Bleaching effects are popular in denim, but the chemicals typically used to lighten indigo may soon be a thing of the past.
Chemical firm Kaiser Tekstil has developed Lava Zyme NBF, an enzyme-based bleaching system that it describes as the most sustainable means of bleaching. Certified by Bluesign, Oeko-Tex 100 and ZDHC Gateway Level 3, Lava Zyme NBF is safe for workers to use and it leaves no harmful effluents behind. The solution has been tested successfully on TENCEL™ Modal with Indigo Color technology, allowing the spun-dyed fibers to be treated without fabric strength loss.
Carved in Blue spoke with Ezgi Nur Öndaş, marketing representative at Kaiser, to hear more about how the company is making bleaching processes safer and more sustainable.
Carved in Blue: Why did Kaiser develop this alternative to permanganate? What opportunities does this open up for denim?
Ezgi: It’s a proven fact that common denim bleaching chemicals such as potassium permanganate and sodium hypochlorite are harmful to the ecosystem and human life. As Kaiser, we are well aware of this fact. We are committed to replacing these hazardous chemicals with sustainable and ecological alternatives.
We are some denim lovers who try to prove that sustainable denim fashion is possible. We have been working on developing solutions that can enhance the industry. I can frankly say that we have been quite successful since we all can see that the denim industry is changing to be more sustainable day by day.
Carved in Blue: Could you explain how Lava Zyme NBF reacts chemically with indigo? What does the bleaching process look like?
Ezgi: Lava Zyme NBF is one of our most successful game-changers. There are a lot of characteristics that make this product unique. First of all, Lava Zyme NBF is not a chemical, it is an enzyme product that’s made by a living organism and is found everywhere in nature. It is biodegradable and no hazardous ingredients pass to effluent due to its enzymatic nature.
While we are developing our products, we consider both being worker-friendly and protecting workers’ health. Lava Zyme NBF is a worker-friendly product since it is suitable for machinery applications—low liquor ratio machines included—dipping and spray applications. Same as permanganate, the garment becomes reddish once the enzyme is applied. That provides an easier application process that workers got used to doing. For spray applications, this product requires a closed system spraying machine. As I mentioned, worker health is a crucial issue for us and we do not allow the risk of breathing the enzyme.
This new generation enzyme solution gives the perfect results as a permanganate alternative on pure indigo denim qualities. The product doesn’t require any heating activation or any specific neutralization but an alkaline washing. It won’t be wrong to say that Lava Zyme NBF also saves!
Carved in Blue: Why does TENCEL™ Modal with Indigo Color technology require a different approach to finishing than other denim fabrics?
Ezgi: I should say that we believe TENCEL™ Modal with Indigo Color technology is a very important innovation for the denim industry because of its environmental benefits. It was very delightful to work on such a sustainable and responsible fabric that was dyed with a special indigo dye developed by our business partner, DyStar.
As its nature, TENCEL™ Modal is a very delicate fabric, and it requires very careful treatment. Any bleaching agent which causes strength loss would give important damages to this fabric. Lava Zyme NBF is a perfect bleaching agent for this fabric since it works only on indigo and doesn’t cause any harm to the fabric.
Carved in Blue: What types of effects have you been able to achieve using these enzymes on the indigo modal fabric?
Ezgi: We can achieve almost all desired bleaching looks by using Lava Zyme NBF. Since it can be applied by all available methods, full and local bleaching looks are possible to achieve with Lava Zyme NBF. Also, both the product and fabric are suitable for different kinds of bleaching effects, such as a snow-washed look.
Carved in Blue: From a quality standpoint, how does denim treated with Lava Zyme NBF&NAF compare to jeans processed with permanganate and other chemicals?
Ezgi: Besides the environmental damage, potassium permanganate and sodium hypochlorite cause damages directly to fabrics as well. Traditional hazardous chemicals work on fabric and they cause very important strength loss issues as bleaching agents.
From the sustainability point of view, strength loss is a big deal since it reduces the quality of fabric and durability.
Lava Zyme NBF is an enzyme agent that bleaches by eating the indigo dye. The enzyme does not work on anything else on the garment. That’s why it doesn’t cause any damage or strength loss problem. So, from a quality standpoint, we may say that enzymatic bleached denim is way more high-quality than the traditional bleached one.
Carved in Blue: How do Kaiser’s enzymes further the sustainability profile of garments made of TENCEL™ Modal with Indigo Color technology?
Ezgi: Enzymes are the miracles of nature. I believe that we are lucky to be able to use them as denim finishing agents. Enzymes may replace many hazardous chemicals and even pumice stones in laundries. As Kaiser, we believe that enzymes are the future of laundries, and we encourage our customers and partners to use them in laundries.
Using enzymes as finishing agents was just an idea, a dream for us some years ago. Today, we are using enzymes even more than we could imagine. As Kaiser, we are very proud of being the company that developed the first ever enzymatic bleaching and brought many solutions into the market. Lately, we have also developed another enzyme solution that can replace pumice stones and works in water-free conditions. We are so happy to see that also our latest enzyme agent has been welcomed by brands and laundries.
As Kaiser, we keep developing new agents and new ideas to create a more sustainable denim industry.