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Plexiglass vs. Tempered Glass

Joan has been writing professionally since 1988. She has written articles for publications such as Katy Magazine, eHow, and Triond.

Learn how plexiglass and tempered glass compare, and explore their typical uses.

Learn how plexiglass and tempered glass compare, and explore their typical uses.

How Acrylic Plexiglass Compares to Tempered Glass (Safety Glass)

Plexiglass and tempered glass, both strong and transparent, have uses that are similar in nature. While distinctly different, both types of glass resist fractures, cracks, and splintering caused by stress or impact.

  • Plexiglass: This clear, man-made plastic becomes soft and pliable with the application of heat and hardens when cooled. This heating and cooling process does not affect the primary makeup of the plexiglass.
  • Tempered Glass: This is often referred to as safety glass. To make it strong and breakage-resistant, this glass undergoes a process of firing with intense heat followed by a rapid cooling process, which creates a glass product that is up to four or five times stronger than other forms of glass.
This is a stack of rectangles cut from plexiglass.

This is a stack of rectangles cut from plexiglass.

Tempered glass is also known as safety glass because it fractures into small, rounded pieces instead of sharp splinters.

Tempered glass is also known as safety glass because it fractures into small, rounded pieces instead of sharp splinters.


PlexiglassTempered Glass


Produced in desired shape and size, removing need to drill or cut

Weather resistant

Ideal for cooking and baking as it withstands temperatures up to 470 degrees Fahrenheit

Comes in sheets, rods, and tubes

Color and texture can be added

Can be cut with circular saws and routers

Can be drilled using steel drill bits (as long as water is applied to prevent overheating)

Can be attached to other pieces of plexiglass using bolts, welds, or cement


PlexiglassTempered Glass

Burning it releases dangerous fumes

When made with low-quality glass, it will have a scratched appearance

Plexiglass cement, when used to seal joints, releases noxious fumes

Stresses of 24,000 pounds per square inch (PSI) or more will fracture it

It crazes under high stress, leaving a network of lines and shallow cracks on the surface

Objects thrown at it at speeds of 60 feet per second or faster will shatter it

Solvents make crazing worse

Ammonia and ammonia-based cleaners cause it to become cloudy

It can be chipped

Uses for Plexiglass

Plexiglass is used in products such as balcony barriers and windows with a high likelihood of breaking or shattering, as well as display cases for commercial use.

Uses for Tempered Glass

Showers, mirrors, and glass fixtures used in bathrooms can only be constructed from tempered glass. That's because it shatters into tiny pieces with rounded edges (like a pea) when it breaks, rather than splintering into sharp-edged fragments.

Tempered glass is also used for glass shelving, windshields and fixtures, fireplace screens, eyeglass, and medical equipment for this reason. It is considered safe under conditions where other forms of glass, when broken, would cause injuries to people and pets.

How to Clean and Maintain These Materials

Plexiglass and tempered glass take a bit of care to keep them clean and to prevent scratching or etching. Make sure to:

  • Dust plexiglass and tempered glass by spritzing them with a water-and-dishwashing-liquid solution, then rubbing them with a dust rag made from flannel, jersey, or another soft, non-scratching fabric.
  • Clean both materials with a mild soap, rinse with water, and polish with a wet chamois.
  • For plexiglass with small scratches, buff out the scratches by hand. Then apply polish and wipe it down it with a damp flannel.
  • Remove deeper scratches from plexiglass with sandpaper, starting with a rough 320 grit paper and moving to sandpaper in the 500 to 600A grit range.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2012 Joan Whetzel


scott on June 16, 2018:

Bottom line plexiglas or plexiglass is not glass and never will be glass. These are to different products. Many cell phone protective screen covers claim to be tempered glass but in most cases they are plexiglas, that is a selling tool only. Glass is heavy than plastic but I feel glass cleans up better than plexiglas and glass is more scratch resistant. Look at any cellphone cover IF IT WAS GLASS it would not scratch like they do. Of corse the 100% glass could shatter or crack. But the bottom line is they are to different products.

Jason from Indianapolis, IN. USA on September 28, 2017:

Would like to point out the difference between extruded and cast acrylic. Extruded has a lower melting point and is ideal for heat shaping and dip dyeing. Cast acrylic is higher melting, optically more clear, it the grade when machining is necessary. In fact many operations with cast acrylic can be done without coolant if you go slow and steady.

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on July 15, 2016:

this is a very nice article about plexiglass and tempered glass, and their uses. It's always nice to know what the options are out their, and how they compare to one another.

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