The Various Uses of Carboxymethylcellulose (CMC)

The Various Uses of Carboxymethylcellulose (CMC)

Sodium carboxymethylcellulose (CMC) is a water soluble salt produced in large crude commercial grade quantities without any refinement for use in detergents, drilling fluids and the paper industry. At higher degrees of purity, CMC is used as a food additive.

Given its hydrophilic character, good film forming properties, high viscosity, and adhesive performance, among other features, CMC has a wide variety of applications, which are listed below:

Construction Industry

CMC is used in most of the compositions of cement and building materials because it acts as a stabilizer and hydrophilic agent. It improves the dispersion of sand in the cement, and intensifies its adhesive action. It is also used as glue in upholstery.

CMC uses


The detergent industry is the largest consumer of CMC. Technical grade CMC compositions are most often used for soaps and detergents. CMC acts as an inhibitor of the redeposition of grease in the fabric after it has been removed by the detergent.

Paper Industry

CMC coating reduces the consumption of wax in waxed paper and paperboard, ensuring less penetration of the wax into paper. Similarly, the consumption of printing ink is reduced as a result of the surface shine it gives. In addition, because it smoothes the surface, CMC makes paper more resistant to grease and improves the union between fibers, thereby improving the color of the paper. It is also used as a dispersant aid in the extrusion of fibers from the pulp and to prevent their flocculation.


In pesticides and water-based sprays, CMC acts as a suspending agent. It also functions as glue to attach the insecticide to the leaves of plants after application. Sometimes, CMC is used as an aid in the deterioration of certain fertilizers that are highly polluting.


CMC is added to various compositions of glues and adhesives that are used for almost any material. It is widely used in the leather industry. Adhesives that join wood to other wood have been effectively made by combining CMC with starch and phenol formaldehyde.


CMC is used in dental impression materials, and in toothpastes and gels. This water soluble ether serves as a thickener, stabilizer, suspending agent and former of films in creams, lotions, or shampoos, and is widely used in hair care products.


CMC is used in oil paints and varnishes. It acts as a thickener and suspends the pigment in the fluid.

Oil Industry

Crude or purified CMC is used in drilling sludge as a colloid thickener and is applied when removing the drill from the hole to avoid sediments.


The main use of CMC in the plastics industry is to help increase the viscosity of plastics such as latex.


The majority of water-soluble ethers are used to join pieces of porcelain. They have good baking properties and CMC solutions create very little ash.

Textiles Industry

Crude CMC is used as sizing agent for fabric. CMC is also used in combination with starch in laundry operations. To give a better finish to fabrics in the manufacturing process, the fabric is impregnated with CMC and is then treated with acid and heat. It is also a very effective agent in fabric printing and as a thickening agent in paints and textile varnishes.


CMC is used to coat tablets with high degrees of purity and low viscosity. CMC is insoluble in the acidic environment of the stomach but soluble in the basic medium of the intestine. It is also used for form gels, to transport the drug, to disintegrate tablets and as a stabilizer for suspensions, emulsions, sprays and bio-adhesive tablets which attach internally to the mucus of a body part.


CMC is used in food as an auxiliary agent in the churning of ice cream, creams and dairy products, as an auxiliary to form gels in gelatins and puddings, and as a thickener in salad dressings and fillings. It is also used as suspending agent in fruit juices, as a protective colloid in emulsions and mayonnaise, as a protective agent to cover the surface of fruits and as a stabilizer in ready- to- bake products. Because CMC is not metabolized by the human body, it has been approved for use in foods that are low in calories.

CMC uses


The most innovative applications of CMC are in the area of medicine. CMC solutions are used to form gels that are used in heart, thoracic and cornea surgery. In thorax operations, the lungs are stapled and then covered with a solution of CMC to prevent air leaks and fluid ingress. In the field of orthopedics, CMC solutions are used in lubricating the joints of the bones, most often in the wrists, knees and hips. The fluid is injected into these joints to prevent erosion, swelling and possible destruction of the cartilage attached to bones.

Other Applications

CMC is also used in the manufacture of diapers and sanitary products of this type. Because it is hydrophilic, CMC helps gelatinize liquid and promotes retention.


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