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Plexiglass Vs. Tempered Glass

Updated on August 27, 2012
Colored Plexiglass Sheets
Colored Plexiglass Sheets | Source
Tempered glass, fractured but still in place.
Tempered glass, fractured but still in place. | Source

By Joan Whetzel

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 4 to 5 times stronger than other forms of glass. Both plexiglass and tempered glass, while distinctly different, defy fractures, cracks, and splintering due to stress or impact.

Uses for Plexiglass and Tempered Glass

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. 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 a bit of care to keep them clean and to prevent scratching or etching.

· 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.

· Ammonia can be used to clean tempered glass. However, it will produce a cloudy appearance on plexiglass.

· 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.

Advantages of Plexiglass and Tempered Glass

The advantages of plexiglass:

· It's inexpensive.

· It's weather resistant.

· It comes in sheets, rods and tubes.

· Color and texture can be added.

· It can be cut with circular saws and routers.

· It can be drilled using steel drill bits with sharpened tips, as long as water is applied while drilling to keep the drill bit from overheating.

· It can be attached to other pieces of plexiglass using bolts, welding, or a special cement for plexiglass.

The advantages of tempered glass:

· It is produced in the desired shape and size for end use to prevent shattering due to drilling and cutting.

· It is ideal for cooking and baking dishes because it withstands constant heat up to 4700 Fahrenheit.

Disadvantages of Plexiglass and Tempered Glass

The disadvantages of plexiglass:

· Melting it releases dangerous fumes.

· The plexiglass cement, when used to seal joints in plexiglass, produces noxious fumes.

· It crazes under high stress.

· Solvents make the crazing worse.

· Ammonia, and ammonia-based cleaners cause it to become cloudy.

· Dropping plexiglass products causes chips, cracks and crazing.

· Rough treatment can damage it.

The disadvantages of tempered glass:

· When made with poor quality glass, allowing debris to fuse to its surface, it will have a scratched appearance.

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

· Objects thrown at it at speeds of 60 feet per second will also shatter it.

Solutions to the Disadvantages of Plexiglass and Tempered Glass

When working with plexiglass, always work in a well-ventilated work space to prevent the buildup of fumes. Guard against high stress loads and dropping, and don't tie it to the top of a vehicle when transporting it - to keep it from flying off the roof of the vehicle. Treating plexiglass furniture gently will help it last longer. Cleaning with soft fabrics will keep tempered glass from scratching. Protect it from objects being thrown at it or falling into it to keep it from shattering.


Acrylic Sheet Fabrication Manual: Plexiglass.

RPlastics - The Rideout Plastics Store: Cleaning Plexiglass Sheet.

Dulles Glass and Mirror: What is Tempered Shower Glass?

One Day Glass: Cutting Tempered Glass. Plexiglass.

GRAYGLASS: Tempered Glass.

Tempered Glass


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