About Chemical Resistance in Plastic Materials

Polymers' chemical resistance stands as a complex topic with true chemical resistance depending on other factors such as temperature, concentration, and exposure time. While this section pertains mostly to those specifically in Life Sciences, many concepts still carry over. We have a more general chemical compatibility chart for most popular plastic materials applicable to those in other industries. Explore our general chemical resistance chart here.  Please note that actual suitability hinges largely on the application, i.e. how that chemical will interact with the product's core material.

We can offer starting suggestions about which material may be appropriate. However, the customer must independently determine suitability of the material for their application. We are happy to provide test coupons to help support testing protocols.

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Buffers are an aqueous solution consisting of a mixture of a weak acid and its conjugate base, or vice versa. Its pH changes very little when a small amount of strong acid or base is added to it. Buffer solutions are used as a means of keeping pH at a nearly constant value in a wide variety of chemical applications. Generally, those in the life sciences and research will use buffers for molecular, protein, nucleic acid, and cell biology applications. These include cell culture, electrophoresis, ELISA, and chromatography processes.

The coordinating chart here details which popular plastic materials can hold their own against these commonly used buffers. Use this as a reference point for further researching which material might suit your application best.

Buffers What's in it: Common Applications:
ABSAcrylicCOPCPVCDelrin/AcetalHDPENorylNylon 66PBTPCPEEKPESPETPolysulfonePPPPSPTFEPVCPVDFTorlonUHMWUltem
Tris-Buffered Saline (TBS)Tris(hydroxymethyl)aminomethane (tris)-buffered salineUsed to dilute substances used in laboratory experiments. Often used in immuno-blotting for both membrane washing and antibody dilution
Tris-EDTA (TE)2-amino-2-(hydroxymethyl)propane-1,3-diol;2-[2-[bis(carboxymethyl)amino]ethyl-(carboxymethyl)amino]acetic acidTris and EDTA are two major components which are used throughout the DNA extraction protocol. Tris and EDTA are applicable in lysis buffer preparation, elution buffer preparation and washing buffer preparation.
Tris-Acetate-EDTA Buffer
HEPES Buffered Saline (HBS)(4-(2-hydroxyethyl)-1-piperazineethanesulfonic acid)Widely used in cell culture, largely because it is better at maintaining physiological pH.
Trizma (Tris base)Tris(hydroxymethyl)aminomethaneFrequently used buffer in cell and molecular biology experiments. Used to increase permeability of cell membranes. It is a component of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.
Denhardt’s Solution0 mG Bovine Serum Albumin (BSA), 50 mG Ficoll, and 50 mG Polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP).block non-specific binding sites in western, northern and Southern blot membranes
Bicine buffer
Phosphate Buffered Saline, PBSPBS contains 3.2 mM Na2HPO4, 0.5 mM KH2PO4, 1.3 mM KCl, 137 mM NaCl, pH 7.4.suitable for biochemistry or molecular biology applications requiring a chelator of divalent metal ions.
Dulbecco’s Phosphate Buffered Saline (DPBS)
Annexin V Binding Buffer
Sodium Citrate Solution1M sodium citrate in H2OA to 100% to 190FA to 70FA to 70FA to 70FA to 70FA to 70FA to 70FA to 70FAB to 140FA to 140FA to 70F
Sodium Acetate Solution*Also see Sodium Acetate belowB at 70FA to 140FA to 225F no stressA to 100% to 180FA to 100% to 160F, no stressA to 130FAB to 100% to 80FA to 130FA to 70FA to 100% to 70FA to 70FA to 100% to 80FA to 100% to 200FA to 100% to 225F no stressA to 100% to 200FA to 100% to 500FA to 100% to 160F no stressA to 100% to 275FA to 60% to 70FA to 100% to 140FA solution to 70F

Many of these may be used in buffer solutions.

General Bioreagents (Acid/Base) What's in it: Common Applications: ABS Acrylic COP CPVC Delrin/Acetal HDPE Noryl Nylon 66 PBT PC PEEK PES PET Polysulfone PP PPS PTFE PVC PVDF Torlon UHMW Ultem
DMSODimethyl SulfoxideUsed in polymerase chain reaction (PCR), amplification of cDNA libraries, DNA sequencing, column-loading buffers for poly(A)+ RNA selection, buffers for the transformation of competent E. coli, transfection protocolsNR at 70FANR at 70FNR at 70FA to 122FA to 200FA to 70FC at 70FNR at 70FB to 212FNR at 70FNR at 70FA to 125 FA to 200FA to 500 FNR at 70FNR 100% at 70FSWELLS
Ethanol SolutionUsed in the purification and precipitation of biomolecules, in staining and restaining specimens in histology, in dehydrating tissues before embedding, and in disinfection.AB to 70F no stressNR to 100% to 70F C to 70% to 70F A to 50% to 70FAA to 225F no stressA to 100% to 140FA to 100% to 160F no stressA to 100% to 80FA to 100% to 70FA to 140FA to 90% to 90F AB to 100% to 70F B to 100% to 120FA to 100%to 212FAB to 70FA to 100% to 70FB to 100% to 120FA to 100% to 225FA to 100% to 300FA to 100% at 500FA to 100% 270FA to 100% to 176FA to 70FA to 100% to 170FA to 70F
Sodium hypochlorite"liquid bleach"Inhibits microbial growthNR to 70FA to 100% to 140FA to 15% to 140FNR to 5% to 70FA to 100% to 160FAB to 100% to 200FNR to 5% to 70FA to 10% to 70FAB to 100% to 70FAB to 100% to 212FB to 100% to 70FA to 5% to 70F NR to 100% to 70FA to 100% to 200FC to 14% to 70FNR to 100% to 70FA to 100% to 500FA to 12.5% to 140FA to 17% to 280FA to 15% to 70FA to 100% to 170FNR to 5% to 70F
Hydrogen peroxideInhibits microbial growthNR at 100% at 70F A to 10% to 70FA to 63% to 100FANR to 100% at 70FNR at 70FAB to 100% to 70FNR at 100% to 70FNR at 70FA to 90%to 130F B at 100% at 70FA to 100% to 125FA to 100% to 212FA to 100% to 70FA to 90% to 80FA to 100% 10 70FNR at 100% at 70FNR to 50-100% at 70FA to 100% to 500FAB to 100% to 100FA to 100% to 200FA to 100% to 70FA to 90% to 70F
Sodium Acetatesodium salt of acetic acidSodium acetate is used as the carbon source for culturing bacteria. Sodium acetate is also useful for increasing yields of DNA isolation by ethanol precipitation.B at 70FA to 140FA to 225F no stressA to 100% to 180FA to 100% to 160F, no stressA to 130FAB to 100% to 80FA to 130FA to 70FA to 100% to 70FA to 70FA to 100% to 80FA to 100% to 200FA to 100% to 225F no stressA to 100% to 200FA to 100% to 500FA to 100% to 160F no stressA to 100% to 275FA to 60% to 70FA to 100% to 140FA solution to 70F
ImidazoleImidazole can be used to elute tagged proteins bound to nickel ions attached to the surface of beads in the chromatography column. Used in buffer solutions.
Urea SolutionCarbamidecommonly used for sample preparation prior to
electrophoretic methods. Urea is also used to facilitate enzymatic digestion of proteins for analysis by mass spectrometry."B at 70FAA to 100% to 225F no stressA to 100% to 70FA to 100% to 160FA to 150FA to 100% to 70FNR at 70FNR at 70FA to 212FAC at 70FC at 70FA to 100% to 225F no stressA to 100% to 200FA to 100% to 500FA to 100% to 160F no stressA to 100% to 250FA to 70F
10M Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH)Used for many applications including adjusting the pH of various solutions.AB to 100% to 70FNR at 70FA to 100% to 150FNR at 70FA to 100% to 140FA to 100% to 185FA to 100% to 70FNR at 70FNR at 70FA to 100% to 70FA to 54% to 70FNR at 70FA to 50F to 125FA to 100% to 125FA to 100% to 70FA to 100% to 480FA to 100% to 140FNR at 70FNR at 70FA to 100% to 170FNR at 70F
Potassium SaltA to 140FA to 225F no stressA to 70FA to 140FA to 150FA to 70FA to 70FA to 70FA to 212FA to 70FA to 70FA to 200FA to 100% to 150FA to 200FA to 500FA to 100% to 160FA to 100% to 275FA to 70FA to 70F
Potassium ChlorideA to 100% to 70FA to 100F to 140FA to 100% to 225FA to 100% to 180FA to 100% to 160F no stressA to 100% to 150FA to 100% to 70FA to 100% to 80FA to 100% to 70FA to 100% to 212FA to 80FA to 200FA to 100% to 225FA to 100% to 200FA to 100% to 500FA to 100% to 160FA to 100% to 275FA to 90% to 70FA to 70F
Potassium Phosphate
Sodium ChlorideA to 100% to 70FA to 100% 140FAA to 100% to 225F no stressA to 100% to 70FA 100% to 160FA to 100% to 200FA to 100% to 70FA to 100% to 80FA to 100% to 120FA to 100% to 212FA to 70FA to 100% to 70FA to 100% to 200FA to 100% to 225FA to 100% to 200FA to 100% to 500FA to 100% to 160FA to 100% to 275FA to 100% to 70FA to 170FA to 70F
Zinc ChlorideUsed in water treatment, dry cell batteries,A to 100% to 70FA to 100% to 70FA to 225F no stressNR to 100% to 70FA to 100% to 180FA to 70FNR to 100% to 70FA to 100% to 80FA to 140FA to 100% to 212FA to 80FA to 300FA to 100% to 225F no stressA to 100% to 200FA to 100% to 500FA to 100% to 160F no stressA to 100% to 275FA to 170FA to 10% to 70F
HCLUsed as a standard and as a strong acid for pH maintenanceBC to 100% to 70FNR at 70FANR to 75-100% 176FNR to 100% at 70FA to 100% to 140FaA to 100% to 180FNR to 100% to 70FNR to 100% to 70FNR at 70FA to 100% to 212FA to 60% to 140FNR to 100% at 70FA to 100% to 70FA to 100% to 70FNR at 70FA to 100% to 500FNR at 100% to 70FA to 50% to 175FAB to 37% to 200FA to 100% to 140FA to 100% to 70F
Disodium Phosphate SolutionBuffer componentA to 235F no stressA to 140FA to 160FA to 225F no stressA to 500FA to 140FAB to 100% to 280F
MethanolA
Octanol
PropanolA
Monosodium Phosphate Solution (1M)Buffer component

STERILIZATION COMPATIBILITY

There are a few different ways to sterilize a plastic manifold including Autoclave, Dry Heat, Ethylene Oxide (EtO), Gamma Irradiation, and Electron Beam sterilization. To give a brief overview of each method:

  • Autoclave/Steam Sterilization

    Uses steam under pressure to sterilize components and parts. This process generates or injects steam into a pressure chamber between 250-300°F (121-148°C) at 15 psi.

  • Dry Heat

    Uses hot air to sterilize at significantly higher temperatures than autoclaving. This process makes it difficult to ensure the entire part reaches the necessary temperature for plastics with low thermal conductivity.

  • Ethylene Oxide (EtO)

    Uses a gaseous form of the sterilant to disrupt microbial DNA and their protein synthesis. Most use this process for plastics that cannot tolerate heat or radiation — commonly in single-use medical devices. This process often requires careful handling as the gas is flammable and poisonous.
    Because of the challenges associated with this method, it is more common for high volume sterilizations.

  • Gamma Irradiation

    Uses ionizing radiation to disrupt microbial DNA by exposing manifolds to gamma rays, typically from Cobalt-60.

  • Electron Beam Sterilization

    Uses high-energy electrons to disrupt microbial DNA reproduction. It generates a higher dose rate than gamma irradiation, which means it has a lower exposure time and less degradation. However, this sterilization process has significantly lower penetrating power than gamma, making material density important.

We only state these as a brief primer. We strongly urge you to seek information from credible and reliable experts to get more in-depth understanding of each process. This also serves to give more foundational knowledge on which plastics can handle the sterilization process your product needs to withstand.

Here is a chart that we put together that shows which materials can handle which sterilization processes. We only mean for you to use this as a reference.

Sterilization Compatibility
AutoclaveDry HeatEthylene Oxide (EtO)Gamma IrradiationElectron Beam
ABSPoorPoorGoodGoodGood
AcetalGoodGoodGoodPoorPoor
Acrylic 1,2PoorPoorGoodGoodGood
Celazole
CPVC
CTFE
ECTFEGoodGoodGoodGoodGood
ETFEGoodGoodGoodGoodGood
HDPEPoorPoorGoodGoodGood
Noryl
Nylatron
NylonFairFairGoodFairFair
PBTFairFairGoodGoodGood
PeekGoodGoodGoodGoodGood
PESGoodGoodGood
PETPoorPoorGoodGoodGood
Polycarbonate 1,2FairFairGoodGoodGood
PolysulfoneGoodGoodGoodGoodGood
PP 1GoodFairGoodFairFair
PPSGoodGoodGoodGoodGood
PVC 1,2PoorPoorGoodFairFair
PVDFPoorGoodGood
Teflon® 1FairFairGoodPoorPoor
Torlon
UHMWPoorPoorGoodGoodGood
Ultem®FairFairGoodGoodGood

1: Radiation stable grades need to be used for radiation sterilization.

2: Require corrective tint to compensate for discoloration. Data courtesy of Industrial Specialties Mfg.

Chart on gamma radiation sterilization

Courtesy of Professional Plastics