How MFC can help thicken your advanced cleaning products

There is a strong need to disinfect and sanitise frequently touched surfaces. Exilva Microfibrillated cellulose (MFC) is a bio-based structuring agent that can thicken household disinfectant and cleaning products at low to high pH, as well as with oxidising compounds.

The CDC has listed the following as frequently touched surfaces: Tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, sinks, etc. (1)

If you look at any recommended list of disinfectants, you will notice that many of these household and industrial cleaners are strongly alkaline, highly acidic or contain oxidising agents. The required contact time of common disinfectants varies from 1 to 10 min(2). This creates challenges for the formulators to find a suitable thickener which would allow easy spreadability and ensure required dwell time. In many cases, viscous, gel or foam formulations are also preferred, as they are considered safer to use, mainly by preventing any unwanted splashing.

Today we will look at how MFC allows you to manufacture stable gel formulations which are easy to apply and ensure sufficient contact time at low to high pH as well as with oxidizing compounds, such as hydrogen peroxide.


Today's challenges

The biggest challenge regarding the thickening of highly acidic or alkaline products and oxidising compounds such as bleach, is to find a suitable stable rheology modifier. Most common rheology modifiers have a narrow pH working range and are often vulnerable to oxidising agents. The chemical instability of the compounds leads to short shelf life of the end product. In addition to the chemical stability, the rheology modifier should also provide a drip resistant profile for the formulation.


Current solutions

Many toilet bowl and bathroom cleaners tailored to remove scale and rust, have a pH below 3 and are often based on hydrochloric acid. On the other hand, several cleaning products are based on sodium hypochlorite, typically stabilised with sodium hydroxide to pH 10-13. As can be seen in the list below, the amount of suitable thickeners is low (Table 1.), especially when you are targeting high pH formulations with oxidising agents.

Compound pH range Oxidising agents
Carbomers 3–13 Some
Xanthan 2–12 Not stable
Cellulose ethers 3–11 Not stable
Magnesium aluminium silicate 2–13 Stable

Table 1. Stability ranges of common thickeners used in cleaning products.

Thickening with MFC

Due to its insoluble nature, Exilva MFC shows considerably higher stability against chemical reactions than water soluble polymers. Figure 1. shows the complex viscosities of 1% Exilva in 5% sodium hydroxide (NaOH), 10% hydrochloric acid (HCl) and in hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) after 24 hours and 1 month storage. As can be seen from the figure, MFC effectively thickens these media as well as shows good storage stability.

Figure 1. Complex viscosities (Pas) of 1 wt% MFC (Borregaard’s Exilva MFC) suspensions after 24 hours and 1 month storage at room temperature.

The high stability of MFC allows it to be used to thicken various home care and industrial cleaning products such as toilet bowl cleaners, bathroom cleaners, degreasers, metal cleaners, rust removers and car cleaners. High chemical stability is also important in various other application fields such as coatings and adhesives.

In addition to the chemical stability, Exilva MFC provides exceptional rheological properties and outstanding compatibility with various compounds such as surfactants. Due to the high viscosity at rest and the high shear thinning, you are able to design formulations that are easy to spray and are non-dripping (Figure 2.).

Figure 2. Anti-sag and spray properties of sprayed MFC formulation. The emulsion on the left hand side is a reference without MFC. The right hand side formulation contains 0.3% Exilva MFC which effectively prevents dripping on non-horizontal surfaces.



MFC offers a solution for those who are looking to simplify their formulations or have fewer additives on the shelf. In addition to high performance and stability, Exilva MFC is a renewable choice for your challenging formulations, taking you a step closer to sustainable products.