A warning for you: I say ‘detergent’ a lot in this post! Please don’t make a drinking game out of it, or you might end up going to the hospital.
We see adverts for biological and non-biological detergents everywhere – but what’s the difference between them and which should you be using?
There are lots of different ‘forms’ (let’s just go with it and call them ‘forms’) of laundry detergents – liquid, powders, tablets, pods – and you can get biological and non biological versions of all of them.
The key thing that differentiates the two is that biological detergents contain enzymes. The short version is that they’re really good at digesting, and therefore getting rid of, stains – which makes them the top choice for washloads that might be particularly dirty.
Enzymes are naturally occurring chemicals, which are actually present in our stomachs and help us break down food, so it makes sense that they’re good at getting rid of food-based stains! They work best at temperatures of 30℃-40℃, but denature (aka die) if it gets any hotter and so won’t be effective in getting rid of stains in a hot wash. That means that you need to believe it when they say that they work better on a cooler wash, otherwise you’re just flushing lots of money (and water!) down the drain.
There are different types of enzymes found in detergents, and each of them attack a particular kind of stain, whether that’s protein-based (such as blood or eggs), starch based or fat based. Most biological detergents do contain a combination of all three of these though, so that they’re able to tackle all of the most common stains.
Biological detergents have been known to irritate sensitive skin though, so it might be worth giving them a skip if you’re washing baby clothes or know that your skin is a little bit on the sensitive side. Even so, it might be worth keeping some bio detergent on hand to use every once in a while – just in case you come face-to-face with a particularly bad stain, as usually any reaction caused is very mild and it might be worth making the sacrifice of itchy skin if it means saving an item of clothing! Biological detergent can’t be used on delicate fabrics either – fibres like silk and wool require some extra love and a specialist detergent to keep them in tip-top condition.
Non- Biological Detergents
Non-biological detergents do not contain enzymes, so won’t be as tough on stains; but any good non-bio detergent should still do a fabulous job of cleaning!
Depending on the type and brand that you pick, non-bio detergents might require a slightly hotter water temperature in order to work properly. Due to being targeted towards those that might have skin a little bit more sensitive, a lot of non-bio detergents don’t contain fragrance or colourants, and therefore could actually be more environmentally friendly and gentler on your clothes than biological detergents – despite needing to be used at a higher water temperature.
What you need to consider when picking between biological & non biological detergents
All in all, I hope that this post has helped to clear up the difference between bio and non-bio, and that my overuse of the word ‘detergent’ hasn’t made you want to gouge your eyes out. In my defence though, there aren’t any synonyms for that word.
As a last little thing, I thought I’d add these three simple questions to help you to figure out whether you should use bio or non-bio:
- Does anyone you’re washing for have sensitive skin?
- Yes = Non-Bio
- No = Bio
- Do you need stain removal power?
- Yes = Bio
- No = Non-Bio
- What water temperature do you prefer to use?
- 30°C-40°C = Bio
- Above 40°C = Non-Bio