Enzymatic Cleaner: 7 Things to Know

by Ivory Soap

Homemade enzymatic cleaner recipes have pluses and minuses.  Know these seven things, before you mix!


I have spent HOURS on the this database researching all of the possible chemical formulations of citrus cleaner and this what I found.

Enzymatic Cleaner: The usual formula

1/2 cup Brown Sugar
1 teaspoon yeast
1 liter Water
2 cups Lemon and/or Orange Scraps

Mix and ferment for a month.  Strain into bottle and use.

Good News: It does clean things

1. DIY “enzymatic cleaner” has a high alcohol content, like many commercial cleaners.
Sugar plus water and yeast makes BOOZE.  The yeast eats up the sugars (wouldn’t want a sticky spray, right?) and converts it into alcohol.  Alcohol is a good cleaner.  If you put in all those fruit peelings and juices, you then have citrus booze.

2. Citrus peels contain “terpenes” and are used in many commercial cleaners.  
Think turpentine. If enough of the citrus terpenes end up in the final solution, it should have some decent grease cutting ability.  How much is in there?  I don’t know, but given that these are also responsible for the scent of the citrus fruit, I would assume that if you can smell it in your spray, then it’s there and helping you clean.

Bad news:  You aren’t making fruit enzymes.

3. Enzymes come from living cells.
Commercial enzymatic cleaners usually come from two places: Bacillus Subtilis (bacteria, not present in or ON common grocery store fruits) or a fruit containing protease (ONLY pineapple, papaya, and kiwi.)  Once the organism is done growing, you have all the enzyme you’re going to get out of it.  You can’t GROW more fruit enzymes by fermentation.  The only enzymes you are growing are in the LIVE yeast.

4.  NO commercial enzymatic cleaner uses yeast enzymes.
No one sprays “yeast water” on their counters, as far as I know.  The only useful yeast enzymes make the conversion of sugar to alcohol, which is how you get the “sticky” out of your spray before you use it.

5. NO commercial enzymatic cleaner uses citrus enzymes.
There’s no useful enzymes for cleaning in citrus fruit.  (As mentioned above, there are other useful things, but they aren’t enzymes.) Commercial producers, if they use fruit, only use pineapple (most common), papaya, and kiwi extracts.  THESE ARE THE ONLY FRUITS WITH PROTEIN ENZYMES.  And there’s NO fermentation to generate more.  Once you cut up the fruit, it’s done.

Good News: You can make it enzymatic

6.  Extracting pure enzymes is tricky.
If you grow some Bacillus Subtillus, you can just pop it in your handy centrifuge and use top liquid in your cleaners.  If you don’t have that strain of bacteria laying around and you’ve misplaced your centrifuge…well, you get the point.  And getting the pure enzyme out of the pineapple cells without destroying the enzyme is a series of chemical and physical extraction processes.

7.  But it still might work for pineapple peels.
Fresh pineapple ruins your jello because of the high protein enzyme content of that fruit.  I would think if you blended and pressed your pineapple, the cleaner might contain some protease in the end just from the cells floating around in the liquid, but you’re NOT growing more. Just getting some of what was in the pineapple before it stopped growing.  But, how much is in there?  I don’t know.  The best way to test that is to whip up a batch of this stuff and stick it in a tester container of jello.  If the resulting liquid keeps the jello from setting, then you’ve got protease in there and it will help you clean.

But, unless you eat enough raw pineapple or papaya to make this reasonable for your family, it’s just easier to get a cheapo bottle of Meat Tenderizer.  It’s usually just pineapple bromelain.


This recipe will make a decent cleaner, but not because of enzymes.  It’s the alcohol and the citrus terpenes (grease cutters).  
If you want to have enzymes in it, you can try adding ground pineapple, papaya, or kiwi peels and checking the resulting fermented liquid in jello.

Disclaimer: This post may contain a link to an affiliate.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Tracy July 16, 2013 at 6:51 am

I love the way you actually check these recipes out in a rather scientific manner. I tried your improved laundry detergent recipes and they DO work a lot better than the borax, Fels Naptha and washing soda in 5 gallons of water. Keep up the good research!

Ivory Soap July 16, 2013 at 7:11 am

AWWW thanks, Tracy! Please tell me any others you’d like me to check.

wendy July 17, 2013 at 3:57 am

Thank you for the effort you put into this blog. I was wondering about using raw papaya rather than ripe as the enzymes for tenderising meat are strongest in the raw fruit.

Patty July 17, 2013 at 10:01 pm

I’m with Tracy! Your laundry detergent is Too simple and Too good! My daughter and I were never going to make homemade detergent again after the complete pain of making the “general” one known around Pintrest. We absolutely love your new powdered and she can’t wait to show off at college next year (I’m already receiving stained clothes from her friends as I can rock out the stains with another DIY product!). So TYVM for all the great research! I find it insanely comical though that there are some diehards who will NOT listen to me about their waste of products/scientific research because nobody else pins it. Oh well, my daughter understands and she’ll spread it around at college 🙂

Missy July 19, 2013 at 7:41 am

Thanks! I did make the citrus ‘enzyme’ cleaners. The one I had read called to add vinegar. It smelled like dirty feet. I hated it.

I make probiotic (fermented) ginger ale and lemonade. So I always have lemons and lime rinds.

I have been freezing them and when it’s time to clean- I sprinkle baking soda on the surface and scrub with the lemon/lime rind. Works great!

I will be making your CLEANER too!


Melinda November 13, 2014 at 7:55 pm

Great article! Enzyme cleaners are touted to evaporate urine and such other things, I started looking into making enzyme cleaners to clean my backyard of the neighbourhood cats love of peeing on everything. If there are no actual enzymes in this enzyme cleaner, does it actually have any effect on urine and the such? And if not,what would you suggest? If you suggest pineapple or meat tenderiser, how do you ‘process’ it?

Carly January 11, 2015 at 10:06 pm

Interesting read, thank you! Like Melinda I am trying to deal w/ kitty urine, so I would love to see those questions answered.

D nice October 19, 2015 at 10:34 am

Can bromelain be added to garbage enzyme cleaner?

S November 29, 2015 at 1:14 pm

Thanks for researching this. You saved me from grief!

Mr. Skungeous January 17, 2016 at 11:12 am

And THERE’S the straight-up, accurate and scientifically backed-up information I was hoping to find. Thank you. I had the alcohol and terpene thing figured out, but I wasn’t sure about the enzymes; I was pretty sure the yeast wouldn’t do the job, but maybe the acetic acid bacteria that followed would have an effect? Guess not. Guess I’ll just have to see if A: protease kills yeast, B: alcohol destroys protease, and potentially C: what industrial enzyme cleaner uses as a base.

victor April 29, 2016 at 4:15 pm

please how can i make enzyme cleaner in a commercial quantity and equally improve the quality of commercial liquid detergent with this enzyme cleaner. kindly help

Tracy June 27, 2016 at 5:39 pm

I made some of the “fruit enzyme” skin cleanser before, knowing you can’t make enzymes, but I was interested in trying it out anyway. What I had made left my skin feeling smooth & I liked how it felt, but a mostly alcohol product would’ve dried my skin out. Do you know why it made my skin feel so good? By the way, I didn’t feel it was a great general cleanser, though. I tried it on my floors & the results were the same as using soap & water or vinegar. I wasn’t impressed.

Ivory Soap July 4, 2016 at 2:09 pm

I really don’t know. I never thought of using it on skin. And I may have oversold the alcohol content. I failed multiple times making actual wine. It might be dilute alcohol. I’m guessing there are many great things hanging out in a citrus peel that your skin needed.

Jeff sutton August 2, 2016 at 6:21 am

If meat tenderizer is powdered version of the enzymes in pineapple, would a solution of that and water not act as an enzyme cleaner? Trying to find cheaper solution as I own a dog business and these formulas are way too expensive to use on a large scale.

Lisa February 27, 2017 at 5:11 pm

So happy to see someone who actually checks into this stuff. I am floored at the amount of recipes online w/such misguided info!
I’m wondering if you’ve come across a good recipe for a probiotic spray like the ones a few companies are now making. They claim it an all natural way to destroy allergens in the home or car, make related products to use on skin & on pets to help reduce allergens to them & to make their allergies better. I know. Many cosmetic companies are using probiotics in their formulas. I’d just like to know if it’s possible to make a spray that I could use for air freshening, cleaning, anti allergies. I’d also love to have a toner w/probiotics. I imagine you’d have to make small amounts frequently as the actives wouldn’t last long, even the companies making the cleaning/antiallergy products, when you mix up a batch from their concentrate it only lasts about 7 days.
Anyhow I’ve searched Hi & Low for recipes to no avail. Have you come across any do you have any ideas? I’d be so greatful as my household is full of allergy sufferers & I hate adding chemicals to that mix.
Thanks so much, I love your website!

Tina March 31, 2017 at 3:05 pm

Join your blog?

Daisy March 31, 2017 at 4:16 pm

Tina–Go to our right hand sidebar and choose how you follow us by clicking on one of the icons (FB, email, Twitter, etc.) Easy as pie! Thanks for asking!

Ivory Soap May 10, 2017 at 7:58 pm

Probiotic means that it’s a positive bacteria. I dunno any formula for a positive bacteria that someone sprays around the house. I do know that some products have enzymes that denature bacteria, but that’s not the same thing. Allergens are not usually destroyed by positive bacteria. Enzymes could destroy pollen or dander, but I dunno any bacteria that do.

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