Bacteria produce their own enzymes. Probiotic bacteria offer a greater number of potential enzymes than a cleaning product containing only one or even a few enzymes that are manufactured to target specific reactions. Thus, probiotics can degrade a larger variety of substrates. Also, probiotics produce the enzymes as they are needed, and they adapt to the substrate which is then degraded more efficiently. Probiotics can multiply and colonize a space when there is organic matter present, they excel at adapting to the conditions. Probiotics get the energy they need to survive from organic matter. These “good” bacteria are prolific decomposers, digesting their food by releasing enzymes into the environment around them, which break down organic matter into simple compounds, such as glucose and amino acids, which they proceed to completely absorb. Probiotic cleaners leave spores behind which can continue cleaning, especially in hard-to-reach places or places we can’t see. As we keep exploring the differences between bacteria and enzymes as related to cleaning, keep in mind these important characteristics of bacteria:
- Able to produce thousands of different enzymes
- Can adapt and produce enzymes as needed
- Totally degrade organic molecules
- Able to multiply and spread
- Continues to clean post application
OK back to enzymes. An enzyme is not living, but rather, it is a catalyst created by bacteria. Enzymes enhance cleaning action in all types of formulas, but they are very narrow in what and how much they clean. The substance upon which an enzyme acts is called a substrate. Substrates are small molecules. Enzymes work to break down complex molecules into smaller pieces that bacteria can easily consume. According to Tom Forsythe, who has developed more than two hundred chemical products including ten formulas using bacteria or enzymes, “Enzymes are like a knife and fork. The knife and fork represent the enzymes, which just break things into smaller pieces. If you are eating a steak, the knife and fork work great to help you break it up so you can eat it. If you have soup, the knife and fork do nothing. You need a spoon. Probiotics, on the other hand, recognize whether the organic to be removed is steak or soup, produce either the knife and fork or the spoon, and then degrade it naturally once it is broken into smaller pieces.”
The reaction catalyzed by an enzyme is extremely specific. Consider the illustrations below. Most enzymes are proteins with unique three-dimensional configurations based on their amino acid sequence. The specificity of an enzyme can be attributed to the compatibility between the shape of the enzyme’s active site and the shape of the substrate. Activation energy is the minimum amount of energy required to get the reactants in a chemical reaction to the transition state, in which bonds are broken and new bonds are formed. Enzymes lower the activation energy needed to start a reaction. The enzyme pocket has a special shape so that only one specific substrate can bind to it, just like only one key fits into a specific lock.
Once the molecule is bound to the enzyme, the chemical reaction takes place. Then, the reaction products are released from the pocket, and the enzyme is ready to start all over again with another substrate molecule.
The important characteristics of Enzymes are:
- Accelerate a reaction
- Specific to a single reaction
- Breaks down molecules to facilitate cleaning
It’s impossible to talk about cleaning these days without addressing the effects the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our lives. Studies show that during the pandemic, the amount of thought that went into buying surface cleaners increased, as companies and consumers want to ensure that they are protecting their working and living spaces, and their employees and families. People have become more educated about cleaners, and they are more aware of the harsh chemicals that are commonly used. This awareness has led to new demands for more natural ingredients. As fears subside and we turn the corner on the pandemic, natural and environmental interests will re-emerge as key purchase factors in the long term. And probiotics have the opportunity to provide a new range of benefits. Environmentally, probiotic cleaners have a much smaller environmental impact as they don’t have harmful pH extremes, making their application much safer and, unlike chemical cleaners, their manufacture releases less harmful chemical constituents into the local environment and ecology.
Probiotic cleaners also offer greater cleaning efficacy than traditional alternatives for two reasons. The products contain unique Bacillus strains that excel in breaking down specific target waste compounds that cause stains, unpleasant odors, and infection. The strains used have been tested thoroughly to ensure they provide maximum efficacy. Secondly, because probiotic cleaners contain live bacteria that thrive and grow while breaking down target waste compounds, the products offer longer lasting protection. Probiotic spores that are left behind when a probiotic cleaner is applied, will germinate, and secrete whatever enzymes are needed to degrade the soils they encounter. Since enzymes are produced to target specific stains only, we can see the advantage of probiotics in the example of spraying a hard surface such as a break room counter. The probiotic spores that remain after cleaning will need to adapt to eliminate whatever organic material they encounter. Added enzymes would be of no use in this situation because they will only target specific materials. In fact, there are many situations in which an enzyme would contribute nothing to the cleaning process because the correct enzyme is not in the formula or there is not enough of the enzyme to complete the task at hand.
The active probiotics in PURTEQ products DLETE, FLOR, and FABRIK are naturally occurring, and they multiply as the products are used, creating more enzymes than could possibly be included in an enzymes-only formula. It’s important to recognize the benefit provided by a product that identifies the right enzyme in the correct amount to complete a cleaning job without leaving residual enzymes behind. (Residual enzymes are known to trigger allergies.) Better yet, these products revert some of the probiotics into a dormant spore phase which is then activated later when contamination inevitably happens again.
In short, the enzyme is finite and limited in scope and will almost always result in residual enzymes. Probiotics identify and produce the correct enzyme in the right amount to digest the right food source at the right time. Then they return to spore form, awaiting the next contact with an organic food source. Once the probiotic strains are applied to an area, they will continue to work until their food source runs out.
Cleaning products containing harsh chemicals are harmful to our health and our planet. At PURTEQ, we utilize application-specific probiotics in our safe, effective, and natural probiotic products. Unlike harsh chemical cleaners, PURTEQ probiotic products don't 'strip' surfaces of all bacteria. Our hard and soft surface cleaners and odor eliminators inoculate surfaces with beneficial bacteria to provide long lasting cleaning and odor control. Since probiotics clean without any abrasive action, surfaces look new longer, and need to be repaired or replaced less often. Probiotic cleaners generate an excellent return on investment because they protect assets and reduce labor costs by requiring less frequent application.