While very similar in name, polyurethane foam and polyethylene foam are quite different. Both are suitable for various applications and can occasionally even complement each other when used in certain products. Today, we’re going to look at the difference between the two. Let’s start off with polyurethane foam.

What is Polyurethane Foam?

Out of the two, polyurethane foam is probably the one that you are most familiar with. You don’t need to work with foam daily to encounter it often. In fact, there’s a high possibility that you’re sitting on polyurethane foam right now.

Polyurethane foam is commonly used as a padding and certain foam grades are used to make cushions. If you’re sitting on a cushion right now, give it a quick prod. If it feels spongy and springs back to shape quickly, then you’re likely sitting on polyurethane foam.

Without polyurethane foam, the world would be a much less comfortable place. Remember sitting on hard, unforgiving chairs at school? Now, imagine doing that your whole life! We dealt with it when we were younger, but as we get older, our weary bodies need to be treated to comfort every now and again.

Although seating is one of the most common applications for polyurethane foam, it is also used to create many other things. Polyurethane foam can be made to feel soft or hard and the density can vary considerably. To give you an idea, just look at the many different foam grades we stock.

This foam can be used to make household sponges for cleaning, acoustic products for sound treatment, packaging, mattresses and much more.

It’s worth noting that all of this shouldn’t be confused with polyurethane spray foam either. Spray foam (used for insulation) is also a type of polyurethane foam; It just has a different form. Technically, what we’ve been referring to is polyurethane foam rubber.

Now that’s cleared up, let’s move onto polyethylene foam.

What is Polyethylene Foam?

Whilst we mostly deal in polyurethane foam here, we also stock some polyethylene foam.

The main type of polyethylene foam that we stock is a unique product manufactured by Zotefoam called Plastazote.

Plastazote is a closed cell foam. As the name suggests, the cells that make up this polyethylene foam are completely closed. The cells are compact meaning that air and moisture are unable to get into it. This, in turn, offers up a variety of benefits.

This type of foam offers a high level of shock absorption, making it perfect for heavy-duty protective packaging. It can also be used in a variety of sports equipment for a similar protective effect.

As water cannot get into it, polyethylene foam is also buoyant. It’s often used in or around water and can even be used as a flotation aid.

Polyethylene foams such as EVA and Plastazote are also very popular among costume and prop makers. The foam is easy to work with is often used to make a whole host of interesting prop and costume pieces.

Polyethylene Vs. Polyurethane

So, what is the core difference between these two types of foam? As you now know, the uses for each differ quite a bit. You wouldn’t throw your sofa cushions into water and on the other hand, you wouldn’t want to sit on closed cell foam. Both would make for an unpleasant sitting experience.

We won’t go into the deep chemistry (mainly because it still confuses us), but the core difference between these two types of foam is the chemical composition.

Polyurethane foams are made up of a combination of polyol and urethane (carbamate) groups. The density of polyurethane foam can be vastly manipulated. It can be made to feel anywhere from very soft to very hard and it’s this versatility which makes it so perfect for many different applications.

Meanwhile, polyethylene foam is made up of a combination of polyol and ethylene groups. Polyethylene foams are closed cell and often have more specialist applications. Closed cell foams are well known for their endurance. They’re often highly waterproof, weatherproof, shockproof and tend to resist most acids, alkalis and solvents.

Talk to us About Our Foam

If you’re interested in learning more about a certain type of foam and how it can benefit you, contact one of our experts today.

Established in 1976, we offer a wide range of foam conversion services to help you get the foam products you need.

Call us today on 01494 441177, email sales@gbfoam.com or visit our contact page.