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Polysorbate 20

Polysorbate 20
Systematic name polyoxyethylene (20) sorbitan monolaurate
Other names Polysorbate 20
PEG(20)sorbitan monolaurate
Molecular formula C58H114O26
Molar mass 1227.54 g/mol
Appearance Clear, yellow to yellow-green viscous liquid.
CAS number [9005-64-5]
Density and phase D~1,1.
Solubility in water No data.
Melting point No data.
Boiling point > 100°C
HLB 16.7
MSDS External MSDS
Main hazards Irritant
NFPA 704
Flash point 110°C
RTECS number TR7400000
Except where noted otherwise, data are given for
materials in their standard state (at 25°C, 100 kPa)
Infobox disclaimer and references

Polysorbate 20 (commercially also known as Tween® 20) is a polysorbate surfactant whose stability and relative non-toxicity allows it to be used as a detergent and emulsifier in a number of domestic, scientific, and pharmacological applications. It is a polyoxyethylene derivative of sorbitan monolaurate, and is distinguished from the other members in the Tween range by the length of the polyoxyethylene chain. The commercial product contains a range of chemical species.[1]


Food applications

Tween is used as a wetting agent in flavored mouth drops such as Ice Drops®, helping to provide the spreading feeling of the other ingredients like SD alcohol and mint flavor.

The World Health Organization has suggested acceptable daily intake limits of 0-25 mg of polyoxyethylene sorbitan esters per kg body weight.[2]

Biological applications

In the biological sciences, Tween 20 has a broad range of applications. For example, it is used:

  • to stabilize purified protein derivative (PPD) solution used in skin testing for tuberculosis exposure
  • as a blocking agent in immunologic assays, such as Western blots and ELISAs.
  • as a solubilizing agent of membrane proteins
  • for lysing mammalian cells, at a concentration of 0.05 to 0.5%.
  • can be dissolved in Tris-Buffered Saline at dilutions of 0.05% to 0.5% v/v to give TBS-Tween, a washing solution for immunoassays.

Pharmaceutical applications

Tween is used as in pharmaceutical applications to stabilize emulsions and suspensions.

Industrial and domestic applications

The Clorox-made cleaning solution used by the iRobot Scooba floor-washing robot lists Tween 20 as one of its major ingredients on its MSDS.


Tween 20's cmc is 8.04×10-5 M at 21°C.[3]


  1. ^ Ayorinde FO, Gelain SV, Johnson JH Jr, Wan LW. (2000). "Analysis of some commercial polysorbate formulations using matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry". Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry 14 (22): 2116-2124. PMID 11114018.
  2. ^ Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (1974). Toxicological evaluation of some food additives including anticaking agents, antimicrobials, antioxidants, emulsifiers and thickening agents. WHO Food Additives Series No. 5. World Health Organization.
  3. ^ Chunhee Kim, You-Lo Hsieh (2001). "Wetting and absorbency of nonionic surfactant solutions on cotton fabrics". Colloids and Surfaces A 187: 385 -397.

See also

  • Polysorbate 80
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Polysorbate_20". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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