What is PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)?

PVC hole plugs

PVC, or Polyvinyl Chloride, is a synthetic polymer made from the vinyl chloride monomer. It’s a versatile thermoplastic material known for its durability, chemical resistance, and affordability. All of these characteristics make it useful across industries ranging from construction to manufacturing to medical. This guide is designed to help you understand Polyvinyl Chloride, covering:

What is PVC used for?

PVC pipes and fittings are typical for plumbing systems due to the material’s corrosion resistance and strength. PVC automotive components and PVC medical devices are common too, including blood bags, medical tubing, and IV bags. It’s also used extensively in the electronic and electrical industries for cable and wire insulation. Examples of Polyvinyl Chloride uses include:

Card guides

Card guides

Polyvinyl Chloride is ideal for PCB card guides. This PCB horizontal card guide is perfect for the job. It provides excellent electrical insulation properties between the PCB and the surrounding components or chassis. This helps prevent electrical shorts and interference, ensuring proper functioning of the PCB.

LED spacers

LED spacers

LED spacers made from Polyvinyl Chloride provide effective insulation between the LED leads or terminals, preventing electrical contact and potential short circuits. This ensures proper electrical performance and reduces the risk of damage to the LED or surrounding components.

PVC also exhibits good thermal resistance. LED spacers made from Polyvinyl Chloride can withstand the heat generated by LEDs, particularly in high-power applications. The PVC material helps dissipate heat, allowing for efficient cooling and minimizing the impact on LED performance and longevity.

Learn more in our Guide to LED Mounting Hardware

Fuse covers

Fuse covers

Polyvinyl Chloride fuse covers protect fuse clips and blocks mounted to PCBs. In addition to its superb insulation, flexible PVC provides a snug fit. Nor does it corrode when exposed to copper. PVC’s mechanical strength and durability provides reliable protection to the fuse assembly against mechanical stress or impacts.

Adhesive mount cabloe clamps

Adhesive-mount cable clamps

Polyvinyl Chloride maintains the integrity of the cable's insulation, ensuring reliable and safe electrical connections. But this isn’t the only reason why PVC is often used for adhesive-mount cable clamps. PVC is suited for outdoor enclosures. It’s resistant to environmental factors such as moisture, humidity, and UV radiation. This resistance ensures that PVC adhesive-mount cable clamps can maintain their functionality and structural integrity even in challenging conditions or outdoor applications. 

Cable duct

Cable duct

Polyvinyl Chloride uses also include cable duct for data centers and offices. Again, PVC’s electrical insulation, heat resistance and mechanical strength make it ideal for cable conduit in these environments. 

easy pull masking caps

Masking caps and plugs

Another area where Polyvinyl Chloride shines is in masking caps and plugs, particularly easy-pull masking caps. Polyvinyl Chloride offers excellent chemical resistance and withstands high temperatures. It can also be formulated for flexibility and elastic properties, conforming to different shapes with a snug fit.

Hole plugs

Caps and plugs

PVC tapered caps and plugs can be applied to the end of fittings to act as a protective cap and also used to plug holes and other openings. 

Round end caps

Along with round end caps, caps and plugs made of PVC are durable and flexible, ensuring a snug fit for applications to protect against damage. They also provide a shield to fittings from dust, dirt, moisture and corrosion while in storage and during shipping.

Blanking plugs

Blanking plugs made of PVC offer protection against sharp edges in sheet metal. PVC features non-staining properties and resists ozone, acids, and sunlight.

Polyvinyl Chloride properties

What is Polyvinyl Chloride? It’s the sum of its properties. Below are some of the physical and mechanical properties that make Polyvinyl Chloride so useful. 

Property Value
Density 0.051 lb/in3
Water Absorption, 24 hrs  0%
Tensile Strength 7,500 psi
Tensile Modulus 411,000 psi
Flexural Strength 12,800 psi
Flexural Modulus  481,000 psi
Heat Deflection Temp at 264 psi
Max Continued Use Temp
Melting-point range (depending on additives used) 212°F – 500°F


What is PVC material made of?

PVC resin is produced from vinyl chloride monomers. The process begins with the production of vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) by reacting ethylene with chlorine using a catalyst. This reaction leads to the formation of vinyl chloride gas. The vinyl chloride monomer is then subjected to polymerization, where the monomer molecules combine to form long chains of PVC polymer. 

PVC material

Polymerization can be initiated through heat, chemical initiators, or UV light. To enhance specific properties, additives like plasticizers, stabilizers, lubricants, fillers, pigments, and flame retardants are often incorporated into the PVC formulation. These additives can be adjusted based on the desired characteristics for different applications. 

PVC medical bag

The PVC formulation is then processed using methods like extrusion, injection molding, or calendaring to shape the material into various final forms such as pipes, fittings, sheets, profiles, and more. The production of PVC resin can vary in terms of manufacturing techniques and formulations but ultimately, Polyvinyl Chloride is an incredibly versatile thermoplastic.

You can find out more in our guide, What is Plastic Injection Molding and How Does it Work?

What are the different types of PVC?

PVC properties can be altered to various forms, each with specific characteristics suitable for different applications. Here are some common types of PVC:

Rigid PVC (uPVC)

Rigid PVC, also known as unplasticized PVC or uPVC, is a stiff and inflexible form of PVC. It lacks plasticizers, making it rigid and durable. 

Ideal for: Construction industry for applications such as PVC pipes, window frames, profiles, and other structural components.

Flexible PVC (PVC-P)

Flexible PVC, also referred to as PVC-P or plasticized PVC, incorporates plasticizers to impart flexibility and elasticity. It is soft, easily bendable, and adaptable to various shapes. 

Ideal for: Applications in electrical cable insulation, tubing, hoses, medical devices, flooring, and upholstery.

Chlorinated PVC (CPVC) 

CPVC is a modified form of PVC achieved through chlorination. It possesses enhanced temperature resistance and chemical resistance compared to standard PVC. 

Ideal for: Applications requiring higher heat resistance, including hot water pipes, industrial chemical handling, and fire sprinkler systems.

Foam PVC

Foam PVC, also known as expanded PVC, features a cellular structure with air pockets, rendering it lightweight and versatile, while offering rigidity.

Ideal for: Signage, display boards, prototyping using 3D printing, CNC machining, and injection molding

Clear PVC

Clear PVC is a transparent variant that allows light transmission. It  provides excellent clarity, allowing for unobstructed visibility and showcasing of contents. 

Ideal for: Packaging, display cases, protective covers, clear tubing

What are the advantages of Polyvinyl Chloride?

Polyvinyl Chloride offers several distinct advantages that make it highly suitable for various applications. First, PVC plastic is widely accessible and relatively affordable compared to many other plastics, making PVC a cost-effective choice for industries across the board. 

Additionally, Polyvinyl Chloride exhibits exceptional hardness and impact resistance due to its high density, allowing it to withstand physical impacts and maintain its shape even under mechanical stress. This durability makes it an excellent option for applications that require long-lasting performance, such as pipes and window frames. 

PVC also provides excellent cable insulation, making it perfect for applications involving electronics. The material is 100% recyclable. In fact, recycled PVC can be used to make vinyl products that include window profiles, PVC piping, waste pipes, protective strips for surfaces and edges, and coated fabrics, such as tarps and weather membranes. 

Polyvinyl Chloride demonstrates impressive tensile strength, meaning it can withstand stretching or pulling forces without breaking or deforming easily. This characteristic is particularly beneficial in applications that demand structural integrity and the ability to handle the weight of fluids. Again, PVC pipes are a good example.

Moreover, Polyvinyl Chloride showcases high resistance to various chemicals and alkalis, remaining unaffected by many common corrosive substances. This chemical resistance contributes to its durability and makes it the perfect choice for environments where exposure to such substances is a concern. 

Download free CADs and try before you buy

Free CADs are available for most solutions, which you can download. You can also request free samples to make sure you’ve chosen the right product for what you need. 

If you’re not quite sure which solution will work best for your application, our experts are always happy to advise you.

Whatever your requirements, you can depend on fast dispatch. Request your free samples or download free CADs now.


Email us at sales@essentracomponents.com or speak to one of our experts for further information on the ideal solution for your application 800-847-0486.