How is PVC made?

PVC stands for polyvinyl chloride. It is a synthetic material derived from petrochemicals.

PVC Manufacture

PVC is a thermoplastic material. This means that it can be re-melted and reshaped over and over again. It is made from 57% chlorine which is derived from industrial salt and 43% carbon which is derived predominantly from oil. Various additives and pigments are added to the PVC compound during manufacture, but PVC depends less on crude oil and natural gas, which are both non renewable resources than other materials such as polyester and polyurethane. For this reason, PVC is regarded as a natural source saving plastic.

Polyvinyl chloride is by polymerising the monomer vinyl chloride. The reaction is exothermic and requires cooling afterwards.

Polymerisation happens when the two chemical ingredients are exposed to sunlight. This process links the molecules together to create long chains of PVC. PVC produced in this way forms a white powder. This is not used alone, but blended with other ingredients to give formulations for a wide range of products. Many thermoplastic fabrics are made using carbon and hydrogen as their main components; however the presence of Chlorine in PVC makes it a very versatile fabric and makes it become compatible with many other fabrics. The Chlorine makes PVC flame retardant as well.

The use of PVC was initially limited because of its inflexibility. In the mid 1920s another softer ‘plasticised’ version of PVC was developed. This fabric is more supple and can be used more frequently in garment production.

Properties of PVC

  • Hard wearing
  • Insoluble to water
  • Easy to clean
  • Resistant to chemicals
  • Excellent fire resistance
  • A good insulator
  • Can withstand pressures that many metals cant
  • Good UV resistance
  • Can last up to 100 years or more
  • Recyclable

End uses of PVC

  • Clothing
  • Upholstery
  • Electrical cable insulation
  • Inflatables
  • Substitute for rubber
  • Fetish clothing
  • Vegan substitute for leather
  • Sewerage pipes
  • Toys
  • Shower curtains
  • Car interiors
  • Flooring
  • Medical fabrics

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Written by Kelly Mitchell

Kelly Mitchell, extremely competent and reliable, she is currently in her third year at the University of Lincoln UK, studying Fashion. Kelly is responsible for the Fabrics, Fibers and Leathers sections of our Dictionary

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