Carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC) or cellulose gum is a cellulose derivative with carboxymethyl groups (-CH2-COOH) bound to some of the hydroxyl groups of the glucopyranose monomers that make up the cellulose backbone. It is often used as its sodium salt, sodium carboxymethyl cellulose.
CMC is used in Food under the E number E466 as a viscocity modifier or thickener, and to stablize emulsions in various products including ice cream. It is also a constituent of many non-food products, such as personal lubricants, toothpaste, laxatives, diet pills, water-based paint, detergents, textile sizing, and various paper products. It is used primarily because it has high viscocity, is nontoxic, and is generally considered to be hypoallergenic as the major source fiber is either softwood pulp or cotton linter.
In laundry detergents, it is used as a soil suspension polymer designed to deposit onto cotton and other cellulosic fabrics, creating a negatively charged barrier to soils in the wash solution. CMC is used as a lubricant in artificial tears. Sometimes methyl cellulose (MC) is used, but its nonpolar methyl groups (-CH3) do not add any solubility or chemical reactivity to the base cellulose.
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