For most non-ionic emulsifiers, the HLB value can be calculated based on their theoretical composition or more accurately, based on analytical data. The theoretical composition can in fact only lead to approximate HLB values because the chemical classification is often only an approximation of the actual composition. The data obtained from an analysis of the surfactant are usually the best basis for determining the HLB. If ethylene oxide is the only component of the hydrophilic part of the emulsifier, the HLB can be calculated using the following formula:

HLB = E/5

 where E = percentage of ethylene oxide.

For emulsifiers made up of esters, fatty acids and polyols the formula is

HLB = 20 (1 – S/A)

where S = saponification value and A = acidity value of the fatty acid.

For example, for Polysorbate 20: HLB = 20 (1 – 45.5/276) = 16.7

When two or more emulsifiers are mixed together, the HLB value of the mixture can be easily calculated. For example, for a mixture containing 70% Polysorbate 80 (HLB = 15.0) and 30% Sorbitan oleate (HLB = 4.3) the HLB value is obtained in the following way:
Polysorbate 80 70% x 15.0 = 10.5
Sorbitan oleate 30% x 4.3 = 1.3
HLB of the mixture = 11.8

In the following table some of the more representative emulsifiers are listed in order of increasing HLB.

Greengredients® products INCI name HLB
  Glycol Distearate 1
  Sorbitan Trioleate 1.8
  Propylene Glycol Isostearate 2.5
  Glycol Stearate 2.9
  Sorbitan Sesquioleate 3.7
  Glyceryl Stearate 3.8
  Lecithin 4
  Sorbitan Oleate 4.3
  Sorbitan Monostearate 4.7
  Sorbitan Stearate 4.7
  Sorbitan Isostearate 4.7
  Steareth-2 4.9
  Oleth-2 4.9
  Glyceryl Laurate 5.2
  Ceteth-2 5.3
  PEG-30 Dipolyhydroxystearate 5.5
  Glyceryl Stearate SE 5.8
   SESAMULS® WO Polyglyceryl-6 Pentaoleate, Sesame Oil, Malic Acid 6
   OLEAMULS® WO Polyglyceryl-6 Pentaoleate 6
  Sorbitan Stearate (and) Sucrose Cocoate 6
  PEG-4 Dilaurate 6
  Methyl Glucose Sesquistearate 6.6
  Lecithin variable
  PEG-8 Dioleate 8
  Sorbitan Laurate 8.6
  PEG-40 Sorbitan Peroleate 9
  Laureth-4 9.7
  PEG-7 Glyceryl Cocoate 10
  PEG-20 Almond Glycerides 10
  PEG-25 Hydrogenated Castor Oil 10.8
  Stearamide MEA 11
  Glyceryl Stearate + PEG-100 Stearate 11
  Polysorbate 85 11
  PEG-7 Olivate 11
   OLEAMULS® WS Polyglyceryl-6 Oleate 11
  Cetearyl Glucoside 11
   OLEAMULS® LOW Polyglyceryl-6 Oleate, Potassium Olivate 11.5
  PEG-8 Oleate 11.6
   SESAMULS® OW Polyglyceryl-3 Cetyl Ether, Sesamum Oil, Malic Acid 12
   OLEAMULS® OW Polyglyceryl-4 Stearate, Potassium Olivate 12
  Polyglyceryl-3 Methyglucose Distearate 12
  Oleth-10 12.4
  Oleth-10/Polyoxyl 10 Oleyl Ether 12.4
   AVOMULS® LOW Polyglyceryl-4 Isostearate, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Olea Europaea (Olive) Oil Unsaponifiables 12.5
  Ceteth-10 12.9
  PEG-8 Laurate 13
  Cocamide MEA 13.5
   POLYSOL® PGA Polyglyceryl-6 Caprylate, Aqua, Proline 14.5
  Polysorbate 60 14.9
  Polysorbate 80 15
  Isosteareth-20 15
  PEG-60 Almond Glycerides 15
  Polysorbate 80 15
  PEG-20 Methyl Glucose Sesquistearate 15
  Ceteareth-20 15.2
  Oleth-20 15.3
  Steareth-20 15.3
  Ceteth-20 15.7
  Isoceteth-20 15.7
  Polysorbate 20 16.7
  Laureth-23 16.9
  PEG-100 Stearate 18.8
  Steareth-100 18.8
  PEG-80 Sorbitan Laurate 19.1