What Is the Chemical Formula for Shampoo?

Takisha Ota/CC-BY-2.0

There are two alternative chemical formulas for the common household shampoo, namely, CH3(CH2)10CH2(OCH2CH2)2OSO3Na and NaC12H25SO4. They represent sodium laureth sulfate and sodium lauryl sulfate, respectively.

Sodium laureth sulfate, which is also called sodium lauryl ether sulfate, and sodium lauryl sulfate are the cleaning agents in shampoos. Of the two, sodium lauryl sulfate is the more common, as it is the less expensive of the two. Both substances are used not only in shampoos, but in a range of household cleaning products too.This is due to their ability to produce foam, cut through grease and suspend soil particles so that they can easily be washed away. Sodium laureth sulfate is sometimes referred to as SLES (sodium lauryl ether sulfate), while sodium lauryl sulfate is sometimes called SLS.