Choosing toilet partitions: Solid plastic vs. phenolic finish

Lifestyle | 22 May |

Solid plastic and phenolic are well-known materials in the public restroom space as they are two of the best possible materials that can be used for toilet cubicles. This article discusses the different properties of these materials and highlights their differences to allow you to choose the material that best suits you.

If you’ve ever gone shopping for toilet partitions for your public restroom projects, you’ll know that solid plastic and phenolic partitions are among the most expensive materials to choose from. Their steep price tags are definitely justified as they’re also among the strongest partition materials.

Although they’re similar in many ways, they each have their own unique properties that set them apart. It’s important to understand these properties in order to accurately select the right partition material for your project.

Properties of Solid Plastic (HDPE) Toilet Partitions

Solid plastic is also known as high-density polyethylene or HDPE. It’s a heavy duty material that’s well renowned in public restrooms as toilet cubicles.

They are durable and moisture resistant. This means that it would take a lot to damage this material. Even vandalism isn’t a problem for this material as it is strong enough to resist minor scratches. Its laminated surface is graffiti resistant as well. You need not worry about having to coat your partitions with protective substances even after many years as HDPE doesn’t de-laminate.

Given all this, it’s no surprise that most facility owners prefer this material for their public toilet cubicles despite its high price tag.

How the Material Is Made

High-density polyethylene is made by applying intense heat to petroleum. This process is called “cracking” and it creates ethylene gas. The gas molecules then group together to form polymers which in turn produce polyethylene in a sludgy state. This hardens into a strong plastic after being put through a number of molds.

This material is usually used to create sturdy jugs used to store liquids like bleach and laundry detergent. When turned into toilet cubicles, they are made thicker. HDPE’s high strength to density ratio means that the thicker the material, the stronger they are.

What Sets It Apart From the Rest?

What makes solid plastic partitions different from the rest is that it has anti-microbial properties. Mold and mildew can never grow on your solid plastic partition, making it ideal for public restrooms as they are susceptible to mold and mildew growth.

Maintenance of HDPE Partitions

Maintaining solid plastic partitions is easy. Aside from being mold and mildew resistant, they also do not rot, rust, oxidize, or de-laminate. Because they are not porous, they also don’t absorb odor.

Loose dirt can be removed quickly with a mixture of water and a mild cleaning agent using a damp cloth. Because this material is not porous, any cleaning product used on it may easily be rinsed off with water without damaging it.

It takes a lot to stain HDPE. But when stains do happen, non-abrasive and industrial strength cleaning products are safe to use on these partitions.

Summary of Pros and Cons

PROS

• Durable

• Water and moisture resistant

• Mold and mildew resistant

• Rust-proof

• Doesn’t de-laminate

• Doesn’t absorb odor

• Graffiti resistant

CONS

• Expensive

• Not fire retardant

Properties of Phenolic Toilet Partitions

Phenolic partitions have proven to be more durable than solid plastic. In fact, they may even be the most durable partition material, second only to stainless steel. Because of the durability of this material, they can last for a long time, making their high price tag worth the investment.

Like HDPE, phenolic is water and moisture-proof as well. This material also does not rot, rust, absorb odor, or de-laminate. Thus, making maintenance as easy as can be. The only thing cleaners really have to look out for is mold and mildew as this material doesn’t have the anti-microbial properties HDPE has.

This material performs well in high-traffic and vandalism prone areas. It’s graffiti and wear-resistant, making it hard to scratch and resistant to fading or peeling.

How the Material Is Made

Phenolic starts out as multiple layers of kraft paper that are saturated in resin. The saturated layers are then put under intense heat and pressure. This triggers a chemical reaction called polymerization that transforms the saturated layers into phenolic.

What Sets It Apart From the Rest?

Safety-conscious facility owners choose to go with phenolic for their toilet cubicles because this material is flame retardant. You don’t need to coat it with additional layers of flame retardant substances.

Maintenance of Phenolic Partitions

As with HDPE partitions, the maintenance of phenolic partitions is easy. General cleaning would only require the use of a gentle cloth or a soft-bristled brush with a mixture of warm water and mild soap.

Even if this material is very durable, it isn’t advisable to clean it with intense cleaners and bleach-based cleaners. They may damage and discolor the phenolic.

Any cleaning product may be safely rinsed off with water. Once dry, the material may be topped off with furniture polish to keep it looking good as new.

Summary of Pros and Cons

PROS

• Durable

• Water and moisture resistant

• Rust-proof

• Wear resistant

• Graffiti resistant

• Doesn’t absorb odor

• Fire retardant

CONS

• Expensive

• Not mold and mildew resistant

Quick Summary

Both solid plastic and phenolic partitions are durable, making them perfect for high-traffic areas. They’re also great for vandalism prone areas as they have anti-graffiti properties.

Both materials are water and moisture proof, making them ideal for humid, high-moisture areas. They’re practically made for public restrooms on beaches and pools. For the same reason, they would make great shower partitions, as well.

Maintenance for both materials is easy. Cleaning is a breeze and you won’t have to worry about ever needing to have them repainted as they don’t de-laminate.

Solid plastic has the upper hand, though, when it comes to anti-microbial properties. You don’t have to worry about mold and mildew growth on your solid plastic partition. Unless cleaned religiously, mold and mildew will eventually grow on phenolic partitions.

On the other hand, unlike solid plastic partitions, phenolic partitions are fire-retardant. This makes them naturally safer than their solid plastic counterpart. Unless painted over with fire-retardant coatings, solid plastic will burn.

Price-wise, they’re both in the expensive side of the spectrum. However, phenolic partitions are more expensive than solid plastic ones.

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