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What is PVC Pipe?

By Shannon Kietzman
Updated May 17, 2024
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Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipe is made from a plastic and vinyl combination material. The pipes are durable, hard to damage, and long lasting. They do not rust, rot, or wear over time. For that reason, PVC piping is most commonly used in water systems, underground wiring, and sewer lines.

PVC was first developed in 1925 when a BF Goodrich employee, Dr. Waldo Semon, attempted to invent a method for bonding metal and rubber. After blending materials together to create a strong and flexible material, Semon discovered PVC. Nonetheless, the product remained virtually useless for another decade. In the late 1930s, it was found to have great shock absorbing abilities. This discovery led to the creation of long lasting PVC tire treads.

Two decades later, PVC pipe was invented. By heating PVC, a machine called an extruder could be used to push it into hollow pipes. This made piping that was extremely solid and virtually indestructible. Using these pipes for irrigation systems proved to be effective, and PVC pipe has since been considered an affordable and reliable means for water piping.

Due to the ability of PVC pipe to withstand extreme movement and bending, it is also increasingly used in earthquake prone areas; it can withstand the rigorous shaking of the earth without experiencing any damage. The smooth surface of pipe is also resistant to bacterial contamination, such as E. coli. Therefore, many water companies rely on PVC pipes in their systems in order to keep them free of contamination.

For most uses, this type of piping is considered very safe. There have been some reported cases of the pipe shattering when used to transport high-pressured gases, however, and it is not recommended for this use in most circumstances. Studies also showed that PVC pipe produced before the mid-1970s could leach chemicals into the fluids flowing through them, but changes in manufacturing methods have reduced this risk significantly.

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Discussion Comments

By anon998438 — On Jun 12, 2017

How is this world so stupid that it's poisoning itself?

Look at post 14, "we process" "extremely safe." This is why we are being poisoned. Some people have no morals, or brain. pushing toxins on others because of their cause. People who are ignorant are being taken advantage of, and normally this goes paired with finances. PVC is easy and cheap, also highly toxic with compounds that do not break down and end up in the water.

It makes me angry that people knowingly hurt others for a tiny bit of personal gain they could have achieved otherwise.

It makes me upset that this world is still letting the incompetent and evil have so much control of it. And that is what it is: people let them, by being ignorant, cheap, or greedy.

And yes, we get cancers and immune deficiencies because of the toxins we take it, and the poor quality, low nutritious food we eat. Pretty much every modern increase of disease is simply because of our environment being polluted.

By anon995242 — On Apr 14, 2016

Our storage items are made from high pressure PVC piping. These are specifically designed for butcheries. Our distributors are now requesting specifications of the raw material and confirmation that it is safe if it comes into contact with food. Although the units are intended for labels and plastic bottles and should not come into contact with food, regulations still require the necessary information. Information on the Internet is vast. We need something compact and to the point.

By Boodog — On Jan 30, 2014

Are the PVC pipes used to connect my water heater to the tap safe?

I cringe every time I take a shower and try to let as little water get in my mouth as possible. Should I replace them with copper?

By anon357446 — On Dec 04, 2013

Moldex pipes are known for their excellent PVC pipes.

By anon344455 — On Aug 09, 2013

I discovered a 4" white pcv pipe buried 18" below the surface in my front yard. I plan on putting landscape rock on top. Will it be OK to dump two tons of stone on it so I can spread it out or should I have it dumped elsewhere and wheel barrel it to fill an 11' x 18'. The pipe is in the front yard and runs from the left of my house diagonally down toward the street.

By anon337441 — On Jun 05, 2013

I am considering repiping a slab house that was plumbed with polybutylene. For the attic repipe, would pEX or PVC/CPVC be better? I'm told PVC will degrade due to extreme temperature variations in attic.

By gur5mic — On Mar 28, 2012

There are two pipe thread standards:

1)NPT

2)NPSM

My question to you is: Which standard is used for kitchen and bath room sink p-trap?

By anon230869 — On Nov 21, 2011

I seem to be having a reaction to something in my new apartment, built around late '50s early '60s.

There is a smell like hot plastic in the hallway and it makes my tongue feel numb. The 'smell' has gotten into my clothing, I smell it on my skin. The smell-odor is very caustic. Could this be old pvc pipes reacting to hot water flowing through them?

I don't want to have the problems some of these folks have had!

By anon162854 — On Mar 25, 2011

Pvc pipe produces dioxin when it burns, so use it but don't burn it.

By anon157710 — On Mar 03, 2011

@q33: PVC is made using chlorine gases and is usually pretty stable after production. Pipe that is manufactured for the purpose of waste water transfer should not be used to hold drinking water, or allow the polymer to break down through sanding or heat being applied. Putting this in your mouth may not be the most appropriate use for this product.

By anon157708 — On Mar 03, 2011

@32: HDPE is much stronger than UPVC.

By anon157707 — On Mar 03, 2011

@23: The basic plumbing pipe length for a PVC pipe, say for a drain, is six meters long.

By anon157706 — On Mar 03, 2011

@22: Pvc glue that is blue or clear is for non pressure applications like drains and storm water pipes, green is for pressure applications like irrigation systems. There is also glues for pvc used in fire sprinkler pipe applications and rapid setting glues all have a color code.

By anon157704 — On Mar 03, 2011

@18 PVC tends to begin to break down when exposed to petroleum based products. I think PVC would not be compatible with long term exposure to diesel

By anon157701 — On Mar 03, 2011

To recycle PVC requires some specialised equipment. The product basically needs to be milled down to a sort of pulp then heated to an optimum temp and re-extruded to create say a pipe. So I would guess the best place to check for PVC recycling would be a manufacturer of PVC products, since the cost of set up would pay itself off through reproduction.

By anon152505 — On Feb 14, 2011

Plastic pipes have ruined my life. After exposure to a severely toxic substance that was somehow bonded or blended with the plastic pipe, I developed an allergy. It might what is known as a "secondary" allergy. Nonetheless, it is absolute hell! Apartment managers, friends and family, no one understood and thought my need to replace all piping with copper, or other metal, was paranoid and being a hypochondriac.

Lab testing shows I am not allergic to 50 different toxins found in household substances (like latex. Do not eat latex) but one turned the skin, tested twice, a shiny black color like a lead pencil on paper: Mercaptopbenzothiazole. It is used to coat these plastic/rubber materials with extra waterproofing and is also found in wet suits, bottom of carpeting, soles of shoes, but most miserably in the tubing material used as pipes in so many homes. The substance did one thing more than any other to my health: I had to pee and constantly felt like it. My bladder became permanently damaged from the constant inflammation and I went through years of treatment and surgery. I looked up the substance and it is most notably known in its worst case scenario to account for one cancer 99.9 percent above any other: the bladder, for example, workers making this substance, that is those closest to the pure material raw before solidity, had this.

I can't have this substance even in the apartment above me! It makes me embarrassed begging the upstairs neighbor to let the plumber in to do a $400 job I've paid for to get all plastic changed to non-toxic metal. And unfortunately, the owner doesn't feel it is a conspiracy that the property management shows a unit with copper piping and thinks a tenant like me won't notice a replacement. The new shiny white pipe with the 99 cent sticker still on it is now in my beautiful apartment and must be removed or else I will suffer. That two feet of piping.

You have no clue what i go through. That stupid stupid piping. I've done research and plumbing manuals felt it was perfectly healthy as of 2007 and it turned up everywhere! Now guess what? Healthy? Not so much.

By anon141079 — On Jan 09, 2011

do they make pvc for cold weather that doesn't freeze right away?

By anon135143 — On Dec 17, 2010

what are pvc pipes usually used for?

By anon127675 — On Nov 17, 2010

I've made panpipes from pvc pipe. I've been told that sanding the pvc pipe is not safe. Is this true?

By anon125627 — On Nov 10, 2010

Are PVC pipes stronger than HDPE pipes? --Bakht

By anon118192 — On Oct 13, 2010

Can we use pvc for diesel?

By anon113534 — On Sep 24, 2010

I would like to use leftover pvc to cast handles on silverware to be used by handicapped people. how hot do I need to get the PVC to liquefy it?

I know that it can be formed using a hot box with heat lamps. Tom

By anon112305 — On Sep 19, 2010

what is the maximum allowable temperature for pvc pipe for handling hot water and co2 gas?

By anon110176 — On Sep 10, 2010

how do you make a mast out of a pvc pipe?

By anon106540 — On Aug 26, 2010

what is meant by 4kgf in pvc pipes?

By anon104623 — On Aug 17, 2010

what is the thickness of a pvc pipe?

By anon89883 — On Jun 13, 2010

Can a weedeater cause a hairline crack or tiny holes in pvc pipe? The water line from the street into the house.

By anon79437 — On Apr 22, 2010

To answer question 23, a piece of regular PVC pipe, on average, is 10 feet. I know this because my dad works for DirecTV and I asked him about it because I'm doing my science fair project on it. hope this helped.

By anon77926 — On Apr 16, 2010

how long is a regular PVC pipe?

By anon73917 — On Mar 30, 2010

I have seen both blue and clear pvc cement. Is there a difference in the products?

By anon72508 — On Mar 23, 2010

what is the life expectancy of pvc pipes?

By anon70519 — On Mar 14, 2010

what would be a safe alternative for transporting hot water in an earthquake prone environment?

By anon69248 — On Mar 07, 2010

I want to use high doses of filler in Pvc pipe manufacturing process in our plant without increasing weight of the pipe.

Can anyone help me?

By anon66563 — On Feb 20, 2010

can I run diesel fuel through PVC pipe?

By anon65560 — On Feb 14, 2010

I want to use pvc outside where it is exposed to sunlight to run cold water to a hose spigot. The water will be used mainly to rinse a deck and water plants. What does sunlight do to pvc and will it affect the water in an unacceptable way?

By anon64242 — On Feb 06, 2010

What are the classifications of pvc pipes and their uses? --antony

By engineerrock — On Aug 18, 2009

Answers-

1. Look in plastics news for toll regrinding and reprocessing. Unless you have a lot (2000 pounds) it's probably cheaper to landfill.

2. PVC pipe sold in the U.S. is *extremely* safe. I get test reports from NSF. They test for hundreds of compounds and most are not even detectable. But I would use cold water for all cooking and drinking. Whatever you have for pipe (copper, PVC, PEX, galvanized, etc.) more of it is going to come out in hot water and will affect the taste.

3. PVC cement has solvents and fillers in it. If your husband is getting it all over himself and spreading it on you, tell him to wear good gloves and wash up if he gets it on him. You could be allergic. But you can be allergic to leaves, grass, mold, dust mites, etc. too. Use common sense and don't expose yourself to things unnecessarily.

4. Don't overheat the PVC and use good ventilation and you will be fine. We process 10 million pounds a year at 350F no problem.

5&7. Never, never never use compressed air in PVC. If for some reason it fails you have a deadly fragmentation bomb! The reason is that compressed air stores a huge amount of energy.

10. 140F max temperature at *very* reduced pressure. Consult a manufacturer's (IPEX, George Fischer, Charlotte, Harvel) website and read their literature.

13. Electrical PVC has a ton of rock filler in it. It may work at low pressure for water but don't count on it holding up like pressure PVC pipe. Happy piping!

By anon40301 — On Aug 07, 2009

can i use electrical pvc for irrigation? our water psi does not exceed 100 psi.

By plumber9 — On Jun 25, 2009

To Anon28714:

No plumbing codes at this time allow air testing on PVC piping. Also it is illegal in my state (Washington) to use PVC piping for air lines.

By plumber9 — On Jun 25, 2009

To riross:

Every PVC pipe has labeling on it. It is advisable for you to look at the label it will tell you what pressure the pipe is good for and at what temperature.

By riross — On May 21, 2009

I am building a pool heater. I need to know how hot of water can be run through schedule 40 PVC pipe. I was told you can only put 75 degrees F. Can anybody out there help me?

Ray

By anon28940 — On Mar 24, 2009

Liquids, but I have tested it with air up to around 150 psi. It held OK, but I'm not sure how high it can hold. I don't think it's rated for high pressure air, but I'm not sure.

By craven — On Mar 23, 2009

Is that 450PSI for liquids only? I've been told that PVC is only used for liquids and that air will shatter the piping. Are you using that 1in PVC

with air pressure or liquid?

By anon28714 — On Mar 20, 2009

Well, PVC normally will have the safe maximum pressure rating stamped onto it. For example, I just bought some one inch PVC pipe and it was rated for 450 PSI, but from what I've seen, unless specially made, the larger the diameter of the pipe, the less pressure it can hold before shattering.

By craven — On Mar 04, 2009

Can pvc piping (even the thickest) be used to contain pressurized air to create volume? If not, why? If so what do you suggest, we're thinking of using something like 4' long, 4,6,8, inches wide, ? thickness

By Mooses1 — On Oct 29, 2008

Our company sometimes works with PVC. When PVC is welded what type of safety PPE should be used.

By jbutz001 — On Sep 24, 2008

I just realized that the pipe my husband uses daily as a sprinkler technician could be causing me to manifest symptoms of severe vasculitis. I have been through so many painful procedures in the past three years to find out why the skin of my hands is literally falling off, from punch biopsies of my hand to steroid treatment that made me question my sanity. I think that if my country knows that a product is this dangerous then my country should protect it's citizens!!! The almighty dollar wins against common sense again!

By marlaine — On Aug 22, 2008

OK, let me get this straight regarding the last paragraph of this article. If we use hot water from the kitchen tap, it could possibly cause lung cancer? I know a young mother who has a short time to live because she has lung cancer and has never smoked. Could this be the problem? Coming from the south, I always use hot tap water when making a roux. If it was dangerous when I retrieved the water, did the toxins leave when it boiled in the pot? Better yet, could pvc pipe be the cause of the rise of cancer in our generation, whether heated or not? When I first heard the plastic poison theories, pvc was the first thing I thought of. I've always heard people blame illnesses on "something in the water" as a joke, but I believe perhaps it is something the water is in. Maybe pvc has been the problem for years and we didn't realize it?

By anon9142 — On Feb 29, 2008

I'm interested in recycling some pvc we have had at our plant. Do you know of anybody that does that?

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