Plastics Suitable for Chemical Environments

Plastic materials for applications that involve aggressive chemicals

A number of different plastic materials—including polyolefins, vinyls, fluoropolymers and PEEK—perform well in applications that involve exposure to aggressive chemicals. At Curbell, our technical experts can review your specs and offer suggestions regarding the right chemically resistant plastic for your needs. Contact us today to learn more.


  • HDPE (high density polyethylene) and PP (polypropylene)
  • Excellent chemical resistance
  • Soft and inexpensive
  • For use at low to moderate operating temperatures

Rigid vinyls

  • PVC (polyvinyl-chloride) and CPVC (chlorinated polyvinyl-chloride)
  • Stand up to many industrial chemicals
  • Stronger, stiffer and more dimensionally stable than polyolefins
  • For use at low to moderate operating temperatures


  • PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene), Kynar® PVDF, and Halar® ECTFE
  • Broad chemical resistance
  • Can be used at much higher temperatures than either polyolefins or vinyls
  • Because of their inert nature, often specified for high-purity applications when limiting the risk of contamination is critical

High-performance plastics 

  • PPS (polyphenylene sulfide) and PEEK (polyetheretherketone)
  • Outstanding chemical resistance
  • Far stronger, stiffer, and more dimensionally stable than polyolefins, vinyls, or fluoropolymers
  • PPS and PEEK are both able to operate at relatively high service temperatures
  • PPS and PEEK are both available in bearing grade formulations that have superior friction and wear characteristics

Polyolefins for good chemical resistance

The two most common polyolefin materials that are used for applications involving chemical environments are polyethylene (HDPE) and polypropylene (PP). 

Polypropylene chemical storage tankPolyethylene and polypropylene

  • Have good chemical resistance at room temperature
  • Are easy to fabricate with ordinary woodworking tools
  • Bond well via thermoplastic welding
  • Are available in a number of different grades, including formulations with enhanced toughness and/or enhanced chemical resistance

It is important to note that polyolefins tend to be soft (and get softer at elevated temperatures), and have relatively high coefficients of thermal expansion and poor creep characteristics. Specifiers should consider these dimensional stability issues when designing polyolefin parts. (Because of their low strength and stiffness, polyolefin chemical tanks are often reinforced with metal structural elements.)

Applications for polyolefins include tanks, food processing equipment, and clean-room and laboratory cabinets.

Rigid Vinyls

Rigid vinyls including PVC and CPVC are much stronger and stiffer than polyolefins—and more dimensionally stable (with lower coefficients of thermal expansion) than either polyethylene or polypropylene. Unlike polyolefins and fluoropolymers, rigid vinyls are easy to bond with solvent cements, which simplifies the assembly of piping systems. Rigid vinyl parts can also be joined via hot gas welding. 


  • Has good mechanical properties at an economical cost
  • Available in impact-modified grades for improved toughness compared with the standard grades
  • Available in a transparent grade that has superior chemical resistance compared with many other transparent plastics. Clear PVC is often used for chemically resistant safety glazing and machine guards.

PVC Flametec™ for semiconductor and clean room applicationsCPVC 

  • Exhibits a higher glass transition temperature and higher heat deflection temperature than standard PVC
  • Can be used at somewhat higher operating temperatures than PVC
  • Available in impact-modified grades that have improved toughness compared with the standard grades
  • Applications include chemical tanks, fume hoods and laboratory workstations

Fluoropolymers for superior chemical resistance

Fluoropolymers are well known for their superior chemical resistance, and are particularly valuable for elevated temperature environments—as well as applications such as pharmaceutical and semiconductor manufacturing that require high purity. Fluoropolymers are often used in tanks, valves and piping applications that involve harsh chemicals. Fluoropolymer sheet materials are frequently used to manufacture wet benches for the semiconductor industry.  

Materials including PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene), Kynar® PVDF, and Halar® ECTFE:

  • Stand up to a wide range of chemical compounds
  • Are available in both hard and soft grades

High Performance Materials that stand up to most industrial chemicals

High-performance plastics such as PPS (polyphenylene sulfide) and PEEK (polyetheretherketone) are stronger, stiffer and more dimensionally stable than polyolefins, rigid vinyls or fluoropolymers. 

Chemical resistant PEEK for semiconductor applicationsPPS and PEEK:

  • Stand up to most industrial chemicals
  • Are available in friction and wear formulations with additives that make them suitable for use as bearing surfaces
  • Maintain much of their room-temperature strength and stiffness at elevated temperatures
  • Are often specified for use in high-temperature environments where aggressive chemicals are present

PPS is less expensive than PEEK, but PEEK has superior mechanical properties compared with PPS and it is able to operate at higher temperatures than PPS.

Get help finding the right chemically resistant plastic 

At Curbell, we work with manufacturers around the globe to help them keep production lines running—and reduce their operating costs—by using the right chemically resistant plastic for the job. To learn more about our wide range of chemically resistant plastics, please contact us today.

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Frequently Asked Questions
What factors should I consider when selecting a plastic that must stand up to aggressive chemicals?

It is important to consider the chemicals present, the concentration of those chemicals, and the operating temperature.  It is also important to consider the part geometry and the mechanical stresses on the part since highly stressed areas have the potential to fail via environmental stress cracking.  

What chemically resistant plastics have good friction and wear characteristics?

High performance plastics such as bearing grade PEEK and bearing grade PPS are often used for applications that require chemical resistance and good friction and wear characteristics. Some filled grades of PTFE also have good wear properties.  

Are chemically resistant plastics easy to weld?

Many chemically resistant plastics including HDPE, PP, PCV, CPVC, Kynar®, and Halar® are easy to weld using hot gas welding equipment. PVC and CPVC can also be solvent welded.

What types of flexible plastic tubing have good chemical resistance?

Flexible vinyl tubing has some degree of chemical resistance. LDPE (low density polyethylene), silicone, PTFE, PFA, FEP, and certain types of polyurethane tubing have excellent chemical resistance. It is important to consider the specific chemicals, operating temperatures, and pressures required when selecting flexible tubing for an application.

How reliable is the data on chemical resistance charts?

Tabulated data on chemical resistance charts represent the chemical resistance of various plastics under laboratory conditions. That being said, factors such as mechanical loads, temperature, and part geometry can affect the actual chemical resistance of a plastic material when it is used for a particular application.