Quava™ MHEC For Cost-Effective Waterborne Coatings

March 1, 2024

In the world of coating applications, the choice of thickener can significantly impact both the performance and cost-effectiveness of the final product. Hydroxyethyl cellulose (HEC) has long been a popular choice, but its high price can pose challenges for manufacturers. On the other hand, Methyl hydroxyethyl cellulose (MHEC) emerges as a compelling alternative, offering superior thickening efficiency and cost-effectiveness. This article compares MHEC and HEC options, providing insights for optimizing formulations of water-based emulsion paints.

The Difference between HEC and MHEC

Hydroxyethyl Cellulose (HEC) and Methyl Hydroxyethyl Cellulose (MHEC) are both cellulose ethers and are commonly used as thickeners in various industrial applications, including coatings, adhesives, and personal care products. While they have similarities in chemical structure and function, there are key differences between these two.

What is HEC?

Hydroxyethyl cellulose (HEC) is a cellulose ether derived from cellulose, the natural polymer found in plants. Typically supplied as a white to off-white, odorless powder, HEC readily disperses in water to form clear solutions, facilitating its incorporation into a wide range of applications. Through the addition of hydroxyethyl groups to the cellulose backbone, HEC becomes a non-ionic, water-soluble polymer widely utilized for its thickening, stabilizing, and film-forming properties.

What is MHEC?

Methyl hydroxyethyl cellulose (MHEC) is a modified version of HEC, characterized by the addition of methyl groups alongside the hydroxyethyl groups on the cellulose backbone. This modification enhances MHEC’s properties compared to HEC, particularly its thickening efficiency and performance in various applications. With its higher thickening efficiency, MHEC requires smaller dosages to achieve comparable viscosity levels in formulations, making it a preferred choice in industries such as coatings, adhesives, and personal care product because it has lower formula cost.

Introducing Quava™ MHEC

Quava™ MHEC is a non-ionic cellulose ether and is compatible with various polymer emulsions and additives for waterborne coatings.

Advantages of QUAVA™ MHEC

  1. High thickening efficiency
    Compared with other HECs of the same viscosity, specially developed Quava cellulose ethers feature 10~20% higher thickening efficiency, which can not only lower raw materials costs, but also increase the water resistance and scrub resistance of the coating.
  2. Good compatibility
    QUAVA™ MHEC is a non-ionic cellulose ether and is compatible with various polymer emulsions and additives for waterborne coatings.
  3. Excellent storage stability
    QUAVA™ MHEC has good enzyme resistance due to a suitable substitution degree and uniform etherification. The viscosity of waterborne coating changes a little after storing for a period of time, which prevents sedimentation and flocculation of pigment and filler effectively to give a long shelf time.
  4. Excellent workability
    Workability of waterborne coating produced with QUAVA™ MHEC is outstanding. Waterborne coatings have good thixotropic properties, spatter resistance, and can easily be applied on various surfaces.
  5. Water retention
    QUAVA™ MHEC provides waterborne coatings with high water retention. Even when applied on a dry or highly absorbent substrate, or under high ambient temperature and strong wind conditions, a film of water-based coating can be uniformly formed without cracks and chalking.

Comparison of QUAVA™ MHEC vs Product HEC

We have conducted a comparison between Quava T2081 (MHEC) and Product N (HEC) in an 85% PVC paint formula. The results are:


Product N (HEC)

Dosage, %



Viscosity (KU) after 1 day



Viscosity (KU) after 2 days



Viscosity (KU) after 2 weeks






Density (g/ml)



Opacity, %




​    Left: Quava T2081 (MHEC), Right: Product N

Colour Development and Colour Acceptance Test

Left: Quava T2081 (MHEC), Right: Product N

Left: Quava T2081 (MHEC), Right: Product N

Comparison Analysis

  • Both QUAVA T2081 (MHEC) and Product N (HEC) demonstrate effectiveness as thickeners in the paint formula, maintaining stable viscosities over the testing period.
  • QUAVA T2081 (MHEC) appears to provide slightly higher viscosities compared to Product N (HEC) across the testing period.
  • The pH, density, and opacity results indicate that both QUAVA T2081 and Product N offer similar performance characteristics in these aspects

Potential Applications of Quava™ MHEC

  • Interior Wall
  • Exterior Wall
  • Stone Paint
  • Lime Stucco
  • Cementitious Stucco

Conclusion: Quava™ MHEC as Cost-Effective Solution For Water-Borne Coatings

In conclusion, the comparison between MHEC and HEC highlights the superiority of MHEC as it enhances performance and cost-effectiveness in waterborne emulsion paints. With its remarkable thickening efficiency, compatibility, and stability, Quava™ MHEC offers a compelling solution for optimizing waterborne emulsion paints. Manufacturers can leverage these advantages to formulate coatings with enhanced performance, reduced costs, and improved market competitiveness.

Maha Asia is an official distributor for Quava™ MHEC, contact our team of professionals for more information.

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