Polyvinyl Chloride - What it is, How it’s made | Kent Elastomer Products

Polyvinyl Chloride

What is PVC made of and how does it work?

PVC is a popular and effective material choice for a broad range of industries and applications, from medical tubing to automotive and construction. PVC is durable, versatile and cost-effective to produce.

The experienced professionals at KEP are experts in the application of PVC in flexible tubing products for medical, surgical, food and beverage and other applications. With our stringent adherence to the strictest quality standards, KEP has earned the trust of valued customers in many industries.

What is PVC? What does PVC stand for?

PVC stands for polyvinyl chloride, a durable and versatile material with many applications. PVC is commonly used as an alternative to natural rubber latex because the two materials share so many characteristics, and PVC presents no risk to people with latex allergies or sensitivities. PVC offers excellent stiffness and durability, and can be manufactured for many different applications. PVC is often a more cost-effective choice when compared to other materials.

PVC is commonly used to make tubing for medical purposes and other applications. Flexible polyvinyl chloride tubing exhibits great abrasion resistance, flexibility, durability, stability and clarity.

What is PVC made of?

PVC is made from polymerized molecules of vinyl chloride monomer (VCM). VCM is the product of combining ethylene and chlorine. Depending on the service environment and desired properties of the final product, a number of additives may be introduced during the polyvinyl chloride polymerization process. Common examples include plasticizers, metal stabilizers and heat stabilizers, all of which impact the polyvinyl chloride polymerization process and the final product. Plasticizers especially allow for significant changes in the physical properties of PVC.

The PVC Production Process: How is PVC made?

The PVC production process starts with two base ingredients: saltwater and liquid petroleum.

The saltwater undergoes electrolysis. A strong electrical current is sent through a saltwater solution, which changes its molecular structure and allows for the separation and extraction of chlorine.

The liquid petroleum is heated and placed under extreme pressure, triggering a molecular weight change to the petroleum’s chemical components. This weight change is used to identify ethylene within the petroleum so that it can be separated, captured and cooled to a liquid state.

The extracted chlorine and ethylene are then combined, creating a reaction that results in ethylene dichloride. The ethylene dichloride is placed in a high heat environment with no oxygen. This process, called pyrolysis, produces vinyl chloride monomer, or VCM.

At this stage in the PVC production process, manufacturers may use one of three methods—suspension, emulsion or bulk—to link the VCM molecules and achieve polyvinyl chloride polymerization. The result is PVC resin.

Benefits of PVC


PVC is extremely resilient to many stressors, including corrosion, chemicals and weathering, and has excellent tensile strength. These qualities make PVC an especially popular choice for construction and piping. Because PVC holds up well against so many environmental factors, it also lasts longer than other materials in certain contexts.

Excellent flow characteristics

PVC tubing and pipes have extremely smooth inner surfaces, which reduce flow resistance and enable pressure maintenance throughout the fluid management system. This is yet another reason why PVC is such a popular choice for piping and plumbing.


PVC is made of ethylene and chlorine. It doesn’t contain any of the latex proteins found in natural rubber latex. It presents no risk to people with latex allergies or sensitivities. As a result, it’s a very safe option for products that come into contact with the skin, such as medical tubing, catheters, personal protective equipment (PPE) and other products.

Easy to clean and sterilize

PVC is impermeable to germs and easy to clean and sterilize, all of which are vital in a medical or healthcare setting for infection prevention. For this reason, many single-use medical components are made with PVC. The food and beverage industry also gravitates toward PVC due to its cleanliness and sanitation properties.


Compared to other materials on the market, PVC is relatively inexpensive, not to mention widely available. The PVC production process can be less costly as well. In many contexts, choosing PVC allows manufacturers to achieve their original product performance goals while saving money.

Limitations of PVC

The primary drawback of PVC is its poor resistance to heat. If temperatures get too high, the compound begins to break down, and off-gassing may occur. Certain stabilizers can be added during the polyvinyl chloride polymerization and production process to improve PVC’s heat stability. However, for some applications and products, such as hot liquids and fatty foods, PVC simply may not be the best choice.

What is PVC Used For?

Both rigid and flexible PVC are used in many everyday and specialty applications. Rigid PVC is extremely popular in the construction industry because it’s durable and inexpensive. Flexible PVC can be found throughout hospitals and other healthcare settings. Flexible PVC tubing is an excellent material choice for fluid pathway systems and other types of medical and surgical tubing thanks to its performance characteristics and lack of latex allergens. PVC tubing is also used for laboratory research and development, beverage transfer and dairy processing, distribution and industrial applications and more.

PVC Products from Kent Elastomer

KEP’s flexible PVC tubing products follow stringent quality standards, making them a top choice in several industries. Choose from a range of PVC compounds for our flexible PVC tubing, including FDA Food Grade compliant, USP Class IV compliant, BPA free and DEHP and phthalate free compound choices.

KEP is proud to offer flexible PVC tubing that is extruded to your exact specifications. Contact our experts to discuss your PVC tubing project or other material options.

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