Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate

SLES is an anionic surfactant with a broad application. Its excellent detergency makes it one of the key components of rinse-off products, as a primary surfactant. In addition to cleansing power, SLES is distinguished by excellent emulsification and foaming abilities, and compatibility with the majority of surfactants (all except cationic). 


Chemical name: Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate

CAS No.: 68585-34-2 

Molecular formula: CH3(CH2)11(OCH2CH2)NOSO3Na

Standard Executed: GBT 5173-1995

Packaging: in 170KG plastic drum


Technical specification

Items Standards
Molar mass
variable; typically around 420g/mol (288.38+44.05n)g/mol
white or light yellow viscous paste
1.05 g/cm3
Soluble in water
No strange odors
Active matter content (%)
Unsulfated matter (%)
3.5 max
Sodium sulfate (%)
1.5 max
Color (Klett,
30 max
pH-value (2% sol)
Dioxane content (ppm)
30 max


There are several good reasons why SLES is highly sought-after by manufacturers, not the least due to its chemical features. SLES also boasts great solvency, good resistance against hard water, and high biodegradation levels.

This chemical ingredient is typically derived from palm kernel oil or coconut oil.

Sodium laureth sulfate has an extensive application in the cosmetic industry, where it’s featured in a number of products to improve their cleaning and emulsifying properties. Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) used to be a good rival for SLES. However, SLS comes with a couple of significant disadvantages: it has been proved to cause adverse effects on skin and features relatively low aqueous solubility.

Furthermore, its ability to thicken the cosmetic formulation is low. At the same time, SLES fulfills a plethora of demands at a friendly low cost.

SLES is a modified, improved version of SLS. It takes the high ground with a series of benefits such as long-lasting bubbles, still commonly perceived as a sign of high cleaning power. It has been proven to cause minuscule levels of skin irritation, without stripping the epidermis of excess moisture – a perk highly desirable among customers. Moreover, SLES shows almost no sensitivity to hard water, which allows for the formulation of products suitable for a worldwide market.

On top of all, sodium laureth sulfate’s biodegradation capacity meets the eco-protection requirements. SLES biodegrades rapidly and in entirety.

Sodium laureth sulfate is used in a range of concentrations. In cosmetics, it can go from as little as 0.01% up to 50% of the formula. In cleaning products, the common range is from 1% to 30%.

Stability/Shelf life

Stable. Incompatible with oxidizing agents.
The shelf life is at least one year , if stored properly.


Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) is the ethoxylated derivative of Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). It’s manufactured through the reaction of n-dodecyl alcohol with ethylene oxide. The resulting ethoxylate is converted to a half ester of sulfuric acid, which is then neutralized with sodium hydroxide. 

Industry use

SLES has a broad application in the printing and dyeing industry, as well as in the petroleum and leather industry. It works as the lubricant, dyeing agent, cleanser, foaming agent, and degreasing agent.

Sodium laureth sulfate is also a competitive raw material for the cosmetic industry. Due to its advanced features, SLES has almost replaced SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate) as one of the most popular chemical ingredients.

Consumer use

SLES is contained in many personal care products such as soaps, shampoos, body washes/bubble baths, toothpaste, washing liquids, shaving cream, mouth wash, and even sunscreens. 


SLES is soluble in water. 

Common synonyms

  • Sodium laureth sulfate
  • Sodium laureth sulphate
  • Sodium lauryl ether sulfate

Ask an expert

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Yes, SLES can be used to formulate powder detergent. It’s commonly used in synthetic detergent powder as a foaming booster and a hard water-resistant agent. It has much better foaming performance in hard water than LAS. 

Yes. Lots of studies have reported that SLES is biodegradable and eco-friendly. 

Currently, in the Homecare & Cleaning industry, SLES is largely used to produce dishwashing liquid, due to its excellent grease-cutting power, stability in liquid formulations, and its safety to health.  

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Angie Liu

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