Plexiglass vs. Tempered Glass

Updated on November 21, 2017
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Joan has been writing professionally since 1988. She has written articles for publications such as Katy Magazine, eHow, and Triond.

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Plexiglass and tempered glass, both strong and transparent, have uses that are similar in nature.

Plexiglass, which is a 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 is often referred to as safety glass. To make it as strong and breakage resistant as it is, tempered 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 to five times stronger than other forms of glass.

Both plexiglass and tempered glass, while distinctly different, resist fractures, cracks, and splintering caused by stress or impact.

Colored Plexiglass Sheets
Colored Plexiglass Sheets | Source
Tempered glass, fractured but still in place.
Tempered glass, fractured but still in place. | Source

Advantages of Plexiglass and Tempered Glass

Plexiglass
Tempered Glass
Inexpensive
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
 

Disadvantages of Plexiglass and Tempered Glass

Plexiglass
Tempered 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 tempered glass, when it breaks, shatters into tiny pieces with rounded edges (like a pea), 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.

Cleaning and Maintaining Plexiglass and Tempered Glass

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 spritsing them with a water and dishwashing liquid solution, then rubbing them with a dust rag made from flannel, jersey or other soft, non-scratching fabric.
  • Clean plexiglass and tempered glass 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 damp flannel
  • Remove deeper scratches from plexiglass with sandpaper, starting with a rough 320 grit paper and moving to a sandpaper in the 500 to 600A grit range.

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