As an affordable and durable alternative to regular glass, plexiglass — or acrylic sheet — has become extremely popular for a wide range of uses. Despite its name, however, plexiglass isn’t actually glass.
Plexiglass is made from a thermoplastic polymer known as polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA). It’s more durable and shatter resistant than glass, so it’s used for windows, skylights, hospital equipment, protective barriers, and more. It’s also easy to customize, making it ideal for displays and signs.
Let’s take a closer look at what plexiglass actually is, what it’s most commonly used for, whether it’s easy to cut, and the best way to go about cleaning it.
Is Plexiglass Actually Glass?
No, plexiglass isn’t glass. Plexiglass is a type of plastic that’s made from a thermoplastic polymer called polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), while glass is a solid material that’s typically made by melting silica or other minerals.
Nonetheless, plexiglass — sometimes shortened to just ‘plexi — is often used as a substitute for glass, which is where many people get confused.
That said, plexiglass and glass have some important differences. Plexiglass is more shatter resistant and durable than glass, but it also scratches more easily. Caring for plexiglass is also somewhat different than caring for regular glass.
What Is Plexiglass Most Commonly Used For?
Plexiglass has a variety of different uses, including the following:
Skylights and Windows
Many of the windows you see in residences and businesses aren’t real glass; they’re plexiglass. The durability of plexi makes it a great alternative, and it can also easily be molded into different shapes to suit the building.
Plexiglass also has the same optical clarity and visibility as glass, meaning the view from the window won’t be compromised.
Signs and Displays
The fact that it’s easy to customize plexiglass means it’s great for displays and signs in places like offices, museums, and other public spaces.
Although not entirely bulletproof or shatterproof, plexiglass can make a great protective barrier in restaurants and retail stores. For example, plexiglass can be used to protect employees from germs and bacteria.
When layered together and reinforced with other materials, plexiglass can even work in more dangerous situations where someone might actually need protection from weapons.
Plexiglass is a great choice for hospital equipment, such as incubators.
Plexiglass works well for aquariums because it allows a clear view into the tank while also protecting the creatures inside.
Lastly, plexiglass works well for lighting fixtures because it allows the light source to shine through while protecting the bulb. Car manufacturers often use it for car headlights.
Is Plexiglass Easy to Cut?
Plexiglass is generally considered easy to cut. Plexiglass can be cut using common tools such as a circular saw (on Amazon), jigsaw, or handsaw. It can also be scored with a knife and then snapped along the scored line, similar to cutting glass.
However, it’s important to note that plexiglass can be more brittle than other materials, so care should be taken to avoid cracking or chipping it during the cutting process.
Although plexiglass is mostly considered shatterproof, that doesn’t mean it’s invincible. You should avoid cutting too quickly or applying too much pressure. Additionally, using a guide or template can help ensure a straight and accurate cut.
How Do You Clean Plexiglass?
Cleaning plexiglass is simple and easy, which is another reason why it’s such a popular alternative to glass. Remove any dust or loose debris from the surface of the plexiglass using a dry microfiber cloth (which you can buy on Amazon) or a soft-bristled brush.
Then, make a a cleaning solution by mixing a few drops of mild dish soap (also on Amazon) with warm water in a bucket or container. Dip a clean, soft cloth into the cleaning solution and wring out any excess water.
Gently wipe the plexiglass with the damp cloth, being careful not to apply too much pressure or scrub too vigorously, as this can scratch or damage the surface. Then, rinse the plexiglass thoroughly with clean water to remove any soap residue. You can then let it air dry or dry it with a cloth — your choice!
There are a few things to avoid when cleaning plexiglass, including:
- Using an abrasive tool or material, like a harsh steel wool
- Using ammonia-based cleaners
- Scrubbing too hard on the plexiglass
If there are especially stubborn stains on the plexiglass, then a specialized plexiglass cleaner (on Amazon) might be necessary. Alternatively, you could hire a professional to do the cleaning job for you. A cleaner will come equipped with specialized tools and products to do the job properly.
All in all, plexiglass is a solid alternative to glass with many clear advantages. However, to get the most out of plexiglass, it’s important to take proper care of it and avoid common cleaning mistakes.