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What are Polyethylene Tarps?

By R. Kayne
Updated May 17, 2024
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Polyethylene tarps or tarpaulins are rip-stop, lightweight plastic tarps with excellent wear, low-moisture and stain-resistant properties. This makes them a superior choice for many uses over traditional canvas tarps.

Many people are familiar with the bright blue polyethylene tarp with aluminum grommets at each corner. Grommets are also placed at intervals along the edge so that the tarps can be tied down with rope or secured with bungee cords. Though blue is the most common color, they also come in other colors including silver or gray, white, green, clear and black. Thickness or density also varies, as does size, and some polyethylene tarps are UV-treated to provide extended life in constant sunlight, while the silver tarps divert heat.

Polyethylene tarps can be used for so many applications the list is virtually inexhaustible. Homeowner uses range from covering woodpiles, barbecues, lawn equipment and boats; to camping uses like providing clean ground cover, a shade canopy or tent fly. Swimming pool covers are also made from polyethylene that is characterized by its ability to float.

Commercially, huge polyethylene tarps are used to cover tennis courts and baseball fields in the rain to keep the ground from getting too wet to play. They are also used to protect gym floors and basketball courts. Truckers use polyethylene tarps for covering trailers, pallets, hay and other payloads. Special heavy-duty insulated tarps have a polyester fill for keeping out heat and cold.

Polyethylene is one of the most popular and versatile plastics in the world. Different grades are used for varying applications, from branched or low-density polyethylene, called LDPE, to linear polyethylene, or HDPE. The former is much stronger than the latter, but low-density polyethylene is less expensive and easier to manufacture. Grocery bags, squeeze bottles, freezer bags, children's toys, wire and cable insulation, pond liners and even bulletproof vests are a few examples of items made from varying densities and weaves of polyethylene.

Mildew and rot resistant, tough and long lasting, if you need something kept dry or shielded from the weather, if you need shade or protection, a polyethylene tarp will do the job!

About Mechanics is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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