How do biological and non-biological detergents work

Bio or non-bio detergent? It can be a difficult decision! Read our guide to find out how each detergent works & to determine which is right for your family.


washing machine with basket

Confused about Bio and Non Bio?

Here’s the difference between the two:

  • Biological detergents are boosted by enzymes
  • Enzymes are a little tougher on stains than soap, but also may irritate sensitive skin
  • Both types of laundry detergent have great cleaning power

We’re here to set the record straight: clear, unbiased information on the difference between biological and non-biological detergents and how they work. With so much discussion about bio or non-bio in the detergent aisle at the shop, the more information you have about what your family needs, the better.

What is the Difference Between Bio and Non-Bio Detergent?

Simply put, biological products contain certain enzymes and non-bio products do not!

Enzymes are naturally occurring proteins that boost complex reactions in a wide range of products. In the case of bio detergent, enzymes speed up and assist the other ingredients in your detergent when it meets your laundry in the washing machine.

Non-biological products do not contain enzymes, and as such, are generally favoured by those looking for a product that’s gentle on especially sensitive skin. However, it’s worth noting that bio detergents will always outperform non-bio detergents at lower temperatures, 30 to 50° C.If you aren’t sure how sensitive your skin is, you can also try both types of detergent to see which works best for the clothing and skin of your family. Wash a couple of articles of loose-fitting clothing according to the directions on the label. Wear them for a couple of hours to see if you have any initial reaction and use your best judgement from there. Remember, the best detergent for you is always the detergent that suits you and your family.

How Do Biological Detergents Work?

Because of the presence of enzymes, bio products can work well at lower temperatures and are especially good with stains. Enzymes are added to breakdown their fellow proteins, starches, and fats – the main ingredients of tough stains from food, blood, and sweat. If you don’t have sensitive skin, like to wash at lower temperatures and use the quick wash cycle, bio detergent is for you.

Do you use powder, capsules or liquid to wash your clothes?

How Does Non-Biological Detergent work?

With no added enzymes, non-biological detergent needs higher water temperature to be effective. This can use a bit more energy, but if you or your family have sensitive skin, it’s a fair compromise. When it comes to washing baby clothing, sensitive skin is a given, so non-biological detergent is the usual choice for parents. If sensitive skin is a topic of interest to you, check out Persil non-bio. It’s dermatologically tested and validated by the British Skin Foundation to boot.

When it comes to choosing bio or non-bio washing powder for you and your family, the answer is as simple as determining whether …

  1. The clothes have tough stains that need tending to,
  2. You want to wash at a high or low temp, and
  3. If someone you’re washing for has sensitive skin!

You can also add Comfort fabric conditioner to either type of detergent for guaranteed softness and less chance of irritation. Take a look at the flow chart to help you answer the question of bio or non-bio once and for all!

For more information on the ingredients in products mentioned in this tip, visit What’s in Unilever Products here.

Originally published