We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is Polyethylene Tubing?

By Adam Hill
Updated May 16, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Polyethylene tubing is a type of flexible piping which is commonly used in laboratories, as well as for transporting water, including drinking water. Its main component, polyethylene, is a polymer chain made of ethylene molecules, which consist of carbon and hydrogen. It can be made in different densities depending on the manner in which it will be used. Polyethylene is the most widely-used plastic in the world.

There are two common categories of polyethylene tubing: low density, and high density. Polyethylene tubing is considered to have a low density if it weighs between 0.0814 oz and 0.0839 oz per cubic inch (0.91 and 0.94 grams per cubic centimeter). Low density polyethylene (LDPE) has the advantage of being very flexible and highly resistant to cracks. It is also able to be used in a wide range of temperatures. Many types of it are approved for use with potable water and other food handling applications.

High density polyethylene (HDPE) tubing is defined by a density greater than 0.084 oz per cubic inch (0.941 grams per cubic centimeter). It is not as flexible as LDPE, but it does stand up to sterilization by boiling. This can be an important advantage, especially when it is used for food handling. Tubing made of HDPE also withstands corrosive chemicals better than LDPE, making it the preferred choice for scientific applications.

Polyethylene is a compound which does not occur in nature, and so it must be synthesized in a laboratory or industrial environment. Because of this, its wide use has been limited to the 20th century and beyond. The first person to synthesize polyethylene was the German chemist Hans von Pechmann in 1898. Several more scientists were able to produce it under laboratory conditions over the next few decades. It was not until 1935 that a practical method was invented for producing polyethylene on a larger scale.

Polyethylene as a compound actually has far more uses than just as a component of polyethylene tubing. It is heavily used in numerous consumer products as well, including milk cartons, shopping bags, shrink wrap, and garbage containers, to name a few. Certain types of polyethylene have a very high molecular weight, which results in a very rigid material. It is strong enough for use in bullet-proof vests and butchers’ chopping boards. And yet, it is also chemically inert enough to form parts of the implants used in hip and knee replacements.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By TubeGuy — On Dec 16, 2010

Grayline is right: PE and PVC are very different. You asked about the environmental issues with PVC. PVC is a rigid material (think: PVC pipe that your plumber uses). It's made flexible by adding a plasticizer. Flexible PVC is the same stuff that was used for seats in your 1967 Ford Galaxie. It's very soft and supple (and sticks to your legs when you wear shorts).

Most plasticizers use a family of chemicals called "phthalates". There has been some concern in recent years, linking phthalates with a variety of health and environmental issues. A few plastic tubing companies now are offering non-phthalate PVC. Look up that term and you'll find them. The material has all of the same properties as the old PVC, but just without the phthalates.

By Grayline — On Jul 01, 2010

Catherine77, Polyethylene does not equal PVC. PVC is PolyVinylChloride. While there are environmental concerns with PVC, changing to a different material such as PE is not a simple mater. I would strongly recommend that you speak with your tubing supplier.

A tubing manufacturer like Grayline, Inc. has engineering technical support that can help you. With knowledge of your specific application, we can help find the right material that meets your requirements at the lowest cost.

By catherine77 — On Feb 20, 2009

Hello, what impact does polyethylene have on our environment? Is there an alternative to this material? I use 160psi and 100psi pvc tubing in 99% of my products and am concerned about the planetary impact I might be making. My understanding is that polyethylene = pvc. Please advise. Thank you!

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.