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sles chemical uses

From an unknown raw material to a core ingredient in hundreds of products— the journey of Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate toward becoming the favorite of SLES manufacturers in India has been remarkable. 

SLES is mainly used in eco brands and cleaning products due to its cleaning power, i.e. the ability to make long-lasting bubbles. 

Many properties like minimum degree of skin irritation, insensitivity to hard water, and compactness make it the ideal component in numerous personal care products. 

What is SLES? Why has SLES been highly commercialized? Let’s dive deep into SLES chemical uses, the manufacturing process, and industrial applications in the coming sections of this blog. 


What is SLES?

Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate (SLES) belongs to the group of sodium and ammonium alkyl ether sulfates. They are inexpensive surfactants that make foams easily. They also act as good detergents. This is a synthetic soap and safe to use as a natural cleansing compound. The aqueous solution of commercial products usually contains 30  to 70% SLES. 

Also Read: Melamine Uses: A Brief About Melamine Uses

Global market size and growing demand 

It is expected that the SLES market size will exceed 1.5 billion USD by 2024. The increase in demand for SLES worldwide for personal care products has paved the way for this growth.

The concerns over health, grooming, and personal care have laid the foundation for the market value of SLES. 

Since they are cost-effective and readily available, they are highly in demand among manufacturers. 

Also, the continuous development and commercialization of the products to satisfy the customers trigger the market size for SLES.

Also Read: What Is Cardanol? Cardanol Uses And Manufacturing Process

Chemical composition and properties 

We can classify SLES as an anionic surfactant. It is a primary acceptable surfactant that can help to rinse off the products. It is an absolute cleanser and has great emulsification and foam stability.  

Except for cationic products, this chemical is compatible with every other surfactant. It has the chemical formula CH3(CH2)10CH2(OCH2CH2)nOSO3Na. 

Wonder what SLES looks like? It is a yellow-white paste and an excellent detergent for cleaning products, personal care, cosmetics, and soaps. 

In everyday life, SLES acts as the best cleansing agent for a wide variety of products. You can obtain this liquid naturally from palm kernel oil and coconut oil. You can see this ingredient mentioned in a shampoo packet or bottle. 

This chemical as a surfactant contributes to lowering the surface tension among the ingredients of the product. It is the perfect foaming agent as a result.

SLES has great applications in beauty products, self-care, and consumer household cleaning products. Since SLES is inexpensive, has great cleaning properties, and acts as a great foaming agent, it is used in cosmetic products to perform emulsification and cleaning. 

SLES finds applications in herbicides in the form of surfactants to scale the absorption of herbicidal chemicals.  Also, it minimizes the time product might take to get washed off, while most herbicidal agents will get absorbed.

Here are the properties of SLES at a glance:

  • Excellent detergency
  • Great emulsification property
  • High foamability
  • Hard water resistant 
  • Decontaminating property
  • Good solubility
  • High thickening effect
  • Wide compatibility 
  • Biodegradable chemical 
  • Low irritation to skin and eyes

Also Read: What Are The Best Paint Raw Materials

Why SLES over SLS?

Why SLES over SLS?


For a long time, SLS was the most prevalent cosmetic raw material and core ingredient in washing cosmetics. This sodium salt of Lauryl sulfate, however, has a high degree of skin irritation. 

It lacks solubility in water and has limited properties while considering the thickening of cosmetic formulation

The names of both these industrial chemicals sound so similar, but their applications also have similarities. However, both have distinct features that make SLES the winner. 

SLS is largely known as a skin irritant if you leave it over the skin for a longer time. It can lead to cracked and dry skin. 

On the contrary, SLES performs the same emulsifying and cleaning job with the least damage to your skin. SLES is very gentle and doesn’t crack through the epidermis. It doesn’t impact the environment or the human body since it has biodegradable ingredients. 

Recent rumors have been about SLS on the Internet that it leads to cancer, however, this has not been proven scientifically anywhere around. 

But nowadays, SLS has been widely replaced by its derivative, called Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate.  Simply put, the modification of parent chemical SLS produces SLES. 

Compared to SLS, Sodium Laureth Sulfate(SLES) is a chemical that includes a somewhat similar chemical model. However, SLES is softer and smoother on the skin compared to SLS. 

Also Read: Castor Oil Price In India: All you Need To Know

Process of manufacturing SLES

The chemical reaction of Lauryl alcohol with petroleum or oil like palm oil and coconut oil produces Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS). 

To obtain SLES from SLS, you need to introduce it to ethylene oxide.  This process is known as ethoxylation. With this major process involved, it can help SLES become the least toxic chemical, unlike SLS.

Ethylene oxide is a colorless gas that has a sweet odor. It is generally used to produce various other chemicals like antifreeze and SLES. 

You can also use it as a sterilizer and pesticide due to its capability to damage DNA. Hence, it is termed a carcinogen.

After the ethoxylation process, you get a by-product called 1,4 dioxane. However, please note that this by-product is reported to be irritating to the nose, eyes, and throat in humans. The high doses of the chemical can produce damage to the liver, kidney, and even DNA. 

Though similar to Sodium Laureth Sulfate, SLES has many characteristics that keep it better than SLS in contributing to the safe manufacturing of personal care and industrial applications. 

You can prepare SLES through the process of ethoxylation of Dodecyl alcohol. It produces ethoxylate that can be transformed into the semi-ester of sulfuric acid. You may further neutralize it by converting it to sodium salt. 


SLES chemical uses and industrial applications 

SLES chemical uses and industrial applications


Let’s look at an overview of the applications of SLES:

  • Being an anionic surfactant, it is a major ingredient in soaps, toothpaste, shampoos, etc. due to its cleansing and emulsifying characteristics.
  • It is useful in carpet cleaning and cleansers. 
  • You can find SLES in hand wash, body washes, and laundry detergents.
  • It is used in hair care products and against the deposition of hair follicles with products like dandruff treatment products, conditioners, hair sprays, and hair gels.
  • SLES is a major ingredient in dental care products like tooth whitening products, mouthwash, and toothpaste. 
  • It is applicable in the makeup products like concealer, makeup removers, lip balms, cleansers, face gel, shaving cream, hand soap, etc.
  • It is also useful in degreasers, automobile cleaners, floor cleaners, and spot removers. 

Since they are acknowledged as surfactants, they minimize the surface tension among the ingredients, making them ideal foaming and cleansing agents. 

They are the best household cleansers and find applications in self-care products. This is why you can see its presence in shower gels, bubble baths, dish wash, hand wash, shampoo and conditioners, and face wash. 

It ensures a high level of safety and toxicity profile that helps it to be used in products that focus on people with sensitive skin.

Since it is gentle on the human skin, it is highly safe to be used in bath or body care products. Unlike SLS, it doesn’t affect your skin or keeps any additional moisture alive. 

Skincare products that contain SLES are highly recommended since they benefit your skin with a smooth, natural, and nourishing texture. In skin care products, it is combined with natural extracts in chemical processes, while adding other skincare ingredients for better results.

SLES is also used as active material in the textile industry due to the whitening property that helps to prevent stains from clothes.

It is also a primary ingredient in the printing and dyeing process, lubricants in petroleum and leather work, degreasing, dyeing agent, foaming agent, etc.

Also Read: What is Linoleic Acid: All You Need To Know

Things to take care of while using SLES

Things to take care of while using SLES


Keep in mind that SLES in uneven concentrations can cause skin and eye irritation. In the experiments done on humans and animals, direct skin contact has been proven to result in human health impacts. 

The side effects can also occur when you have prolonged direct contact with the pure form of these substances. 

This is why even in cosmetic products, it is used in limited concentrations to ensure material safety and blended with other surfactants. This can prevent chronic health effects and make sure they are safe. 

An ideal combination of SLES in cosmetics can avoid allergies and other skin problems. Since SLES is economical and encourages cost savings, it has been high in demand. 


Wrap Up

Removing the stains from clothes, cleaning dishes, and your household products, and maintaining regular skin care or hair care routine— everything is a part of daily life.

Numerous consumer products come to the vicinity with the cleansing action, however, SLES has all the cleansing, foaming, emulsifying, and degreasing properties along with the cost-effectiveness urging its demand.

How to find the best SLES supplier in Delhi who supplies quality chemicals to businesses at an affordable cost? You can rely on Bansal Trading Company, the best chemical suppliers and distributors in Delhi, which distributes high-quality chemicals and raw materials to various industries. 

Check out Bansal Trading Company to explore further and buy high-grade chemicals and raw materials for your commercial needs.


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