Sodium laureth sulfate

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Sodium laureth sulfate
IUPAC name
α-Sulfo-ω-(dodecyloxy)-poly(oxyethane-1,2-diyl), sodium salt
Other names
Sodium lauryl ether sulfate
Sodium laureth sulphate
Sodium lauryl ether sulphate
Abbreviations SLES
  • sodium laureth-2 sulfate: none
ECHA InfoCard 100.036.281 Edit this at Wikidata
  • 23665884 (sodium 2-dodecoxyethyl sulfate)
Molar mass Variable; typically around 421 g/mol
(288.38 + 44.05n) g/mol
NFPA 704 (fire diamond)
NFPA 704 four-colored diamondHealth 2: Intense or continued but not chronic exposure could cause temporary incapacitation or possible residual injury. E.g. chloroformFlammability 1: Must be pre-heated before ignition can occur. Flash point over 93 °C (200 °F). E.g. canola oilInstability 0: Normally stable, even under fire exposure conditions, and is not reactive with water. E.g. liquid nitrogenSpecial hazards (white): no code
Except where otherwise noted, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C [77 °F], 100 kPa).
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Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), an accepted contraction of sodium lauryl ether sulfate (SLES), also called sodium alkylethersulfate, is an anionic detergent and surfactant found in many personal care products (soaps, shampoos, toothpaste, etc.) and for industrial uses. SLES is an inexpensive and very effective foaming agent.[1] SLES, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), ammonium lauryl sulfate (ALS), and sodium pareth sulfate are surfactants that are used in many cosmetic products for their cleaning and emulsifying properties. It is derived from palm kernel oil or coconut oil. In herbicides, it is used as a surfactant to improve absorption of the herbicidal chemicals[2] and reduces time the product takes to be rainfast, when enough of the herbicidal agent will be absorbed.

Its chemical formula is CH3(CH2)11(OCH2CH2)nOSO3Na. Sometimes the number represented by n is specified in the name, for example laureth-2 sulfate. The product is heterogeneous in the number of ethoxyl groups, where n is the mean. Laureth-3 sulfate is the most common one in commercial products.


SLES is prepared by ethoxylation of dodecyl alcohol, which is produced industrially from palm kernel oil or coconut oil. The resulting ethoxylate is converted to a half ester of sulfuric acid, which is neutralized by conversion to the sodium salt.[1] The related surfactant sodium lauryl sulfate or SLS (also known as sodium dodecyl sulfate or SDS) is produced similarly, but without the ethoxylation step. SLS and ammonium lauryl sulfate (ALS) are commonly used alternatives to SLES in consumer products.[1]


Tests in the US indicate that it is safe for consumer use. The Australian government's Department of Health and Ageing and its National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS) have determined that SLES does not react with DNA.[3]


Like many other detergents, SLES is an irritant.[4] It has been shown that SLES causes eye or skin irritation in experiments conducted on animals and humans.[4] The related surfactant SLS is also a known irritant.[5][6][7][8]

1,4-Dioxane contamination[edit]

Products containing SLES can be contaminated with (up to 300 ppm) of 1,4-dioxane, a by-product of SLES production. 1,4-Dioxane is classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as a Group 2B carcinogen: possibly carcinogenic to humans. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that these levels be monitored,[9] and encourages manufacturers to remove 1,4-dioxane, though it is not required by federal law.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Kurt Kosswig,"Surfactants" in Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry, Wiley-VCH, 2005, Weinheim. doi:10.1002/14356007.a25_747
  2. ^ "Safety Data Sheet Bayer FINALE Herbicide". Bayer Environmental Sciences UK. Retrieved 20 August 2021.
  3. ^ "NICNAS SLES animal test". Archived from the original on 26 June 2018. Retrieved 3 November 2013.
  4. ^ a b "Final report on the safety assessment of sodium laureth sulfate and ammonium laureth sulfate". Journal of the American College of Toxicology. 2 (5): 1–34. 1983. doi:10.3109/10915818309140713. S2CID 208502361.
  5. ^ Agner T (1991). "Susceptibility of atopic dermatitis patients to irritant dermatitis caused by sodium lauryl sulphate". Acta Dermato-Venereologica. 71 (4): 296–300. doi:10.2340/0001555571296300. PMID 1681644. S2CID 37806228.
  6. ^ Nassif A, Chan SC, Storrs FJ, Hanifin JM (November 1994). "Abnormal skin irritancy in atopic dermatitis and in atopy without dermatitis". Archives of Dermatology. 130 (11): 1402–7. doi:10.1001/archderm.130.11.1402. PMID 7979441.
  7. ^ Magnusson B, Gilje O (1973). "Allergic contact dermatitis from a dish-washing liquid containing lauryl ether sulphate". Acta Dermato-Venereologica. 53 (2): 136–40. doi:10.2340/0001555553136140. PMID 4120956. S2CID 9398646.
  8. ^ Van Haute N, Dooms-Goossens A (March 1983). "Shampoo dermatitis due to cocobetaine and sodium lauryl ether sulphate". Contact Dermatitis. 9 (2): 169. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0536.1983.tb04348.x. PMID 6851541. S2CID 42092578.
  9. ^ Black RE, Hurley FJ, Havery DC (2001). "Occurrence of 1,4-dioxane in cosmetic raw materials and finished cosmetic products". Journal of AOAC International. 84 (3): 666–70. doi:10.1093/jaoac/84.3.666. PMID 11417628.
  10. ^ FDA/CFSAN--Cosmetics Handbook Part 3: Cosmetic Product-Related Regulatory Requirements and Health Hazard Issues. Prohibited Ingredients and other Hazardous Substances: 9. Dioxane

External links[edit]