Thanks to scientific discoveries and commercial efforts to harness the processes of fermentation going back to the nineteenth century, enzymes harvested from microbes have become ubiquitous in detergents and other cleaning products, as well as in food production. They are also now being adapted for an even bigger cleaning task: remediating pollution. Examining how these humble proteins and the biochemical reactions they catalyze became so indispensable reveals a little-noticed history of industrialization underlying modern everyday life.

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