Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online
November 2012 Feature 6
Image courtesy of Enviro-Solutions Ltd.

A Colony Of Microscopic Workhorses

Bioenzymatic cleaners are agricultural facilitators of clean, hygienic surfaces.

November 6, 2012

The world of green cleaning is rapidly evolving.

Facilities that are cleaned using environmentally preferable products are also becoming more sustainable, ensuring that natural resources are used as little as possible and, when used, as efficiently as possible.

The products used for green cleaning are evolving as well, becoming safer, more effective and more cost effective than those that were available just a few years ago.

In addition, bioenzymatic cleaners are becoming more prominent.Plastic Bottle Spraying

It is worthwhile for building service contractors (BSCs), facility managers and in-house cleaning professionals to become familiar with bioenzymatic products.

Not only are many now proven green by third-party certification bodies like Green Seal Inc., UL Environment’s EcoLogo Program or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Design for the Environment (DfE) platform, but the federal government, through its BioPreferred program and other government entities and programs, is encouraging the use of these products registered with the program.

However, there still is some confusion as to what bioenzymatic cleaners are and how they work.

The following should provide some clarification.

Down The Drain

Bio-based cleaners, which include bioenzymatic cleaners, are derived from agricultural products such as corn, soybeans and even coconuts.

Although they are getting more attention today, the first patent for a bio-based product dates back to 1932.

Bio-based CoconutUnlike other bio-based cleaners, bioenzymatic cleaners are formulated with specific enzymes — a type of protein that breaks complex molecules into smaller pieces — and what are termed “good” bacteria that break down soils.

Enzymes are catalysts that speed up the process of breaking down soils and contaminants.

There are actually more than 40,000 enzyme and bacteria strains available, and they are very specific as to what types of surfaces and soils they work on.

For this reason, an effective bioenzymatic cleaner usually contains a mixture of enzymes and bacteria to tackle a variety of cleaning situations; the most effective products are typically designed for specific cleaning applications.

One of the first large-scale uses of bioenzymatic cleaners was as grease trap and drain cleaners.

The cleaners essentially eat organic material, the cause of many clogs, thereby unclogging the drain to the point that water flows freely.

Later, the cleaners became popular in helping to clean grease-covered surfaces and vents in commercial kitchens as well as to eliminate odors.

The odor-eliminating abilities of bioenzymatic cleaners are still among their best features.Woman Clothes Pin Nose Restroom Odor

But, just as all green cleaning products are not alike, not all bioenzymatic cleaners are the same.

The differences include the following:

  • Some will have more or less, as well as higher or lower quality, enzymes and/or bacteria than others
  • Some have a higher quantity and quality of surfactant to help with the initial cleaning
  • Some contain protease, enzymes designed specifically to help remove spots and blood from carpets
  • Some bioenzymatic cleaners may work better than others in certain situations and on certain surfaces
  • Cleaning effectiveness may vary based on what other cleaning chemicals were used on the surface before the bioenzymatic cleaner was applied; in general, bleach and most disinfectants will minimize or eliminate the cleaning ability of bioenzymatic cleaners, as well as degrade the microbial efficacy of the disinfectant.

How To Use Them

Bioenzymatic cleaners can be used to clean a variety of surfaces from countertops and tile and grout areas to carpets.

Similar to other cleaning products, they must be diluted and used according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Then, in many cases, the bioenzymatic cleaner is sprayed onto a surface.

For instance, in a restroom, the cleaner would be sprayed on the floor around toilets and urinals, creating a super-colony of bioenzymatic cleaners to go after the embedded soils.

One of the unusual qualities of bioenzymatic cleaners is that they can continue to work for several hours, even days, after they have been applied to a surface as long as the area remains moist under moderate room temperature and soils are present.

This is especially helpful for removing deeply embedded soils such as those found in grout areas or breaking down hard-to-reach odor-causing bacteria under tiles, in urinal piping or in floor drains.

However, it should be noted that, while bioenzymatic cleaners break down soils and waste, the waste is not necessarily completely digested.

Surfaces should always be wiped clean to remove lingering soils.

Are Bioenzymatic Cleaners For You?

Bio-based CleanerMuch of bioenzymatic cleaners’ effectiveness depends on the cleaning challenges in your facility.

They are especially effective at eliminating odors, typically caused by bacteria, as well as cleaning hard-to-reach areas.

Carpet cleaning technicians find them to be effective when used as a spotter for treating organic soils, to remove specific soils from carpets and when performing encapsulation carpet cleaning.

Additionally, as referenced earlier, they are often used to clean commercial kitchens and foodservice areas where grease and oil buildup are common.

In fact, many now consider bioenzymatic cleaners a cleaning worker’s “life saver.”

The bottom line: Bioenzymatic cleaners offer facility managers and BSCs a safe, efficacious and cost-effective tool to clean facilities with minimal impact on the user, building occupants or the environment.

What Are Good Bacteria?

Contrary to popular belief, only a tiny fraction of bacteria actually cause disease.

In fact, bacteria are used to manufacture some antibiotics and other medicines to restore and protect health.

They are also key in producing such foods as cheese, yogurt, bread, wine and beer.

When used in professional cleaning, good bacteria can be viewed as microscopic cleaning workhorses.