Textiles: Enzymes to the Rescue

By Scott Brix 8 November, 2012

Dupont's Scott Brix on how enzymes can help reduce water in textile manufacturing

Enzymes can eliminate the need for caustic chemicals in textile processing
In the field, enzymes can reduce water, energy and processing time
Innovation has to be the way forward; enzymes & other bio-based solutions offer a path

For decades now, enzymes have offered a means of reducing the environmental impact of industrial processing.  During this time, enzymatic technologies have been applied to many categories of industrial processes, including food, feed, agriculture, laundry detergents, biofuel production,  leather and textiles to name a few. Specific to the needs of textile processors, DuPont has developed new enzyme technology to further reduce environmental impacts of this industry, especially in the scouring and bleaching unit operations.


Enzymes can reduce water, energy & traditional chemical usage

These newly developed enzymes are able to reduce water usage in the textile process and deliver on several of the twelve principles of Green Chemistry, for example; enzymes are catalytic, biodegradable, produced with renewable resources, work at lower temperatures, at normal atmospheric pressures, at more favorable (even neutral) pH and use less energy.

Enzymes are now starting to replace traditional chemicals for every unit operation in the textile process.  DuPont’s line of PrimaGreen® enzymes for textile processing are available for desizing, scouring, bleaching, bleach clean-up, biofinishing, and even dye modification. With PrimaGreen® enzymes, often two or more operations can be combined, e.g., desizing and scouring and dyeing and biofinishing.

Proven lab & field results

Cotton Incorporated Study

In recent years, water usage has become a growing global concern for the textile industry.  In some regions, fresh water is being depleted at an alarming rate that is not sustainable. A recently completed study with Cotton Incorporated showed that PrimaGreen® enzymes used in combination can eliminate the need for caustic chemicals in textile processing. This complete enzymatic textile process dramatically reduced water and energy consumption as well as overall processing time in the Cotton Incorporated evaluations.

“The main advantages are savings in processing time and water”

“The enzymes also will ensure we produce high-quality fabrics that have been created in a more sustainable and cost-effective process”

Ronald KK Chan, Pacific Textiles

Specifically, in regard to water, significant savings were observed as a result of enzymes working at mild processing conditions which enabled process steps to be combined. When conventional textile processing chemicals are used, unit operations are not able to be combined and, in addition, copious volumes of water are used to rinse away alkali and other bleaching chemicals.

Pacific Textiles Ltd Trials

The Cotton Incorporated study was followed recently with bulk trials done at Pacific Textiles in China and validated what we already knew.

The results illustrated an average reduction of 70 percent water (by liter); 33 percent steam (in pounds); and 27 percent in energy (as kWH) across dark, medium and light shade ranges.  By better utilizing water, steam and energy, the optimized process reduces the total costs of these inputs by an average of 66 percent. The process also reduces process time by 23 percent for dark shades, 27 percent for medium shades, and 30 percent for light shades.

Innovation has to be the way forward.  With limited water resources, using enzymes and other bio-based solutions offer a path forward for industry to use less water and take better care of the water we do use.

Further Reading:


Scott Brix
Author: Scott Brix
Scott Brix is the Director of Marketing with DuPont’s Textile Enzyme Group. Scott has over 20 years of commercial experience in the application of enzymes to food, beverages, cleaning, grain, biomass utilization, textile and garment finishing. His management experience includes building and leading sales, marketing, business development and technical service teams around the world. Scott hails from a science and engineering background with a Master of Science in Biotechnology from Texas A&M University
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