Blog: How does PVC/Vinyl softness work?

A material consisting solely of polyvinyl chloride is quite stiff, and for this reason softeners (non-phthalates) are added to make it easier to handle, softer and more pliable, which makes it suitable for inflatable products like our toys. The non-phthalate plasticizers we use comply with restrictions for Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals and food utensils, packaging, and of course toys. They also meet all European and American safety standards.

The feeling of softness comes from a number of conditions and is also somewhat of a subjective thing; 

  • The finish of the material, either the “soft touch” matte material or the glossy smooth material.  
  • The surface area of the material, the bigger the surface area the softer it feels. 
  • The actual amount of plasticizers used, the more used, the softer it feels (obviously) and, 
  • The thickness of the material. The thicker the material, the less pliable and the harder it feels. That also goes other way around, the softer it feels, the thinner it feels. 

Technically speaking, the softness of PVC is measured on a Phthalate Ester (Pe) scale from 0 to 100. Where 0 is just a solid hard brick of PVC and 100 is not usable for toys that need to be kept together by seams. Anything more than 60Pe is not durable enough for our toys. 

To create an exemplary product, we need to find the right mix of attributes appropriate for the toy. Let’s take the Ride Roll series for instance, which is a good example of how we try to make our toys better and better.  Gen1 ride rolls had a thickness of 0,18mm and 52Pe. It felt incredibly soft! But because of the material being quite thin, the seams were not that strong in some cases. So, on the Gen2, we felt we had to upgrade the strength, and we did that by making the material thicker (0,25mm) and use wider seams. To compensate the feeling of the thicker material, we added softness (54Pe). The result was an even softer feeling toy than the gen1 Ride Rolls. 

For the third generation of Ride Rolls we wanted to add softness for two reasons, one was to compensate for the smaller surface area of the rolls and the second was that we just wanted to add extra softness. After some tests and prototypes, we ended up making them 0,25mm and 58Pe. This resulted in our softest toys ever!

Another example of our attention to quality is our next gen SPH beach balls. We are making them 0,3mm and 60Pe. Because of the thicker material, you need some extra softness to compensate for the thicker material. Another thing, all future SPH we put in toys will be made of 0,25mm and 60Pe softness, even though the toy itself may have other specs. This way we are able to be consistent in the pleasure the SPH gives.

Feel free to reach out to us with any questions about softness in particular or our products in general!