Plastic Partition Materials: Phenolic vs. HDPE vs. Laminated

Plastic is a versatile material for toilet partitions, but not all plastics are the same. Phenolic, solid and laminated plastics are three of the most common types used in partitions. Each has its own unique advantages and disadvantages, which we will discuss further in this piece.

Phenolic Plastic Toilet Partitions

Phenolic plastics are synthetic resins made from condensed phenol and formaldehyde and bound together by a base material. Phenolic plastic are very tough materials that can handle a lot of physical abuse and are especially affordable to buy. They are also pretty resistant to high-temperatures and solvent cleaners that would normally dissolve other plastic materials.

Phenolic partitions, however, come only in dark colors because of how it darkens whenever it oxidizes. This is more an aesthetic than a practical consideration, although its vulnerability to bases and oxidizing chemicals is another matter. Phenolic partitions can see a lot of warping and discoloration if exposed to cleaners that use ammonia (a base) or chlorine (an oxidizer.) This is why cleaners and custodians must take great care to use mild solvent-based cleaners – or better yet plain old soap and water – to wipe off any stains and smudges.

High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) Plastic Partitions

HDPE is a high-density plastic that is catalyzed from ethylene and is highly resistant to many chemical cleaners out there including acids, bases and alcohols. It is extremely resistant to damage from all forms of moisture, as well as fungal growths like mold and mildew. It can also take a lot of physical punishment before failing and is pretty inexpensive compared to other types of partitions out there.

A major disadvantage of HDPE is that it is vulnerable to stress cracks, meaning that it has a tendency to shatter instead of be distorted when it is subjected to sufficient levels of force. This can present a significant danger to people, especially when someone accidentally falls on the partition with enough force to shatter it. HDPE also has a tendency to fade and become distorted when exposed to the elements and is a pretty flammable material unless heavily treated. This means the partitions must be shielded or placed away from direct sunlight while a no-smoking policy must be enforced in the bathrooms using HDPE partitions.

Laminated Plastic Partitions

Laminated plastic uses layers of cured polymers to create high-strength partitions that are extremely resistant to blunt force of all kinds. Laminated plastic is also pretty easy to clean thanks to its resistance to water and staining. Best of all is that laminated plastic can be layered on top of beautifully patterned materials; making it the ideal choice for a more aesthetically-pleasing set of partitions.

The main issue with laminated plastics is that somewhat less durable than the aforementioned plastics as it is significantly more vulnerable to chipping and cracking. It is also vulnerable to scratching, meaning that abrasive cleaners and implements cannot be used on laminated plastic. This is why cloth-based wipes or rags need to be used to clean laminated plastic.

Keep all this in mind and you’ll know exactly what kind of plastic toilet partition you’ll need for your bathrooms!