Hydroxyethylcellulose (HEC)

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Hydroxyethylcellulose  is a a non-ionic, water-soluble polymer  thickening agent and suspending agent that is  highly efficient, easily dispersed Also known as HEC  is not only for thickening but also used for adjustments in consistency, and stabilization. Formulating with this product is very easy since the particles have been inhibited. When the particles are added to water, they  should easily disperse without lumping,

This brand is the Natrosol HHR, a very efficient product.

Typical thickening and hydration information

Disperse the Hydroxyethyl cellulose in water and by stir vigorously or using a blender. Continue to hydrate the HEC in water until completely dissolved.  There may bea delay in thickening - this is normal. (Stir until the particles are dissolved.  This process allows the preparation of clear, smooth, viscous solutions in a short period of time by simply adding the R-grade to water and stirring until the polymer is completely dissolved to prevent settling of the particles.

Hydration time is  affected by two factors- namely the pH and temperature of the water. Higher pH and higher temperatures  DECREASE  the hydration time, but the higher pH and temperature may also result in lumping. It's recommended that the HEC be added to room temperature water, with a neutral pH. Once hydrated, it can be heated and the pH can be adjusted  (typically using Triethanolamin, AKA TEA) as needed. (The inhibition period, from the initial wetting to the start of dissolution,  hydration time, may vary from 4-25 min) 

Thickening Liquid Soap using HEC

One useful application for Hydroxyethylcellulose is to use it as a liquid soap for thickener. Whether you are making a vegetabele oil and lye soap, a Castille type soap, or your liquid soap is comprised of a surfactant blend, and you want to thicken it. Or you might be combining those methods and blending your vegetable based soap, and  adding a natural surfactant like decyl glucoside for example, for more foam, and you want to thicken your soap. Hydroxyethylcellulose will work. One easy method is to first hydrate the HEC first using a very small amount, just .05 percent by weight it usally a good place to start, and make a thickened base to add to your total soap blend. For example if you have a 20 Pound bucket of finished liquid soap, first take .05% of the 20 Pounds (often it is easier to work with metric weights here) Pre-blend a smaller amount of the HEC in water or glycerin, before adding to the total amount of the soap -

stirring it in at room temperature very slowly but very thoroughly. After this pre-mix has been thoroughly blended and is thick add this in to the soap slowly and blend again. Add it a mix it in consistently till you get the results you desire. Keep in mind it may take the HEC an hour before it completely thickens so do not add too much!

Used to thicken shampoos, gels, body washes, and add body and after feel to bubble baths, body care products, lotions and creams. 

Formulation for Hand Sanitizer using HEC (CAUTION- this formulation uses Ethyl Alcohol/ethanol, NOT RUBBING ALCOHOL or Isopropyl alcohol (aka IPA) . HEC will not thicken 70% or 99% Rubbing alcohol / IPA.

Typical recommended usage levels .05% to 3%.   

Technical Data, CAS, Specifications, and reference information

  • Nonionic
  • Appearance: A White to Off-white granular powder
  • Solubility: Soluble in water
  • Viscosity Range: 3400-5000 cps (1% in water @ 25°C)
  • pH: 6.7 (1% in water)
  • Product trade name type: Natrosol HHR CS or similar offset
  • CAS 9004-62-0

Technical Data Natrosol HEC (Including 250HHR)

Natrosol 250 HEC as Thickener in Liquid Soaps

Hydroxyethylcellulose Typical Analysis


Safety Data Sheet

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  • 5
    Thickens great

    Posted by MikeDNC on Dec 7th 2019

    Thickens just as described. A 1% solution by weight is as thick as paint. Tip: Heat the water or solution to 60C/140F to increase the dissolving rate dramatically (6-10x).

  • 5
    HEC used to make a clear gel

    Posted by ben on Sep 29th 2019

    worked great. made my clear gel.