HDPE Against the World

Boxing Glove Photo captioned It's a Showdown

Our strong relationships with several leading toilet partition manufacturers mean we can offer a wide variety of products at excellent prices. It also gives us the flexibility to accommodate tight timelines and special requests. In other words, we have options when addressing the challenges customers bring to us.

Many manufacturers choose a particular material or style as their focus while simultaneously producing other types of bathroom stalls. For instance, a firm may specialize in high privacy partitions but also make standard, powder-coated steel stalls. As you might expect, manufacturers support their areas of specialty with marketing and communication efforts.

We recently came across an article discussing the advantages of HDPE solid plastic when compared with phenolic and composite toilet partition materials. While a manufacturer specializing in high-density polyethylene wrote the report, an independent party conducted the testing and comparisons cited. We thought it would be interesting to present our interpretation of this ‘partition material showdown,’ given that we actively sell all three materials. Read on to see how HDPE compares to the rest of the pack.

To be clear, many customers choose phenolic or composite partitions and have very successful projects. There are circumstances where these materials are just better than HDPE, and we recommend them accordingly. For instance, on projects where aesthetics and design options are valued, HDPE’s limited color pallet (in comparison to phenolic) makes it a non-starter.

Mold and Mildew Resistance

HDPE’s resistance to microbial growth is a significant benefit. The manufacturer’s trials supported this – an HDPE sample, tested per ASTM D3293, showed no mold or mildew growth during 28 days of monitoring.

HDPE resists microbial growth largely because it is waterproof. Microbes thrive in moist environments. HDPE will not absorb water, and components are solid throughout. Panels, doors, and pilasters have no hollows or crevices to collect water.

Composite and phenolic offer much of the same resistance because they are also waterproof. In the tests mentioned in the article, a composite sample performed the same as HDPE. Microbial growth did occur on a phenolic sample, but it was not present until 21 days of monitoring. Though the tests didn’t include metal or particleboard-based partitions, we’d anticipate higher microbial growth in those materials. Metal partition components have nooks where water can collect, while particleboard may absorb water.

According to the report, measurements showed less abrasion in HDPE than composite and phenolic samples tested using the same ASTM G195 guidelines.

HDPE is undoubtedly more resistant to certain types of damage than some other materials. Exactly what constitutes an “abrasion” is difficult to quantify, however. It is worthwhile to note that because HDPE is a solid material that’s the same color throughout, it minimizes the appearance of any gouging or scratching that does occur.

Partition panels, doors, and pilasters can receive significant wear, given the frequent usage and public setting. All our manufacturers account for typical use and cleaning when designing toilet partition systems. They anticipate occasional misuse and abuse, as well. Still, wise shoppers will consider any unique circumstances their restrooms might present and either plan accordingly or ask for more information.

The comparison piece references a test where the three materials (composite, HDPE, and phenolic) received seven distinct types of marks. After cleaning (with an assortment of six cleaners), phenolic and HDPE retained none of the graffiti. The composite material did almost as well, only one of seven spots was permanent.

These findings seem to show that in most situations, using the proper cleaners and tools, graffiti removal is possible. The article correctly notes that for some materials, such as phenolic and composite, an exterior coating is responsible for graffiti protection. HDPE’s resistance to marking is inherent and, unlike an added coating, it has no potential to wear away over time.

Bathroom stalls are frequently the target of vandalism. For this reason, graffiti resistance is a sought after quality. No surface can be completely impervious, but typical graffiti should be simple to remove. Many situations necessitate using a specialized graffiti remover. However, a partition’s inherent resistance to marking is still a consideration.

In the manufacturer’s testing, HDPE and phenolic withstood the same (significant) amount of pull force before a single screw came free. Composite material released screws when less than half the pull force was applied.

While the article doesn’t present specific figures, it seems as if the composite failed under ~450 pounds of weight. It is unlikely that a single screw, in any material, would need to withstand 450 pounds of direct pull. It seems as if all the materials tested did well.

Toilet partitions must retain screws used during installation. Otherwise, problems with hinges, latches, strikes, keepers, and hooks could arise and eventually lead to non-functional doors. Also, many bathroom accessories are attached using screws. Certainly, nobody wants toilet tissue dispensers, or other vital accessories, to fall from the wall!

Whatever your motivation, understanding the environmental impact of manufactured products – including building materials – is essential.

For interested customers, HDPE partitions made from entirely (100%) from post-consumer material are available. Typical HDPE partitions contain post-industrial/pre-consumer recycled content in varying quantities (between 25 to 100%). All HDPE partitions, whether or not they include recycled material, are 100% recyclable after use. For those unfamiliar with the terminology, “post-consumer” content refers to discarded products that have already served their original function. Gathering dismantled HDPE partition components and using them to create new stalls is an example of post-consumer recycling. “Post-industrial” and “pre-consumer” material both refer to the reuse of waste generated during manufacturing processes. An excellent example of this would be creating HDPE sheets using scraps and trimmings saved during the previous production of panels, doors, and pilasters.

Phenolic and composite partitions contain less recycled content than HDPE and are not recyclable themselves. However, other partition styles utilize steel and particleboard that may contain higher amounts of recycled material. Steel partitions are also recyclable after use. HDPE is an excellent option if recycled content and recyclability are valued, though alternatives are available.

While it would be difficult to declare HDPE as the ultimate toilet partition material, there are many areas where it excels. Anyone purchasing toilet partitions should take a look at solid plastic (HDPE), alongside similar options. You can read more about HDPE elsewhere on our site. The page that inspired this post is available on Scranton Products’ website.

If you’re unsure which material is best for your project, we will happily provide a recommendation. We have years of experience with powder-coated steel, stainless steel, HDPE solid plastic, phenolic, composite, and more. Plus, we understand that there are many factors, other than overall performance, to consider when selecting partitions – budget and aesthetics are two prominent examples. Call our friendly and knowledgeable sales staff at 800-298-9696 or email sales@partitionplus.com for assistance.