There are more items in your home made of vinyl and items that contain urethane than you may imagine. Vinyl and urethane-based materials form the fabric of everything from the keyboard to your computer to the case that holds the mechanics inside your laptop. Once you know what they are and how they're used, try examining your surroundings to identify items made of vinyl and those that contain urethane.
Vinyl is a synthetic, man-made material, made from ethylene sourced from crude oil, and chlorine sourced from common salt. The resulting combination of materials forms polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, resin, and what is commonly referred to as plastic. Vinyl is one of the world's most versatile and flexible materials. The original intent and objective of the scientists who invented vinyl was to produce a material that manufacturers could use to make products that were more durable, flexible and inexpensive to make. Vinyl has multiple properties and formats. It can be rigid, flexible, semi-liquid, clear or colored. The number and types of products made of vinyl is extensive, including everything from pipes to toys to wires to electronic equipment and even medical devices, clothing and automobiles.
Urethane is the name for the chemical group of materials composed of polymers. As a result, the terms urethane and polyurethane are used interchangeably. Urethanes are formed by combining urethane-based resins and urethane-based hardeners, which are composed of hydroxyl or amine components. When the resins and hardeners are combined, they form a chemical reaction, which results in a plastic material called a thermoset. Urethane-based thermoset materials possess physical and mechanical properties that are advantageous in developing products for consumer use. This includes the ability to withstand heat and weight, such as an outdoor resin lawn chair; resistance to mold and mildew, such as a plastic showerhead fixture; and the capability to withstand abrasion, tearing, and absorption of oil, solvents and water, such as everyday plastic containers to hold foods.
Vinyl and urethane are both synthetic materials, and commonly referred to as plastics. They adapt to molds to create a wide and diverse array of products. Products can be all vinyl or all urethane, or be combined with other materials to produce and manufacture products. For example, vinyl is used along with cloth to make trimmings for furnishings, and urethane is used along with metal to make a dashboard for an automobile.
Urethane has a far wider scope of applications than vinyl. This is because urethane is an actual base chemical and vinyl is a chemical byproduct. For example, polyesters, polyethers, diisoyanates and glycols are urethane-based materials. Urethane is a basic component, and required ingredient to make things such as synthetic fabrics. Because vinyl is a byproduct of a chemical reaction, it can be decomposed. Urethane, on the other hand, cannot be decomposed because it is a basic, raw chemical ingredient.
Cheryl Munson has been writing since 1990, with experience as a writer and creative director in the advertising industry. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism with a focus on advertising from the University of Wisconsin in Madison.