Roles of Enzymes in Various Textiles Processes

Written by Mouli Mondal


An enzyme is a biological molecule, typically a protein, that acts as a catalyst in biochemical reactions. It facilitates and speeds up chemical reactions in living organisms without being consumed or permanently altered in the process.

In the textile industry, enzymes are biological molecules that play a crucial role in various processes involved in the production of textiles.

They are used to enhance the efficiency and quality of textile processing while reducing the environmental impact compared to traditional chemical treatments. In the textile industry, enzymes play a crucial role in various processes, particularly in the finishing stages of fabric production. The specific enzyme used is commonly referred to as a "textile enzyme" or "biofinishing enzyme." These specialized biological catalysts are employed to enhance the properties of fabrics, such as softening, bio-polishing, and improving color fastness. For instance, bio-polishing enzymes break down and remove protruding fibers from the surface of cotton fabrics, resulting in a smoother, more lustrous appearance.

Additionally, enzymes are instrumental in processes like stone washing and denim finishing, where they facilitate the desired worn-in or distressed look. Overall, textile enzymes are indispensable tools in achieving the desired quality, texture, and appearance of textiles, contributing significantly to the efficiency and sustainability of textile production processes.

Applications of Enzymes in textiles


1. Advantages of enzymes used in textiles:

Here are some of the advantages of using enzymes in textiles:
  • Eco-Friendly: Enzymes are biodegradable and do not leave harmful residues in the environment. This makes them a more sustainable option compared to some traditional chemical processes.
  • Reduced Environmental Impact: Enzymes can often replace harsh chemicals and high-temperature processes, reducing the overall environmental impact of textile production. This includes lower energy consumption and water usage.
  • Improved Quality: Enzymes can enhance the quality of textiles by improving processes like desizing, scouring, and bleaching. They can help remove impurities and unwanted substances from fibers, resulting in a cleaner and more consistent end product.
  • Energy and Water Savings: Enzymes work effectively at lower temperatures and pH levels compared to conventional chemical processes. This reduces the energy required for heating and the amount of water needed for various stages of textile processing.
  • Reduced Processing Time: Enzymes can accelerate certain processes, such as the removal of starch (desizing) or natural waxes and fats (scouring). This can lead to shorter processing times, which can increase overall production efficiency.
  • Gentle Treatment of Fibers: Enzymes are specific in their action and do not harm the structure of fibers. This ensures that the textile retains its original strength and integrity.
  • Biodegradation of Stains: Enzymes like amylases and lipases can effectively break down complex stains like food, oil, and blood, making them easier to remove during washing.
  • Bio-Polishing: Enzymes like cellulases are used for bio-polishing to remove surface fuzz, which improves the hand feel and appearance of the fabric. This is particularly important for high-quality textiles.
  • Dyeing and Printing: Enzymes can be used to modify the surface properties of fibers, making them more receptive to dyes and pigments. This leads to improved color fastness and brighter, more vibrant colors.
  • Waste Reduction: Enzymes can help minimize waste in textile processing by facilitating more efficient reactions and reducing the need for additional chemicals and resources.
  • Controlled Processing: Enzymes offer precise control over reactions, allowing for customization of processing conditions to achieve specific results. This is crucial for achieving consistent quality in textile production.
  • Compatibility with Biological Systems: Enzymes are naturally occurring in living organisms and are generally non-toxic. This makes them suitable for applications where textiles come into contact with the skin.
  • Flexibility in Application: Enzymes can be used in various stages of textile production, including pre-treatment, dyeing, finishing, and even in wastewater treatment processes.

Overall, enzymes provide a sustainable and effective alternative to many traditional chemical processes in the textile industry, contributing to more environmentally friendly and high-quality textile production.

2. Different types of enzymes used in textile industry.

Here are some of the enzymes used in the textile industry:

Amylases: These enzymes are used for desizing, which is the process of removing the starches that are applied to yarns and fabrics to facilitate weaving. Amylases break down these starches into soluble sugars, making them easy to wash away.

Cellulases: Cellulases are used for various purposes in the textile industry. They can be used in the bio-polishing process to remove surface fuzz and pills from cotton fabrics, resulting in a smoother and more even surface. They can also be used for stone washing of denim, which gives it a faded and worn appearance.

Pectinases: Pectinases are used to remove pectin, a natural substance found in plant cell walls. They are particularly useful in the processing of natural fibers like flax, hemp, and jute.

Lipases: Lipases are used for degreasing processes, especially in wool and silk production. They help remove natural oils and waxes from these fibers.

Proteases: Proteases are used for various purposes in the textile industry. They can be used in processes like enzymatic scouring, where they help remove non-cellulosic impurities from fibers. They can also be used in bio-polishing to remove small fuzz and pills from the surface of fabrics.

Laccases: Laccases are used in processes that involve the bleaching of fabrics. They help catalyze the oxidation of certain dyes and pigments, resulting in a brighter and more vibrant color.

Catalases: Catalases are used in processes that involve the removal of hydrogen peroxide after bleaching. They catalyze the breakdown of hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen.

Oxidases: Oxidases can be used in various processes, including bleaching and color removal. They can catalyze the oxidation of specific compounds, which can be useful in modifying the color of fabrics.

Ligninases: These enzymes are involved in the removal of lignin, a complex polymer found in plant cell walls. They can be used in processes related to natural fibers like flax and hemp.

Catalytic Enzymes: These are specialized enzymes used for specific applications. For example, some catalytic enzymes are designed for specific dyes or types of fibers.

It's important to note that enzyme applications in the textile industry are subject to specific conditions like temperature, pH, and processing time. Additionally, the choice of enzyme depends on the type of fiber being processed and the desired outcome. Enzymes offer an eco-friendly alternative to many traditional chemical processes in the textile industry, as they often require milder conditions and produce fewer harmful byproducts.

3. Application of enzymes in the textile industry

Followings are the few textile manufacturing processes where enzymes are used.

Enzymes are used to remove sizing agents from the fabric. Sizing agents are applied to warp yarns during weaving to improve their strength and facilitate weaving. Before dyeing, it's important to remove these agents to ensure even and consistent dyeing.

Enzymes like amylases are commonly used for this purpose. They break down the starch-based sizing, making it easier to wash away.

Enzymes are employed in the scouring process to remove impurities, such as wax, pectin, and non-cellulosic matter, from the fabric. This ensures better dye absorption and uniform coloration.

Pectinase enzymes are typically used for the removal of pectin, which is a complex carbohydrate found in plant cell walls.

In some cases, especially for cotton fabrics, enzymes can be used for bio-polishing. This process helps to improve the fabric's surface appearance, softness, and color brightness.

Cellulase enzymes are used to break down and remove short fibers and fibrils from the fabric surface.

Enzymes can be combined with traditional bleaching agents to improve the effectiveness of the process. They help in the removal of lignin, residual impurities, and natural coloration from the fibers or fabric.

Mercerization is a treatment process that imparts improved luster, strength, and dye affinity to cellulosic fibers. Enzymes may be used to enhance the effects of mercerization.

This process uses enzymes to remove impurities from natural fibers like cotton in an eco-friendly manner. It is a more sustainable alternative to traditional scouring methods.

Anti-back staining:
Enzymes can be used to prevent back staining during the dyeing process. Back staining occurs when the dye is absorbed on the backside of the fabric, resulting in uneven coloring. Enzymes can help prevent this by effectively removing excess dye from the fabric surface.

Denim Finishing:
Enzymes are employed to create distressed or stone-washed effects on denim fabric. They break down the indigo dye and fibrillate the surface fibers, giving the fabric a worn-out appearance.

Dyeing and Color Removal:
Enzymes can be used to enhance the penetration and fixation of dyes onto fabric, reducing the need for harsh chemicals and high-temperature processes. They can also be used in processes like enzymatic color stripping.

Wastewater Treatment:
Enzymes are employed in the treatment of wastewater generated during textile processing. They help in breaking down organic compounds and reducing the environmental impact of textile production.

Enzymatic Desizing in Jeans Manufacturing:
Amylases are used in the denim industry to replace traditional chemical desizing processes. This results in a more sustainable and eco-friendly approach to denim production.

Enzymatic Finishing for Flame Retardancy:
Enzymes can be used to impart flame-retardant properties to fabrics. This is achieved by applying enzymes that catalyze the attachment of flame-retardant molecules to the fabric.

Enzyme-Assisted Printing:
Enzymes can be used to create special effects in textile printing, such as discharge printing where the color of the fabric is selectively removed to create patterns.

Improving dye penetration:
Enzymes can enhance the penetration of dye molecules into the fibers by opening up the fiber structure. This allows for better color absorption and retention during the dyeing process.

Reducing water and energy consumption:
Enzymes can help reduce the amount of water, energy, and chemicals required for the pre-dyeing process, making it more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

Ensuring color consistency:
Enzymes can help remove uneven dye uptake caused by impurities or irregularities in the fabric, ensuring consistent and uniform coloration.

By incorporating enzymes into these processes, the textile industry can reduce its reliance on harsh chemicals, lower energy consumption, and minimize its environmental footprint. This makes enzyme applications a crucial component of sustainable textile production.


Enzymes play a pivotal role in the textile industry, contributing significantly to sustainable and efficient manufacturing processes. They act as catalysts, accelerating chemical reactions in various stages of textile production. In pre-treatment, enzymes aid in the removal of impurities, such as pectin, wax, and proteinaceous materials, from natural fibers like cotton and linen. This leads to improved dye uptake and enhanced color fastness.

Moreover, enzymes are instrumental in processes like bio-polishing, where they selectively degrade protruding fibers, resulting in smoother and softer fabrics. This not only enhances the aesthetic appeal of the textiles but also reduces pilling. Additionally, enzymes facilitate stone-washing of denim, replacing harsh chemicals and abrasives, thereby reducing environmental impact.

Overall, the integration of enzymes in textile processing not only enhances product quality but also aligns with the industry's growing emphasis on sustainability and eco-friendly practices.

About the Author: Mouli Mondal is a college student at the Government College of Engineering & Textile Technology, Serampore. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Textile Technology. She has a strong interest in textiles and is eager to continue learning and growing in the textile field. In her free time, she loves writing articles.

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