With versatility that makes it the perfect product for a multitude of projects, polyethylene is one of the most utilized but least recognized foam materials on the market. While polystyrene is known for its use in cups and insulation and the soft, and squishy feel of polyurethane foam is something everyone is familiar with, polyethylene is often a forgotten material. But from packaging and flotation devices, to masonry supplies and shock absorbers, it’s hard at work around us every day, whether or not we realize it.
Polyethylene is closed-cell foam, meaning its structure is made of millions of tiny bubbles, sealed off from each other. This provides a resistance to water, in addition to a strength and rigidity not present in open-cell foams. It is also resistant to solvents, petroleum products, and is antimicrobial as well, inhibiting the growth of mold, mildew, and bacteria. A resilient material, polyethylene returns to form after compression, while still yielding enough to provide cushion and security where it is needed. It is these characteristics, combined with its versatility and customization possibilities, that make it useful in so many applications.
Formed from the heating of polymer compounds, polyethylene foam is able to receive additives to its formula to alter its properties before it is heated and extruded into its solid-state form. This means in addition to the standard polyethylene sheet foam, there are also anti-static varieties of the product. Anti-static properties assist in the packaging, handling, and transportation of delicate electronics, by dissipating electro-static charges that can build and damage components. With additives included in the formula, features are consistent all the way through the material, as opposed to treatments added after the foam has been created. Like other foams, it is also available in varying densities for different applications. The higher the density of polyethylene, the smaller and/or thicker the cell walls are, creating a stronger material.
In addition to the performance characteristics polyethylene can possess, the material is also available in multiple shapes and sizes. Most commonly seen in sheet or plank form, polyethylene has a rigidity that holds its shape when cut into thick sections. These are most often used as insulating materials or in casing and custom packaging, because, while strong and shock absorbing, polyethylene can also be easily cut to create form-fit inserts for securely moving or transporting items. Closed-cell foam insulation is excellent at resisting moisture and polyethylene in particular is often used as thermal insulation materials. Polyethylene sheeting is also easily laminated together to create thicker sections that can then be cut for furniture inserts, personal flotation device inserts, or specialized packaging. Also, backer rod polyethylene tube is made in an assortment of diameters for varied use.
Rolls of polyethylene are made of very thin sheets of material. This flexibility allows it to be used as insulation wrapped around pipes, seals between foundations, and sill plates in buildings or in the creation of pouches or bags to protect goods while minimizing space and weight. Potentially the most recognizable style of polyethylene is its cylinder form because of its presence every summer as noodle water toys. In different sizes, these cylinders can also be used as bolsters and support products for personal comfort. When manufactured on a much smaller scale, continuous-length polyethylene tubes are used in construction as backer rod between concrete slabs. The water resistant foam backer rod forms a cost-effective filler, reducing how much expensive sealing product is needed, while permitting a degree of flex between the two slabs by not allowing a three-way bond to be formed. Backing rod permits expansion and contraction due to weather and temperature changes.
Similar to how the performance additives for anti-static characteristics are added, so too are dyes which give color to polyethylene used in visual applications or for personal customization of a project. Polyethylene foams are most commonly seen in black, white, and blue, as well as pink anti-static foam, with other colors also available.
Even polyethylene’s molecular compounds can be customized, with both physically cross-linked and chemically cross-linked polyethylene versions existing, featuring slightly different characteristics. The biggest difference between the two is that chemically cross-linked foams have their bonds forced through externalities like heat or pressure, while physically cross-linked products bond naturally. This results in more versatility because it is easier to break and re-form a physically cross-linked material, but it also lacks the extra strength and durability of chemically cross-linked foam.
The spectrum of uses for polyethylene makes it one of the most versatile foam products in existence. The range of densities, formulations and styles are substantial on their own, and with multiple uses for each variation, the possibilities for this unique product are incredibly broad. Whether for personal or professional use in large or short-run production, there is a polyethylene product that will perform up to any standard it will be measured against.
96 thoughts on “Polyethylene Foam: Its Uses, Characteristics, and Varieties”
Can I use polyethylene foam underlay to keep a cold water bottle stay cold longer?
Yes, polyethylene foam can be used for insulation purposes.
Can polyethylene foam be used for sound absorption?
Yes our polyethylene, specifically polyethylene roll, can be used for sound deadening applications. For sound absorption, we would suggest our open cell acoustic solutions like the acoustic wedge or acoustic eggcrate foam.
Is polyethyelen foam Flexible? Can it be made in 4 to 6 inch thick sheets which can be rolled.
Typically anything 1-1/2″ and thinner can be rolled. This is in regards to the 2.2lb density and less. Anything thicker is not able to be rolled.
Is it possible for polyethylene to sink in water? Not float?
All the polyethylene we currently carry will float. This includes 1.2LB to 9LB densities.
Can it be used as padding material, for example in garments – shoulder pads, bra cups, etc. How do costs compare with polyurethane foams? tks
Either our polyethylene roll or our Volara foam could be used that application. As always, be sure to test the foam out to see if it fits your needs and application.
Can you use it to make a therapeutic wedge to put under the mattress and raise the head of the bed?
Typically our conventional foam can be used for this purpose. Please contact us for a price quote.
I have a few polyethylene foam noodles that were squished while packed in boxes for several years. (they lost their original cylindrical shape) Is there a way to return them to their former form or is the polyethylene foam damaged beyond repair?
If after 1 to 2 weeks the foam does not come back, then they are considered damaged and cannot be repaired.
can you give me an idea of the rigidness of the different densities of closed cell polyethylene foam sheets?
Closed cell polyethylene foam is considered firm and gets gradually more firm as you go higher up in density. 3LB and up becomes more difficult to roll. Foams less than 3LB density are more easily roll-able.
I have installed self-regulating heat tape on water pipes in my unheated crawl space. The crawl space is insulated and has vapour barrier covering the ground. Can I use closed cell polyethylene foam tubing to insulate the pipes, I.e. also put insulation over the heat tape. My concern is what would happen if the heat tape malfunctioned and got too hot. Would the foam insulation then be a fire hazard?
Our datasheets give a usable temperature range for the polyethylene foam. If the heat of the pipes is under this range, then the foam can be used for that purpose. Polyethylene data sheets.
Can you guy cut into the size i want ? Example:
instead of 1 of 24″ x 48″
i want 288 of 2″ x 2″
Yes, please contact us directly for a price quote.
Is Polyethylene Foam used in insulating ceilings flammable?
Polyethylene can come in both fire retardant and non-fire retardant types. The seller will know either way if you ask.
I need to insulate 6 three gallon buckets of ice cream for an outdoor wedding in June. Outside, we don’t have electricity. Dry ice would sublimate to quickly & be really expensive. Thinking of putting the 3 gal buckets (12″x10″) into a 5 gal bucket (15″x11″) and putting some kind of foam in between the walls to insulate. Not much space there, but possibly for 2 hrs or until it’s gone it might keep it stiff. Any thoughts????
We would suggest our 2.2lb density polyethylene foam for your application. The R values can be found on the polyethylene foam datasheet.
Is the polyethylene foam food grade? Is it safe for use as a play mat?
Which is the best foam for thermal insulation??
Closest available we have to food grade foam is our Volara foam. This could be used as a play mat.
Polyethylene foam can be used for thermal insulation. Please see the polyethylene foam data sheet for more details.
Can polyethylene foam be used as a raft for outdoor aquaponics?
The non-fire-retardant type should reduce the chemicals, but will they still break down under UV exposure?
Can they be painted to prevent this?
The foam will float, most of our polyethylene foams are not fire retardant. To reduce the effects of UV exposure, the foam can be covered with another material, such as a weed barrier to help protect the foam.
Can I use the 1/2” foam to seal between 6×8 squared logs in a house/cabin construction? Will it compress over time or loose its seal?
1/4″ to 1/2″ of polyethylene 2.2lb foam polyethylene 2.2lb foam polyethylene 2.2lb foam is suggested for your application.
What density of EPE foam is generally used in hybrid guitar cases?
1.7lb to 2.2lb density
What material can be used / is recommended to protect your polyethylene foams to reduce the effect of UV exposure? Thanks.
Are polyethylene foam noodles acid free? Do you add any other material to the polyethylene? I am considering using them for long term storage of textiles and do not want other chemicals besides polyethylene.
A UV resistant fabric can be applied / glued to the surface of the polyethylene foam.
To the best of our knowledge our polyethylene foam does not contain acid.
Is polyethylene foam good for boat flotation inside a sealed hull and around fuel tanks etc?
Yes, polyethylene could be used for that purpose. However, keep in mind that typical polyethylene foam is not fire retardant.
Can polyethylene sheets be used in expansion joints in PCC paving as filler material?
Yes. We typically recommend our Polyethylene Solid Tube for this application.
Is Polythylene chemically neutral and acid free (for archival storage use)?
To the best of our knowledge, our Polyethylene foam does not contain acid.
Can PE foam be painted? I so, please advise type of paint. Thank you!
Yes, Polyethylene foam can be painted. We would suggest a latex-based paint, rather than an oil-based paint.
Can PE foam be used with electrical components reaching 100C temperatures?
The only foam that we carry that can bear these temperatures is our Neoprene foam, which can bear temperatures up to 220 degrees Fahrenheit.
Can polyethylene foam be used as carpet padding?
Please Contact Us for help finding the best for foam your application.
Hello, good morning.
Can it be used for raft floating boards for use in aquaponia?
Is it food grade, with certificate? And natural or white color, no other additives.
How can I get a sample? (Or a good picture )
Could you please give me standard price per sheet or m2 ,
Thanks in advance,
Please Contact Us by e-mail for more information.
Can polyethylene Foam or amy other foam be used to recover a soft surfboard or repair a any info on what is the toughest or best foam available 2.4m x 1.0m x 3mm if possable
Can PE foam be inserted in the rubber tubing in the weatherstrip of car doors to minimize the rubber from becoming deformed over time which would hopefully lengthen the lifespan of said tubings?
Please Contact Us for more information regarding the best foam for your application.
Please Contact Us for more information on the best product for your application.
I will be using polyethylene close cell foam pads for a dance studio floor to absorb the shock. Is this foam fire retardant and do you know the fire retardant specs. for this product or where I can find them? The Fire Marshall in our Village requires these specs.
Our Polyethylene foam does not contain any fire retardant additives, and is not considered a fire retardant material. The only foam that we carry that would work for this application that is also fire retardant is our Minicel LF200 foam. Please Contact Us for further information.
Can PE foam be used to heat proof the ceilings and save the interiors from overheating in summer?
Polyethylene can be used for this application, but Polystyrene is typically more effective for this purpose.
Can we used this for bra cups
Please Contact Us for recommendations for the best foam for your application.
Can Volara foam be used as a barrier between ground and a swimming pool liner. I’m thinking of putting something down to stop roots or stones or anything else poking through the liner..
Please Contact Us for more information on the best product for your application.
I AM LOOKING FOR TWO SOLID 6 INCH ROUND BY 3 FOOT LONG FOAM CYLINDERS TO BE USED AS OUTRIGGERS FOR A CANOE. THEY MUST BE HARD.
For this application, we recommend our Polyethylene Cylinders.
I’m looking for a petroleum resistant buoyancy foam for under the floor of my boat what would be the best option? Need 2” thick
For your application, we would recommend any of our Polyethylene foams.
what product can i use to repair a gouge in polyethylene foam?
Please Contact Us for more information regarding your request.
Are your 12 pack foam noodles non-toxic under Federal Guidelines to attach to baby crib rails?
Unfortunately, we do not recommend any of our foam for use with baby cribs. Please Contact Us if there is anything else we can help you with!
I am looking for a soft foam that is stable and will not disintegrate or shed dust for long term storage of vintage microphones. They will be kept in a controlled studio climate, but I need to know the foam will not deteriorate. Can you inform me on this matter?
Please Contact Us for further information regarding your inquiry.
Can polyethylene foam be used as an insulating hot tub cover? Do you sell a UV resistant variety of yes? Need a odd shaped size so unable to purchase.
The foam recommended for hot tub covers is our Polystyrene foam.
I’m bought a 2.6m x 107* x 0.56 above the ground soft side pool that will be standing on paving. I want to know if I can use polyethylene for padding under the swimming pool. If so, what thickness and density would you advise. I’m looking at 33 and 30mm. Will this be an overkill? Thanks.
For this application, we would recommend our 2.2lb Polyethylene at 1/2″ thick or more. Please Contact Us directly for sizing and pricing information.
Does polyethylene foam is bouyant can I make them as collar for the boat?
For boat collars, we recommend our Minicel T300 foam or our 3lb Crosslinked Polyethylene foam.
Do you recommend polyethylene foam as base material under ensolite foam for the use as martial arts flooring? If so which density of polyethylene foam would you suggest in case of throw-heavy and ground-work focused martial arts (Judo/Wrestling/BJJ)?
Thank you in advance!
Please Contact Us for further information regarding your application.
Is solid 2# PE plank more rigid than laminated 2# PE planks or are there differences in 2# PE planks? I’ve noticed since getting laminated planks it doesn’t seem as tough as the solid ones I’ve had in the past.
Lamination should not create a change in rigidity, as long as the two samples are the same thickness and the same density Polyethylene foam.
What is the lifespan of this product in a non-exposed installation? No UV. No liquid water but water vapor.
Will the material break down, lose internal cohesion or turn brittle over span of say 40 to 50 years?
Please Contact Usfor further information regarding your inquiry.
Would you recommend this foam to slightly raise the height of our metal chairs without significantly compressing over time?
Please Contact Usfor further information regarding your application.
How much can polyethylene foam hold up per square foot, and for how long?
Please Contact Usfor more information regarding your inquiry.
Can the polyethylene foam be used to wrap outdoor planters? How will it stand up to all season weather?
Yes, the Polyethylenefoam can be used for this application. It is a closed-cell foam, so it is water resistant. It has not been specifically tested for the application, though, so you would likely need to test the product.
What foam would be the best application for Backpack straps and back support/softness? The backpacks will be pretty heavy. Will I be able to sew through the foam? I have an industrial machine.
The foam that we would suggest for your application is our https://www.foambymail.com/MT200/minicel-t200.html. None of our foams have been specifically tested for the application, so you would need to test to confirm they will work for what you are looking to do with the foam.
Afternoon can PE-LD 04 foam be used for upholstery and what glue can i use to glue them together. Thank you
Please Contact Usfor more information regarding your inquiry.