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Subtilisins are a type of protease enzyme that can be used to target protein-based stains such as grass, blood, body fluids, and food soils. We use these in some of our products to improve cleaning performance and efficiency.

Enzymes are a kind of protein that occur naturally in the body, but have also been engineered for use in commercial cleaning products for many decades. Subtilisins are produced by fermentation of the bacteria Bacillus subtilis or Bacillus licheniformis, and they work by speeding up chemical reactions. When used in cleaning products, they can help dissolve stains attached to clothes or dishes by converting them into substances that are more easily removed in the cleaning process.

Proteases such as subtilisin are effectively able to target protein chains in common stains such as egg, milk and sebum (skin oil), breaking them down into small fragments that are water-soluble and more readily rinsed off. Developments in subtilisin enzyme production have led to increased activity at lower temperatures, improving detergent cleaning performance in cold water washes.

Regarding their safety profile, extensive testing in large scale human studies has shown no evidence of the ability of enzymes in cleaning products to induce skin sensitisation. The large molecular weight of enzymes suggest they would not be able to penetrate intact skin. Any contact with wash solutions is not linked to significant irritation or allergy and residues on fabrics are so low they are not known to materially contribute to any skin effects. The combined evidence of substantial research has been sufficient to establish a long history of safe consumer use of enzyme containing products.

Enzymes also have a good environmental profile - they're readily biodegradable and are inactivated to a large extent under washing or cleaning conditions, minimising their impact when they reach the environment. Using enzymes can improve cleaning performance, increasing efficiency and reducing the amount of water and other surfactants required.

Other names: Protease Enzyme; Proteinase, Bacillus Subtilis Alkaline; Subtilopeptidase

Chemical class: Proteins

Chemical structure depicted: (Egg stain protein) Ovalbumin Peptide


Vojcic, L., Pitzler, C., Körfer, G., Jakob, F., Ronny Martinez, Maurer, K. H., & Schwaneberg, U. (2015). Advances in protease engineering for laundry detergents. New biotechnology, 32(6), 629–634.

Niyonzima, F. N., & More, S. (2015). Detergent-compatible proteases: microbial production, properties, and stain removal analysis. Preparative biochemistry & biotechnology, 45(3), 233–258.

Valls, C., Pujadas, G., Garcia-Vallve, S., & Mulero, M. (2011). Characterization of the protease activity of detergents: laboratory practicals for studying the protease profile and activity of various commercial detergents. Biochemistry and molecular biology education : a bimonthly publication of the International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 39(4), 280–290.

Basketter, D., Berg, N., Broekhuizen, C., Fieldsend, M., Kirkwood, S., Kluin, C., Mathieu, S., & Rodriguez, C. (2012). Enzymes in cleaning products: an overview of toxicological properties and risk assessment/management. Regulatory toxicology and pharmacology : RTP, 64(1), 117–123.

HERA Human & Environmental Risk Assessment. (2005). Amylases, Cellulases and Lipases. Retrieved on November 26, 2021 from

Basketter, D., English, J., Wakelin, S. and White, I. (2008), Enzymes, detergents and skin: facts and fantasies. British Journal of Dermatology, 158: 1177-1181.

National Center for Biotechnology Information (2021). PubChem Compound Summary for CID 16201090, Ovalbumin peptide. Retrieved December 7, 2021 from

INCI Name:
Ingredient origins:
Microbial Fermentation, Soybean
Common name:
EWG score: The EWG score is a hazard score ranging from 1-2 (low hazard), 3-6 (moderate hazard) and 7-10 (high hazard) published by the Environmental Working Group. Their data is sourced from the Skin Deep® database and studies published in open scientific literature.
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