bars of soap with olives

Stearic acid — with the molecular formula C18H36O2, C17H35CO2H, or CH3(CH2)16COOH, and the CAS Number 57-11-4 — is one of the most useful fatty acids with a long carbon chain. Also referred to as octadecanoic acid according to its preferred IUPAC classification, stearic acid gets its name from the Greek word meaning tallow.

The ingredient is made predominantly from triglycerides rendered from animal fat. It can be stored at room temperature and is often used in the creation of soaps and candles. Stearic acid is most often produced through the process of saponification, which converts fats and oils into alcohol and soaps by means of adding heat along with a liquid alkali. Saponification is typically carried out on animal fats and vegetable oils.

Various grades of stearic acid

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pills and tablets

After distillation, commercial grade stearic acids can be a mixture of palmitic and stearic acids. Pure stearic acid can also be produced. Animal fats are a rich source of stearic acid. Many have a content percentage that is comprised of as much as 30 percent of the acid. On the other hand, vegetable oils typically contain much less stearic acid — usually in the five percent range. The natural exceptions to this rule are shea and cocoa butters that can contain anywhere between 28 and 45 percent stearic acid.

many commercial uses for stearic acid

With its many commercial uses, stearic acid is in constant demand across many industries. If you are a supplier of food grade additives and ingredients, you need a stearic acid distributor like Brenntag, N.A. with specialized global distribution experience and facilities that are in full compliance with ISO standards and HACCP food safety regulations.


Industries in Which Stearic Acid Is Commonly Used

Stearic acid is bifunctional in nature. Its nonpolar chain allows organic solvents to dissolve. Plus, its polar head group can be linked to positively charged metal ions. As a result, its commercial uses fall into several categories. In the food industry, it is used as a food additive, for example as a flavoring agent in certain dairy products to create an artificial flavoring that approximates that of butter. In addition, it is a highly useful binding agent used as a key ingredient in chewing gum, edible waxes, and other candied coatings. This ingredient's food grade uses also cross over into the pharmaceutical industry, where stearic acid is used as an additive in tablets to bind solid ingredients together. That way, the tablets do not disintegrate while in storage in bottles. Furthermore, with the addition of stearic acid, tablets only release their active ingredients after they reach the acids found in the human stomach. Both the personal care and household products industries rely on stearic acid to produce a variety of detergents, soaps, and cosmetics. For example, shampoos, shaving creams, and soaps derive their pearly appearance from esters of stearic acid. In addition, the fatty acid is used as a lubricant — lithium stearate, for instance, is one of the main components of grease. Furthermore, it is used as a softening agent in various manufacturing processes ranging from softening PVC to the manufacture of automotive tires. As a cost-effective and benign additive, stearic acid has several niche uses. It is used to coat iron and aluminum in the fabrication of fireworks. It is also used in the production of lead-acid batteries. Along with corn syrup or sugar, it is used as a hardening agent in the making of candles. Plus, it is used as a lubricating and release agent in several molding and casting processes, ranging from releasing foam latex from stone molds to lubricating ceramic powders employed in injection molds.

wax tea candles

Chemical Property Information for Stearic Acid

After palmitic acid, stearic acid is one of the most naturally occurring saturated fatty acids. It is a waxy, colorless solid that is practically insoluble in water. Its esters and salts are referred to as stearates, and the triglyceride stearin is produced from three of its molecules.

View our Stearic Acid Product Listings

If you are a cosmetics manufacturer, food scientist, or procurement professional, you might be wondering where to buy stearic acid in the United States. For all commercial applications, you are best advised to trust Brenntag North America.

We have a portfolio of over 10,000 products, as well as a global distribution network that spans 74 countries and 530 locations.As a GFSI-certified company that is fully committed to food safety and traceability. We offer top quality products and uninterrupted distribution. As an established leader in the distribution of food grade ingredients, we can reliably meet all of your stearic acid needs.

We sell all forms of stearic acid in various grades and levels of purity. You can view our entire food grade product listing online.

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