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What is sodium lauryl sulfate?

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Sodium lauryl sulfate, synonymously sodium dodecyl sulfate (or laurilsulfate; SLS or SDS, respectively), is a synthetic organic compound. It is an anionic surfactant used in many cleaning and hygiene products. The sodium salt is of an organosulfate class of organics. It consists of a 12-carbon tail attached to a sulfate group, it is the sodium salt of dodecyl hydrogen sulfate, the ester of dodecyl alcohol and sulfuric acid.


Its hydrocarbon tail combined with a polar "headgroup" give the compound amphiphilic properties and so make it useful as a detergent. Also derived as a component of mixtures produced from inexpensive coconut and palm oils, SLS is a common component of many domestic cleaning, personal hygiene and cosmetic, pharmaceutical, and food products, as well as of industrial and commercial cleaning and product formulations.