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Preferred IUPAC name
Other names
Hexamine; Methenamine;
Urotropine; Formin, Aminoform
3D model (JSmol)
ECHA InfoCard 100.002.642 Edit this at Wikidata
EC Number
  • 202-905-8
E number E239 (preservatives)
MeSH Methenamine
  • InChI=1S/C6H12N4/c1-7-2-9-4-8(1)5-10(3-7)6-9/h1-6H2 checkY
  • InChI=1/C6H12N4/c1-7-2-9-4-8(1)5-10(3-7)6-9/h1-6H2
  • C1N2CN3CN1CN(C2)C3
Molar mass 140.186 g/mol
Appearance White crystalline solid
Odor Fishy, ammonia like
Density 1.33 g/cm3 (at 20 °C)
Melting point 280 °C (536 °F; 553 K) (sublimes)
85.3 g/100 mL
Solubility Soluble in chloroform, methanol, ethanol, acetone, benzene, xylene, ether
Solubility in chloroform 13.4 g/100 g (20 °C)
Solubility in methanol 7.25 g/100 g (20 °C)
Solubility in ethanol 2.89 g/100 g (20 °C)
Solubility in acetone 0.65 g/100 g (20 °C)
Solubility in benzene 0.23 g/100 g (20 °C)
Acidity (pKa) 4.89[1]
J01XX05 (WHO)
Main hazards Highly combustible, harmful
GHS pictograms GHS02: Flammable GHS07: Harmful
GHS Signal word Warning
H228, H317
P210, P240, P241, P261, P272, P280, P302+352, P321, P333+313, P363, P370+378, P501
NFPA 704 (fire diamond)
Flash point 250 °C (482 °F; 523 K)
410 °C (770 °F; 683 K)
Except where otherwise noted, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C [77 °F], 100 kPa).
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Infobox references

Hexamethylenetetramine, also known as methenamine, hexamine, or urotropin, is a heterocyclic organic compound with the formula (CH2)6N4. This white crystalline compound is highly soluble in water and polar organic solvents. It has a cage-like structure similar to adamantane. It is useful in the synthesis of other organic compounds, including plastics, pharmaceuticals, and rubber additives. It sublimes in vacuum at 280 °C.

Synthesis, structure, reactivity[edit]

Hexamethylenetetramine was discovered by Aleksandr Butlerov in 1859.[2][3] It is prepared industrially by combining formaldehyde and ammonia.[4] The reaction can be conducted in gas phase and in solution.

Synthesis Hexamine.svg

The molecule has a symmetric tetrahedral cage-like structure, similar to adamantane, whose four "corners" are nitrogen atoms and "edges" are methylene bridges. Although the molecular shape defines a cage, no void space is available at the interior for binding other atoms or molecules, unlike crown ethers or larger cryptand structures.

The molecule behaves like an amine base, undergoing protonation and N-alkylation (e.g. Quaternium-15).


The dominant use of hexamethylenetetramine is in the production of powdery or liquid preparations of phenolic resins and phenolic resin moulding compounds, where it is added as a hardening component. These products are used as binders, e.g. in brake and clutch linings, abrasive products, non-woven textiles, formed parts produced by moulding processes, and fireproof materials.[4]

It has been proposed that hexamethylenetetramine could work as a molecular building block for self-assembled molecular crystals.[5][6]

Medical uses[edit]

As the mandelic acid salt (generic methenamine mandelate, USP[7]) it is used for the treatment of urinary tract infection. A systematic review of its use for this purpose in adult women found there was no good evidence of benefit.[8]

Histological stains[edit]

Methenamine silver stains are used for staining in histology, including the following types:

Solid fuel[edit]

Together with 1,3,5-trioxane, hexamethylenetetramine is a component of hexamine fuel tablets used by campers, hobbyists, the military and relief organizations for heating camping food or military rations. It burns smokelessly, has a high energy density of 30.0 megajoules per kilogram (MJ/kg), does not liquify while burning, and leaves no ashes, although its fumes are toxic.

Standardized 0.149 g tablets of methenamine (hexamine) are used by fire-protection laboratories as a clean and reproducible fire source to test the flammability of carpets and rugs.[9]

Food additive[edit]

Hexamethylene tetramine or hexamine is also used as a food additive as a preservative (INS number 239). It is approved for usage for this purpose in the EU,[10] where it is listed under E number E239, however it is not approved in the USA, Russia, Australia, or New Zealand.[11]

Reagent in organic chemistry[edit]

Hexamethylenetetramine is a versatile reagent in organic synthesis.[12] It is used in the Duff reaction (formylation of arenes),[13] the Sommelet reaction (converting benzyl halides to aldehydes),[14] and in the Delepine reaction (synthesis of amines from alkyl halides).[15]


Hexamethylenetetramine is the base component to produce RDX and, consequently, C-4[4] as well as Octogen, hexamine dinitrate, hexamine diperchlorate and HMTD.

Historical uses[edit]

Hexamethylenetetramine was first introduced into the medical setting in 1899 as a urinary antiseptic.[16] However, it was only used in cases of acidic urine, whereas boric acid was used to treat urinary tract infections with alkaline urine.[17] Scientist De Eds found that there was a direct correlation between the acidity of hexamethylenetetramine's environment and the rate of its decomposition.[16] Therefore, its effectiveness as a drug depended greatly on the acidity of the urine rather than the amount of the drug administered.[17] In an alkaline environment, hexamethylenetetramine was found to be almost completely inactive.[17]

Hexamethylenetetramine was also used as a method of treatment for soldiers exposed to phosgene in World War I. Subsequent studies have shown that large doses of hexamethylenetetramine provide some protection if taken before phosgene exposure but none if taken afterwards.[18]


Since 1990 the number of European producers has been declining. The French SNPE factory closed in 1990; in 1993, the production of hexamethylenetetramine in Leuna, Germany ceased; in 1996, the Italian facility of Agrolinz closed down; in 2001, the UK producer Borden closed; in 2006, production at Chemko, Slovak Republic, was closed. Remaining producers include INEOS in Germany, Caldic in the Netherlands, and Hexion in Italy. In the US, Eli Lilly and Company stopped producing methenamine tablets in 2002.[9] In Australia, Hexamine Tablets for fuel are made by Thales Australia Ltd. In México, Hexamine is produced by Abiya.


  1. ^ Cooney, A. P.; Crampton, M. R.; Golding, P. (1986). "The acid-base behaviour of hexamine and its N-acetyl derivatives". J. Chem. Soc., Perkin Trans. 2 (6): 835–839. doi:10.1039/P29860000835.
  2. ^ Butlerow, A. (1859). "Ueber einige Derivate des Jodmethylens" [On some derivatives of methylene iodide]. Ann. Chem. Pharm. (in German). 111 (2): 242–252. doi:10.1002/jlac.18591110219. In this paper, Butlerov discovered formaldehyde, which he called "Dioxymethylen" (methylene dioxide) [page 247] because his empirical formula for it was incorrect (C4H4O4). On pages 249–250, he describes treating formaldehyde with ammonia gas, creating hexamine.
  3. ^ Butlerow, A. (1860). "Ueber ein neues Methylenderivat" [On a new methylene derivative]. Ann. Chem. Pharm. (in German). 115 (3): 322–327. doi:10.1002/jlac.18601150325.
  4. ^ a b c Eller, K.; Henkes, E.; Rossbacher, R.; Höke, H. (2000). "Amines, Aliphatic". Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry. Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH. doi:10.1002/14356007.a02_001. ISBN 9783527306732.
  5. ^ Markle, R. C. (2000). "Molecular building blocks and development strategies for molecular nanotechnology". Nanotechnology. 11 (2): 89. doi:10.1088/0957-4484/11/2/309.
  6. ^ Garcia, J. C.; Justo, J. F.; Machado, W. V. M.; Assali, L. V. C. (2009). "Functionalized adamantane: building blocks for nanostructure self-assembly". Phys. Rev. B. 80 (12): 125421. arXiv:1204.2884. Bibcode:2009PhRvB..80l5421G. doi:10.1103/PhysRevB.80.125421. S2CID 118828310.
  7. ^ "Methenamine mandelate, USP". Edenbridge Pharmaceuticals.
  8. ^ Bakhit M, Krzyzaniak N, Hilder J, Clark J, Scott AM, Mar CD (January 2021). "Use of methenamine hippurate to prevent urinary tract infections in community adult women: a systematic review and meta-analysis". Br J Gen Pract (Systematic review). doi:10.3399/BJGP.2020.0833. PMC 8136580. PMID 34001538.
  9. ^ a b Alan H. Schoen (2004), Re: Equialence of methenamine Tablets Standard for Flammability of Carpets and Rugs Archived 2008-10-05 at the Wayback Machine. U.S. Consumer product Safety Commission, Washington, DC, July 29, 2004. Many other countries who still produce this include Russia, Saudi Arabia, China and Australia.
  10. ^ UK Food Standards Agency: "Current EU approved additives and their E Numbers". Retrieved 2011-10-27.
  11. ^ Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code"Standard 1.2.4 - Labelling of ingredients". Retrieved 2011-10-27.
  12. ^ Blažzević, N.; Kolbah, D.; Belin, B.; Šunjić, V.; Kajfež, F. (1979). "Hexamethylenetetramine, A Versatile Reagent in Organic Synthesis". Synthesis. 1979 (3): 161–176. doi:10.1055/s-1979-28602.
  13. ^ Allen, C. F. H.; Leubne, G. W. (1951). "Syringic Aldehyde". Organic Syntheses. 31: 92. doi:10.15227/orgsyn.031.0092.
  14. ^ Wiberg, K. B. (1963). "2-Thiophenaldehyde". Organic Syntheses. doi:10.15227/orgsyn.000.0000.; Collective Volume, 3, p. 811
  15. ^ Bottini, A. T.; Dev, V.; Klinck, J. (1963). "2-Bromoallylamine". Organic Syntheses. 43: 6. doi:10.15227/orgsyn.043.0006.
  16. ^ a b Heathcote, Reginald St. A. (1935). "Hexamine as an Urinary Antiseptic: I. ITS Rate of Hydrolysis at Different Hydrogen Ion Concentrations. Ii. ITS Antiseptic Power Against Various Bacteria in Urine". British Journal of Urology. 7 (1): 9–32. doi:10.1111/j.1464-410X.1935.tb11265.x. ISSN 0007-1331.
  17. ^ a b c Elliot (1913). "On Urinary Antiseptics". British Medical Journal. 98: 685–686.
  18. ^ Diller, Werner F. (1980). "The methenamine misunderstanding in the therapy of phosgene poisoning (review article)". Archives of Toxicology. 46 (3–4): 199–206. doi:10.1007/BF00310435. ISSN 0340-5761. PMID 7016075. S2CID 2423812.