What is "Enzyme Washed" - Definition & Explanation
Last Updated on: 02-Oct-2023 ( ago)
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Enzyme Washed Textiles: The Green Revolution in Fabric Processing

Unraveling the Process and Impact of Enzyme Washing in Textiles

The History and Origin of Enzyme Washing

Enzyme washing emerged in the mid-20th century as an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional stone washing. Enzymes, naturally occurring proteins that speed up chemical reactions, were discovered to have the ability to break down the surface of textiles, creating a worn, aged look without the use of harsh chemicals or the mechanical stress of stone washing.

Types of Enzyme Washing

  • Cellulase Washing: Cellulase enzymes break down cellulose, a key component in plant fibers. This is commonly used for distressing cotton textiles, such as denim.
  • Protease Washing: Protease enzymes are used on protein-based fibers like silk and wool, resulting in a smoother, softer feel.

Tips for Handling Enzyme Washed Textiles

  • Enzyme-washed textiles should be washed in cold water to prevent excessive fading.
  • Turn enzyme-washed clothing inside out before washing to protect the distressed surface.
  • Avoid high temperatures when ironing enzyme-washed garments.

Major International Manufacturers and Users

  • Levi Strauss & Co.: As a pioneer in denim production, Levi's has utilized enzyme washing for years to achieve a fashionable distressed look on their jeans.
  • EcoStone Fashion Ltd.: This company specializes in sustainable textile production, including the extensive use of enzyme washing for its products.
  • Dupont Industrial Biosciences: Dupont produces a wide array of industrial-grade enzymes used in textile treatments, including enzyme washing.
  • The Gap, Inc.: As a leading international retailer, The Gap often sources enzyme-washed clothing for its unique look and feel.
  • Novozymes: Novozymes is a biotech company that produces enzymes for various industrial uses, including textile treatments like enzyme washing.

Applications of Enzyme Washing

  • Denim Distressing: Enzyme washing is commonly used in the denim industry to give jeans a worn, vintage look without the need for harsh chemicals or stones.
  • Softening Textiles: By breaking down surface fibers, enzyme washing results in a softer, smoother feel to textiles, enhancing comfort for the wearer.
  • Preparation for Dyeing: Enzyme washing can also be used to prepare textiles for dyeing, improving the dye's adherence and ensuring a more vibrant, long-lasting color.


The advent of enzyme washing has brought a significant paradigm shift in textile processing, offering an environmentally-friendly, efficient method of treating textiles to achieve a desirable worn effect or a softer hand feel. This process, fueled by the remarkable capabilities of enzymes, has revolutionized denim treatment and extended its benefits to a host of other textile applications. From a historical perspective, the rise of enzyme washing embodies the textile industry's pursuit of innovation to meet fashion demands while addressing environmental concerns. With the continuing development of enzyme technology, the future promises more refined, varied, and sustainable applications of enzyme washing. As a cornerstone of contemporary textile treatment, enzyme washing will undoubtedly maintain its relevance and continue to shape the textile landscape in the years to come.

Enzyme washed
Refers to the process of washing with a cellulase enzyme -one which attacks the cellulose in the fabric- giving it a used, worn appearance and a desirable soft hand. The effect is similar to stone washing but is less damaging to the fabric. It is sometimes called bio-washing. Done commonly with denim or other cottons and fabrics of lyocell.
Enzyme Washed
A laundering process in which a catalytic substance is added to create a chemical change in the fabric resulting in a very soft finish, smoother appearing surface and reduced shrinkage.
Enzyme Washed
A process of washing using organic substances that cause transformation or accelerate the aging of dyes.

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