MadSci Network: Chemistry

Re: How do I thicken shampoo?

Date: Sun Mar 15 01:32:49 1998
Posted By: Gregory Earl Webb, Masters in Chemical Engineering specializing in cleaning systems and chemicals.
Area of science: Chemistry
ID: 889833708.Ch

Actually there is a very simple way to thicken soap products.

First, to one cup warm water mix as much salt as you can get into solution.
Second, drain the solution and separate any remaining salt.
Third, very slowly mix about a teaspoon of the salt water into 1 quart 
of soap.

Continue step three until the solution begins to thin again.

What is happening?
Salt loves water and will attrack water from the soap solution to hydrate 
itself.  As the water is removed from the soap, it begins to thicken.

Why does the soap begin to thin when too much salt is added?
As you remove more and more water from the soap, a second solution phase 
will form that is mostly salt water.  This will make the soap phase 
non-continuous and very unattractive.

Another possible solution is too heat the soap up to about 150 degrees F 
and very slowly sprinkle starch onto the top of the soap.  Mix this 
thoroughly.  Here again too much will turn the soap into a very 
unattractive mess.

A third possibility (and I haven't tried this one) is gelatin.  It will 
probably work, but will be more expensive than the first two.

[Editors Note: Shampoo can also be thickened by addition of a water soluble 
polymer such as methyl cellulose, carboxymethyl cellulose or high molecular 
weight polymers of ethylene oxide. You won't find these names on a shampoo 
bottle, however, because they sound too much like "chemicals". The Cosmetic, 
Toiletry and Fragrance Association [CTFA] has devised a set of 'user friendly' 
names for these ingredients. They publish a dictionary that translates the 
label name into the real chemical name, but it is not readily available to the 
public, i.e., members only. Ken Johnsen MADSci Administration]

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