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METHOCEL™ for the Home

Household Cleaner Thickener

Cleaning surfaces more frequently has become important, especially within the past few years. It is crucial to use cleaners that function optimally for the job. Many highly trafficked surfaces are often cleaned with chemicals or liquid solutions that require a controlled viscosity to provide the extended dwell time needed to perform. These cleaning agents, which may be solvent or water-based, can also be highly acidic or alkaline, posing a unique challenge for formulators as they must produce a cleaning solution with extreme pH and stable viscosity.


Complete Cleaning Thickeners

In water-based liquid cleaners, xanthan gum is often used as a rheology modifier as it is stable in a wide pH range and is typically inexpensive. However, it does not offer good compatibility and performance in detergent and cleaner formulations that contain organic solvents. Xanthan gum is also anionic in nature, making it incompatible in formulations that contain cations. METHOCEL™ hydroxypropyl methylcellulose (HPMC) polymers are bio-based nonionic polymers that serve as exceptional thickeners for solvent-based and water-based household and industrial cleaning liquids and detergents. Like xanthan gum, they are highly compatible in acidic and alkaline systems and produce a stable and consistent viscosity from pH 2 to 13. However, unlike xanthan gum, METHOCEL™ hydroxypropyl methylcellulose thickeners also work well with a variety of solvents and cationic materials commonly used in soap and detergent formulations. Below are a few typical organic solvents that use METHOCEL™ as a thickener.

Furfuryl Alcohol
Propylene Carbonate
• Ethanol
• Methanol
• Acetic Acid

Cleaning solutions that need to be applied onto angled or overhead surfaces benefit from utilizing a pseudoplastic thickening agent, like METHOCEL™, as it imparts shear-thinning rheology to solutions. This pseudoplasticity allows a cleaning solution to be sprayed onto surfaces easily. Once applied to the surface and at rest, the viscosity of the solution will build up, holding the cleaner in place more effectively under the force of gravity, extending dwell time. METHOCEL™ also functions as a surfactant to help stabilize emulsions and different phases that may be present in hard surface cleaners. In addition, METHOCEL™ will add soil antiredeposition properties on surfaces. This is achieved through its tendency to adsorb to suspended particles, making them more likely to be rinsed away than redeposited back on surfaces. Below are grade recommendations for METHOCEL™ thickening agents in cleaning and detergent applications based on the desired viscosity.

Grade Recommendations

METHOCEL™ Methods of Use

METHOCEL™ polymers must be completely dispersed in solution prior to hydration and thickening. Otherwise, insoluble lumps will form because these polymers are very hygroscopic, absorbing even the smallest amount of moisture or water on the surface and preventing further wetting inwards. Correct dispersion methods can be carried out in a few different ways. These methods are highlighted below and are also shown in this video.

Hot/Cold Technique

METHOCEL™ is insoluble in hot water and highly soluble in cool water, making the use of the hot/cold technique or dispersing in hot water a good method. To start, METHOCEL™ is dispersed in one-third of the total required volume of water heated to 90°C. Once all METHOCEL™ particles are wetted and dispersed completely, the remaining two-thirds of cold water are added. METHOCEL™ particles will hydrate and begin thickening the solution once the particles reach the desired level of dispersion.

Dry Blending

Dry blending ensures METHOCEL™ particles are separated and can be completely wetted out and hydrated when water is added. In this method, dry METHOCEL™ powder can be mixed with other dry ingredients before adding them to the water component. The recommended ratio of dry ingredients to METHOCEL™ powder varies from 3:1 to 7:1.

Nonaqueous Solvents Dispersion 

METHOCEL™ powder can be dispersed in an organic solvent before adding water in formulations that utilize water-miscible organic solvents. When preparing dispersions, about 5 to 8 parts of solvent should be used for every 1 part of METHOCEL™. Hydration and thickening will occur after the addition of water.


Rheology modifiers provide the necessary viscosity control in solutions to create good coverage when applied to angled or overhead surfaces. They are particularly useful in many household, industrial, and institutional cleaning and detergent formulations.

Xanthan gum is a traditional thickening agent used in many formulations, but it limits the versatility of cleaners that can be made. METHOCEL™ is a naturally derived thickener with great stability in extreme pH and organic solvents, both of which are common in many cleaners used today. METHOCEL™ polymers also boost cleaning power by adding soil antiredeposition and solution stabilization in cleaners.

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