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FAQ Friday #17 - Are my RIB / SIB tubes PVC or hypalon?

The two main materials used for building inflatables are PVC and hypalon, but there is also PU (polyurethane). 

If you know the make of your inflatable, that can be a really good clue as to the material it's made from, although some brands don't use just one material. For example, Ribeye's Playtimes are typically PVC, but their larger boats and newer A series are hypalon. Even some small SIBs come in both a PVC and hypalon option. Check out our How to Guide for a non-exhaustive list of makes.

The solvent test is a good indicator. If you apply a small amount of MEK or acetone solvent to an inconspicuous area of the tube fabric, PVC will go tacky, whereas hypalon won't.

The back of the fabric is also another give away clue. Hypalon is usually a dark grey on the back of the fabric, where as PVC is the same colour both sides (although one side is often glossier). PU can be the same colour both sides, or two totally different colours such as grey and yellow, grey and orange or black and blue.

Often people say 'I can see a fabric weave so it's hypalon' but this isn't the case. Both PVC and hypalon have a fabric layer to them.

If the tubes are welded, then you can rule them out as being hypalon, as only PVC and PU can be welded - hypalon is always glued.

Once you're used to the materials, it is possible to tell the materials apart from the texture of the surface too, hence why we often ask for a really close up photo of the fabric. 


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