Protease in Cleaning Products: Benefits & Use Cases

By Marilee Nelson |

Protease in Cleaning Products: Benefits & Use Cases

Enzymes, like protease, have become popular ingredients in non-toxic and chemical-based cleaning products.

Several different types of enzymes are used in cleaning, laundry, and dishwashing products, including proteases, amylases, lipase, cellulases, mannanases, and pectinases, all of which work a little differently on soil and stains.

Today, we’ll focus on protease, including what it is, how it works, and what it’s used for.

What is Protease? 

Protease is a natural enzyme used in various cleaning and laundry products. 

It’s also made by plants to help them grow and by our bodies to facilitate the digestion of proteins and amino acids. 

It is Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) by the FDA and is primarily used in laundry and dishwashing products to break up protein-based stains such as food, blood, grass, and more.

How Does Protease Work in Cleaning Products? 

All enzymes, including protease, work by catalyzing or setting off chemical reactions, which help cleaners, stain removers, dishwashing detergents, and laundry products work more efficiently.

Just like enzymes in our bodies break down different components of foods and waste, enzymes in cleaners break down various types of dirt, oil, proteins, and stains.

Protease may be added to a dish or laundry detergent, for example, to help enhance the detergent's cleaning power.

What is Protease Used For? 

As previously discussed, protease is most typically used in laundry products, dish detergents, and stain removers to break down proteins. 

It may also be used in drain and septic cleaners to dissolve protein-based organic matter, and in skincare products to break down dead skin cells.

Protease works on protein-based stains, such as:

  • Blood stains
  • Grass stains
  • Food stains
  • Pet stains
  • Spitup or vomit stains
  • Urine Stains
  • Poop stains
  • Organic matter

There are different types of proteases used in cleaning and laundry products that target different types of stains.

Protease may be derived from animal, fungi, or plant-based sources.

It’s also important to note that although protease is a naturally-occurring enzyme, it is used in non-toxic and toxic cleaning, laundry, and dishwashing products.

Therefore, just because a product is labeled: “Enzyme Cleaner” or “Enzyme-Based Cleaner” doesn’t necessarily mean it's non-toxic or safe for humans or the environment.

We recommend using the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning database and app to vet any protease or enzyme-based cleaning product. Why? Because products with protease are allowed for use in EWG VERIFIED products, but must meet use restrictions and warnings based on EWG review of company data. Protease can be considered an immune and respiratory toxicant or allergen. Evaluation of a product with protease considers what the product is used for,  how much protease is being used, and what is the source?  Is it used on the skin directly or is it used where it may be inhaled or skin contact is involved, etc?

Does Branch Basics Contain Protease?

Yes, Branch Basics Dishwashing Tablets contain plant-based protease and other natural and non-toxic ingredients to power through dirty dishes.

The addition of protease helps break down proteins on dishes, while other ingredients, such as sodium percarbonate (also known as oxygen bleach or powdered peroxide), decyl glucoside (a plant-based surfactant), and amylase (an enzyme that breaks down starches and sugars) dissolve and remove other food particles.

Branch Basics Concentrate and Oxygen Boost do not contain protease but work wonders on all types of stains and cleaning jobs.

Read more about our new and improved plastic-free, non-toxic Dishwasher Tablets here.

Protease FAQs 

New to cleaning with enzymes? 

Let’s answer some frequently asked questions about protease in cleaning, laundry, and dishwashing products.

Is Protease Safe to Use Across All Materials & Surfaces? 

Since it targets proteins, protease is safe to use across all materials and surfaces. 

However, other ingredients in specific protease-based cleaners may not be suitable for use on all materials and surfaces.

Always check with the manufacturer before using protease cleaners.

Is the Protease Enzyme Safe to Use in Products Around Sensitive People, Pets and Children? 

Generally, yes. Protease is rated a “1” on EWG’s Cleaning Product database (“1” being the least toxic and “10” being the most toxic).

Our recommendation with any product with protease would be the same as our recommendation concerning any powdered product like our Oxygen Boost. Avoid inhaling any powdered product! When opening the container for dish tabs, avoid inhaling the contents. Dishtabs could have a bit of loose powder created from from friction during shipping. Wash your hands after handling.

However, once again, protease is typically combined with other ingredients, which may not be safe if inhaled, touched, or ingested by children.

This is true for natural and non-toxic and chemical-based products.

Sodium percarbonate, for example, a primary ingredient in Branch Basics Dishwasher Tablets and Oxygen Boost, is considered non-toxic and rated a “1-2” on EWG

However, like other minerals, it can cause harm if ingested, inhaled, or rubbing into the eyes.

Even natural soaps and other natural ingredients, like essential oils or baking soda, can cause harm if swallowed.

Bottom line: always use caution with cleaning products around children.

Does Protease Have a Shelf Life or Expiration Date? 

Yes, like most all ingredients in cleaning products, protease—and other enzymes—will lose their effectiveness over time.

Expiration dates will vary based on the product.

Toss the Toxins With Branch Basics

Protease is an effective and non-toxic ingredient that can work wonders on stains and in dishwashing products.

However, always check the ingredients and use resources, like EWG, to vet an enzyme-based cleaner, laundry product, or dishwashing detergent for safety.

Interested in trying our plastic-free, non-toxic Dishwasher Tablets with protease?

Click here for more information.

Curious about the importance of non-toxic dishwashing and what’s in those chemical-based dish detergents? Check out: Why Non-Toxic Dishwashing is So Important to learn more.

Marilee Nelson

Marilee Nelson

Marilee Nelson is an Environmental Toxins expert who has spent nearly 30 years advocating for the chemically-sensitive and chronically-ill. She is a Board Certified Nutritionist, Certified Bau-Biologist and Bau-Biology Inspector and specializes in Food As Medicine. She has helped thousands of families and individuals identify, heal and recover from toxic exposures and is on a mission to revolutionize the way American families view their health.