Friday, February 24, 2017

How to make Bio Enzyme or Garbage Enzyme for household cleaning purposes (and its many uses)

Here's a very detailed FAQ on What are Bio Enzymes, how to make them and how to use them that I came up with* for a coaching session I am running for the Basavanagudi gardening team (and others) on "Learn to make the Bio Enzyme". Please do go through and let me know if you have more questions I can add to the list.

The questions are divided into three parts so that it’s easier for you to assimilate the information as and when you need it:

  1. before, when you need know what are Bio Enzymes and how exactly to make them 
  2. during, when you might come across issues or doubts about whether it is progressing well for you and
  3. after, when you might want to explore the many different uses of the Bio Enzyme
Do go through this list to get a good understanding about Bio Enzymes and get armed with the necessary information to make it really work for you.

Part 1:

Here are the Q & As you will need to go through BEFORE you make the Bio Enzyme

1. What are Bio Enzymes?
Bio Enzyme (also referred to as Garbage Enzyme or Fruit Enzyme) is a multi-purpose, natural cleaner produced from vegetable/fruit peels (usually citrus) or waste. It is an effective alternative to harsh chemicals such as bleach, phenyl, and other chemical solutions we typically use in households to wash our bathrooms, clean toilets, wipe our floors, tiles and other surfaces. Chemically, the Bio Enzymes are a mixture of complex organic substances such as proteins, salts and other materials that are by-products of the bacteria/yeast (naturally occurring) that we will use to make the Bio Enzyme. These organic substances which are in the Bio Enzyme are capable of breaking down chemical and other organic waste thus helping us in removing stains, odor, getting rid of other harmful microbes, etc. They also greatly neutralize toxins and pollutants. In short, they are the next best thing to be discovered by man after a ripe and sweet Mango!

2. Why do we need to use Bio Enzyme instead of chemicals and solutions like Harpic, Mr. Muscle, Phenyl, etc.?
You might have read all the recent news about lakes frothing, lakes catching fire, sewage contaminating water bodies and so on and so forth. As human population grows and our lifestyles becomes increasingly convenience driven, we are polluting our living environment more and more. A polluted environment is in no way conducive to a healthy living – causing us disease, disturbance and distress. As people who are conscious of our footprint on the environment, we must do all that we can to not just stop adding to the pollution but also to prevent it actively. One of the most important and easy way to do that is to completely eliminate all chemicals from your household and replace them with Bio Enzyme and its variations.

Moreover, it is in our personal best interest as well to switch to the Bio Enzymes! Chemical cleaners, in addition to polluting the environment, also leave chemical residues in your household – potential and slowly accumulating toxins that can cause great harm to children, pets and adults as well. A recent news article I read cited the residue of dishwash bars on vessels as one of the major causes of cancer (as they can turn carcinogenic)!! While we do not know the scientific validity of such claims, it is always easier to be safer than sorry. It’s even more safer to go green completely!

3. What are the uses of Bio Enzyme?
Bio Enzymes has a veritable list of uses – I keep discovering more and more uses to it! Let me try to bracket them for you:
As a surface cleaner: Floor Cleaner, Tile Cleaner, Toilet Cleaner, Stove/Chimney Cleaner (concentrated version or the pulpy residue), Window Cleaner, Car wash, etc.
As a dirt remover: Laundry liquid (with or without other additions such as soapnut), Vessel Cleaner (with or without other additions such as soapnut), stain remover, etc.
As a personal care product: Body wash, Shampoo, Hair conditioner, Shoe odor remover
As an anti-bacterial and anti-viral: Refrigerator cleaner, Cabinet cleaner, Unclogging drains, Washing Vegetables and Fruits to neutralize harmful fertilizers/pesticide residues on them
There may be many more uses that may just need to be discovered!

4. Who invented the Bio Enzyme?
Bio Enzyme is developed by Dr Rosukun Poompanvong from Thailand. However, although called an Enzyme, it is not an enzyme in technical sense. Also, the term Garbage Enzyme (another name by which it is called) can also be misleading! Some call it as Fruit enzyme... but Fruit Enzyme and Garbage Enzyme are different; Fruit Enzymes are editable while Bio enzymes are not.

5. How do we exactly make Bio Enzymes?
Very simple. Remember the ratio 1:3:10 – Jaggery to Citrus Peels to Water. That is take one part of Jaggery, 3 parts of Citrus peels and 10 parts of Water. If you use one cup of Jaggery, use the same cup to measure the other two ingredients as well. But you need not be 100% accurate to the last dot – the Bio enzyme is forgiving if you add a bit more of this or that (not too much or too less though!). Take a big enough and air tight container with a lid which can accommodate this solution + still have a 10 – 15 % space left empty. Mix these three ingredients in that container, put the lid on, label it with the date of creation and leave it in a dark place (such as inside your kitchen cupboard or under the sink). Once the solution starts fermenting (will be explained in a bit), it will start releasing some gases that will get built up in the empty space in the container. Before this gas becomes too much and “pops” outside, you will need to release them. Hence, you will need to open the lid once in a day (for first one week at least), air it out for a minute or so (no need to stir or do anything else!), put the lid back on, keep it back in the dark place and again forget it for another day. From second week onwards, the gas activity will reduce a bit and you need not open every day - you can open every other day.

6. Can I use a metal or glass container instead of plastic?
No, not advisable as metal and glass will not be able to expand. There are gases that will get released during the process of production – so plastic is a better option. You can use any old plastic container lying around.

7. Why is an airtight container required?
The airtight container is necessary to promote fermentation (minimize oxygen) and to also avoid flies from getting in.

8. How long before my Bio Enzyme will be ready?
Usually, it will take three months for the Bio Enzyme to be produced if you do not use any other additional ingredient other than that which are mentioned above (Jaggery, Citrus Peels and Water). That is why it is important that you label the container with the date of creation. This way, you can start multiple batches and stagger them so that you can get a continuous supply.

9. What is the rationale for the stipulated 3 months’ period?
During the first month of the fermentation, alcohol will be released, so you will smell alcohol when you open the container. In the second month, you will smell an acidic smell, which is the smell of acetic acid. With many compounds such as minerals and vitamins, it will continue breaking down and naturally form the enzyme. Hence, the minimum duration suggested is 3 months.

10. Does the Bio Enzyme have an expiry date?
No, you can use the Bio Enzyme lifelong! They do not get spoilt, go bad or anything like that. Of course, you need to ensure you keep them safely closed away from pests and flies.

11. What are the fruit peels I can use to make Bio Enzyme? Can I use Banana and Mango?
While the Bio Enzyme can be made with all the Fruits peels, for greater household cleaning abilities, it is usually recommended only to use Citrus Fruit peels – i.e. Lemon, Orange and Pineapple. You can either use all three of them separately in different batches to test which is more effective or combine them into one. As mentioned, you can use Banana and Mango – but they won’t be as effective as Citrus.  Plus, they may not smell as great as citrus!

12. Can I use the entire fruit instead of just the peels?
Yes, you can but why would you want to “waste” the whole fruit instead of consuming it? But if the fruit is rotten or spoilt, you can put it in whole or cut up, not a problem.

13. Should I wash the peels before I use them to make Bio Enzymes?
No, not required. During the process of creating the Bio Enzyme, all chemical residues, if any, will get neutralized completely.

14. Does the fruits/peels I must use to make the Bio Enzymes be organic?
Again, same answer as above. All chemical residues will get neutralized during the process – so it doesn’t matter if it is organic or not.

15. Why is regular opening and closing of the container needed? 
Biogases will be produced as by-products of the anaerobic breakdown of the sugars (usually hydrogen, CO2, and less likely methane). Thus, releasing the gases produced, especially during the initial stages, is essential.

16. Do I really need to open the Bio Enzyme every day? What will happen if I forget to stir for a few days?
No, not every day but every other day definitely – at least for the first 3 – 4 weeks when the bacterial activity will be at its peak. Slowly, the speed of the process will decrease and the amount of gases that will get produced will also decrease – so you can increase the gap between the time you go and check out your Enzyme from 2 days (for fist 3-4 weeks) to 4 days (for next 3-4 days) and then to once a week.

17. What is the purpose of brown sugar or Jaggery in the process?
The purpose of Jaggery or molasses or brown sugar is to provide “simple” carbon source or energy for the microorganisms to first feed and grow. When growth is sizeable, the microbes may then turn their attention to the additional food source (the waste materials or peels) that is harder to digest due to the complexity in their molecular structures. This process is usually energy consuming for the microorganisms, and the added sugar may provide them the extra energy needed for this.

18. Can I use White Sugar instead of Jaggery or Brown Sugar?
No, you can’t.

19. Can I use dried peels instead of fresh ones?
No, it’s preferable that you use fresh peels as much as possible

20. Can I use Frozen and Thawed peels?
Well, if you can’t get access to fresh peels, you may use frozen and thawed ones.

21. What do I do after three months?
Take another container (such a big enough vessel or bucket), filter out the liquid from the Bio Enzyme container using a fine mesh cloth or filter, squeeze the pulp to take out remaining liquid and voila – the Bio Enzyme is ready! The liquid (which should be clear and orange to brownish in color) you have collected in the other container is the Bio Enzyme – it might still have some very fine residue which will settle down once you keep it undisturbed for some time – you can use along with the residue, not a problem. You can retain the pulp to start another batch or to use as a concentrated cleaner. Store both the liquid and the pulp safely in closed containers for everyday use.

22. Is there a way to make the Bio Enzymes that is quicker?
Yes! There are two ways you can make this process faster.
Option 1: You can add yeast (the regular Baker’s yeast you will get in Departmental stores). This will make the Bio Enzyme ready in just 20 days.
Option 2: You can add the leftover pulp of a previous batch. This will make the Bio Enzyme ready in 30 days.

23. So why can’t we just do the quicker option?
Because the main method taught here works with three ingredients (jiggery, citrus peels, and water) that are readily available in every kitchen. Many of us are not aware of yeast or do not know where to source it from or we do not want to spend on them. Moreover, the traditional method is going to take three months only for the first time. For your next batch onwards, you can use the left over pulp after filtering the Bio Enzyme as a starter and produce it in just 30 days without any yeast.

24. I want to use Yeast. Will there be a difference in the quality of the Bio Enzyme produced if I use Yeast?
No, the quality of Bio Enzyme produced seems to have no difference at all if you use Yeast OR not. So, if you can source Yeast, go right ahead and use it. But don’t forget to save the pulp once your 20 days are up and you filter out the Bio Enzyme – as you need not buy Yeast and incur that additional cost every time – you can use the pulp to speeden up the next batch. But adding  Yeast by ourselves (as they are will naturally occur in your Enzyme anyway over the three month process) does produce more gas – so you might need to open your container every day against the every other day we will follow in the other method.

25. Where can I get Yeast? What do I ask for in the shop?
Yeast is easily available (known as Active Dry Yeast) in any big departmental stores in the likes of MORE, Big Bazaar, Nilgiris, MK Ahmed, etc. Just buy one small packet (should not cost more than Rs. 50 if I remember correctly). Ants are crazily attracted to Yeast so don’t leave it a container with a loose lid or don’t leave it open (as that can dull the effectiveness of Yeast). Also, before you buy, check the expiry date on the packet – as we don’t want to be left with a dead packet!

26. What is the quantity of Yeast to be used?
Just a mere small teaspoon or even lesser is fine. Active Dry Yeast will be like mini globules – so you can use just 3-4 globules actually! If you are using Yeast, just mix/stir the Enzyme-in-production for the first few days (you don’t need to stir if you are not using Yeast).

27. I use an herbal floor cleaner and find it extremely effective. Why should I shift to Bio Enzyme?
Can you be 100% certain that the “herbal” cleaner you use does not have any chemical whatsoever? And that it contains only totally natural substances? Please verify that. Clever marketing and use of words such a “herbal”, “organic”, “all natural” are becoming more and more commonplace by companies that are out to fool customers. Please do not fall pray to such tactics. Once you have verified the authenticity of your herbal cleaner, check whether they are safe to use and the residues they leave are safe to use. If you are fully satisfied, you may continue to use your herbal cleaner – but at a cost! But I wonder why you would do that when you can make your own cleaner with the least and minimum cost which will be equally effective if not more? What’s more, you can be super proud as well.

Part 2: During the process of making the Bio Enzyme

28. I’m curious to know the scientific principle behind Bio Enzyme. Can you explain?
Chemically, Bio Enzymes are a mixture of concentrated Vinegar or Alcohol (or a mixture/blend of both, along with other organic compounds) produced by microorganisms which are naturally occurring in the environment that were a part of the solution you prepared. It is a simple fermentation process where the food waste is broken down into smaller compounds along with the release of gases. Once all the food (Jaggery and what is in Citrus that you added) is digested by the microbes, they will have nothing to eat and will die naturally. But what they leave behind (as their waste product so to speak) is precious - the Bio Enzyme. As they say, one man's waste is another man's gold. In this case, the microbes do all the hard work and we get to enjoy their labour!

29. I see a white layer, like Fungus, forming on top of the peels! What do I do?
This is a good indication. Simply ignore the layer and keep airing out the Enzyme-in-process. The white layer is nothing but naturally occurring yeast that has come to eat the food and gift you back the enzyme!

30. I have got worms in my Bio-Enzyme! Help me!
Uh-uh, someone has not been careful in keeping the lid tightly closed! So the flies have come in and laid their eggs! Well, not to worry, add some more Jaggery, put the lid back on and keep it very tight. Open and close once in 2-3 days (beware of the wriggly worms though harmless they are!). The worms will go away by themselves. Don’t ask where!

31. Is my Bio Enzyme supposed to smell a certain way?
Not really, since we will be using only citrus, they will only smell nicely citrusy.

32. What If your enzyme becomes very smelly like the smell of rotten eggs or feces? 
Just add one portion of brown sugar. For instance, this bottle contains one liter of water. Then you need to quickly add 100 grams of brown sugar to it. Stir it thoroughly and then cover the cap tightly. After you seal it, do not open it again. One month later, you will find that it’s good again when you open it.

33. What are the Gases that will get released when we make the Bio Enzymes?
Some of the gases that will be produced by Bio Enzymes are CO2, O3, NO3, CO3, etc. None of these gases are toxic or unsafe. Moreover, only negligible quantities of these gases will be produced during the process.

Part 3: AFTER your Bio Enzyme is ready

34. My Bio Enzyme is ready. Do I need to use it right away? 
When you are done making the enzyme, you don’t need to use it right away. You can keep it for years - one year, two years, three years, even 10 or 20 years. The longer the period is, the smaller the molecules become, as the mixture continues to ferment and decompose. When the molecules get smaller, it will have a better penetration. Definitely, longer durations would be more ideal to ensure a more complete fermentation process where there will be no (or little) sugars left, and higher concentrations of products could be achieved. Also, the lack of food and the low pH levels would most likely kill/deactivate the microorganisms present (safer for handling).

35. Is the Bio Enzyme alive? In other words, does it by itself contain microorganism?
No, by the time the Bio Enzyme is ready at the end of three months (in the 100% natural way of producing with just the three ingredients mentioned), all the bacteria/fungus that were working super hard to produce the Enzyme for you would have died leaving just the organic compounds and proteins behind. There might be very minor traces of them if you take them to a microscope but you don’t need to be concerned about it.

36. Is the Bio Enzyme same as Fermented Fruit Juice?
No, not at all though the FFJ is made pretty much the same way but with a different ratio and different duration. FFJ is predominantly for gardening use to aid greater flowering and fruiting in your plant. You can use the Bio Enzyme as well in your garden (in 1: 1000 dilution, mind you) as a pest control or general well-being tonic for your plants.

37. Can I use the Bio Enzymes in my garden/for my plants?
Yes, you can but in very high dilution. Also refer the question on fermented fruit juice above.

38. Can I use the Bio Enzymes in my composting?
Generally, in composting, we do not add any liquid as much as preventable – so while Bio Enzyme might help in the composting process, it would not be advisable to use it any great quantity. You can use the pulp though – just add the leftovers to your compost bin to speeden up the compost!

39. How come a single product has such multiple benefits in different areas?
The high acetic acid concentration and low pH could be the main reasons for the many purposes of GE, as vinegar is well known to be used a cleaning agent, odor removal, preventing drain blockages, etc. Ethanol is known to have antiseptic properties, while propionic acid is used in food preservation. These substances may allow GE to act as an anti-microbial agent, insecticide and pesticide. When diluted, it could provide nutrients to plants due to the “growth hormones”, minerals, enzymes and/or other organic compounds extracted directly or converted from the waste materials. The highlight of GE is that it is organic and can be homemade at low costs, as compared to other products that contain synthetic chemicals (may be toxic to human health or environment) and consume high energy in their production.

40. Is Bio Enzyme scientifically analyzed and proven?
No, the scientific community has not come out with claims either for or against the Bio Enzyme though there are a lot of critics that call the Bio Enzyme nothing more than a glorified homemade vinegar. While some tall claims like "It reduces global warming" are scoffed at, it has definitely been found effective in household cleaning to a great extent.

In essence, Bio Enzymes can help you save yourself from harsh chemicals, save money, save waste, save the clutter of multiple cleaning liquids in your house, and finally save the Earth from pollutants and restore back the balance.

Many thanks to Mrs. Meena Krishnamurthy for her contribution, and suggestions to make this FAQ more effectively presented. 

Uses of Bio Enzyme

As with anything else, if the use of something is clearly defined, it will find better and easier adoption with everyone - same is the case with Bio Enzyme. While the Internet abounds with a huge list of how the Bio Enzyme can be used, there seems to be no single resource that goes in depth along with the dilution ratio for each usage type. So here's a humble attempt to do that (as I find more uses/corrections to the notes here on dilution or other aspects, I will keep modifying this section).

Cleaning Purpose
Bio Enzyme/Variant
Surface Cleaner/ Dirt Remover
Bio Enzyme
1 small cup of Bio Enzyme (about 20-50 ml) to a bucket of water. DO NOT USE on Marble Flooring as it is known to cause discoloration to marble. Can be comfortably used on Granite/Tiles.
Bio Enzyme
50 ml in one mug of water. Apply directly and wipe/scrub clean.
Bio Enzyme
Use undiluted to cover the entire surface, let it sit for 15 – 30 minutes, scrub and clean as usual.
Bio Enzyme + Shikakai Concentrate
Soak Shikakai in Bio Enzyme for a few days. The Shikakai pods would reduce to pulp state. Use as-is (without filtering) for Chimney/Other highly dirty and greasy surfaces along with warm water for quicker cleaning.
Laundry (Hand/Washing Machine)
Bio Enzyme + Soapnut Pods in Sock (OR Soapnut Powder in Sock)
1. Use about 100 ml of Bio Enzyme for one load of Laundry in Washing Machine or one bucket of Water. Soak for 15 minutes along with water as required and then wash as usual.
2. Additionally, for very dirty clothes, use along with Soapnut. Take 4 – 5 pods of Soapnut, tie in a sock, and put it along with the rest of the laundry. For Collars and Cuffs, you will need to scrub as with any other cleaning agent.
3. You can also soak the Soapnuts in Bio Enzyme overnight (or prepare a solution for 10 days at one shot) and use a little every day.
Test what works best for your load of laundry.
Bio Enzyme + Soapnut PODS (OR Soapnut Powder)
Soak Soapnut overnight in Bio Enzyme. If you are using Soapnut powder, you can mix and use immediately. Please note that foam is not a great indication of cleaning so don’t be put off if you don’t get too much foam. Experiment with different dilution proportions (with water) and see what works best for you. Else, you can use without any dilution.
Personal Care
Face Cleanser/Toner
Bio Enzyme
Mix Bio Enzyme in Water in the ratio of 1:2 (1 part of Bio Enzyme to 2 parts of Water), dab on face, leave for a minute or two and wash off with water.
Body Wash
Bio Enzyme
50-100 ml of Bio Enzyme in one bucket of water.
Bio Enzyme + Shikakai + Soapnut (Pods or Powder)
Soak Shikakai and Soapnut overnight in Bio Enzyme and use next day. Additionally, you may want to cook the Soapnut before soaking. You can also mix your regular Shikakai+Soapnut herbal hair wash in Bio Enzyme instead of water and use that.
Hand Wash
Bio Enzyme + Soapnut
Soak Soapnut in Water (about 10 pods in 1 litre). If very dry, you may want to pressure cook the Soapnut. Mix into a pulp. Filter and use the resultant liquid as hand wash.
Bio Enzyme
Wipe surfaces with Bio Enzyme (1:10 dilution with water) directly first and then wipe clean with water
First dry dust the car. Then take a clean cloth, soak up the Bio Enzyme (diluted with water @1:20 dilution), wipe the car surface clean once, and then wipe once more with just water
Unclogging Drains
Pour a cup of undiluted Bio Enzyme after removing all visible clogging substances from the drain. Leave it overnight before use.
Washing Vegetables/Fruits
Soak Vegetables/Fruits in Bio Enzyme and Water
(1:10 Dilution) for 15 minutes and use.
Taps/Faucets (For descaling as well as general cleaning)
Wipe faucets with Bio Enzyme (1:5 or 1:10 dilution), leave on for 15 – 30 minutes, scrub if required and then wipe clean with water.
Washing Machine with hard water/lime deposits
For descaling the deposits in your washing machine, you can use 10-20 ml of Bio Enzyme and run an empty cycle of load (once or twice a month or lesser depending on the intensity/hardiness of the water you use).
Bio Enzyme
Dilute 1:100 (or 1:500/1000) with water and apply to soil  (do a test patch to check if your plants are okay with the dilution else increase the dilution – this is important as high concentration can burn your plants)

Pest Control
Dilute 1: 100) with water and spray on infected areas


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