Acrylic vs Polycarbonate: What's The Difference?

Acrylic vs Polycarbonate: What's The Difference?

Acrylic and polycarbonate are strong, lightweight, and durable plastic sheeting products often used as a substitute for glass. Whether you're diving into commercial construction, preparing health and safety equipment, or brightening up your home with stunning designs, acrylic and polycarbonate is stronger than, and half the weight of, a comparably sized piece of glass.

While they appear similar, looks can be deceiving. The properties of each product exhibit slightly different characteristics that make them better suited to specific projects and purposes. In this article, we're going to talk about the key differences between the two plastics so that you know you're using the right material for your interior design.


Acrylic is a thermoplastic that is formed and molded with heat. As a raw material, it is sold under many trademarks, such as Plexiglass, Lucite, or Perspex. Generally speaking, acrylic is great as a substitute for glass, craft projects, retail display stands, and installations because it has better optical clarity and is less prone to scratches and dents than polycarbonate. Here are the specs:

Properties of Acrylic

  • Stronger than glass, with 17x the impact resistance
  • Better clarity than glass (92% light transmittance for all thicknesses)
  • UV resistant: non-susceptible to yellowing or discoloration
  • Shiny surface, which can be polished smooth
  • Resistant to dents and scratches
  • Clean glue joints
  • Easy to cut and form with machinery
  • A working temperature of 180F
  • Less expensive than polycarbonate and glass

If you are looking for stunning high-quality acrylic pieces for the interior of your home, look no further than Clear Home Designs. Our range has everything you need to keep the ambiance of your home crisp and gorgeous with durable, crystalline acrylic.


Polycarbonate plastic sheeting is found on the market under names such as Lexan or Makrolon. It is more expensive than acrylic, costing around 25% more, depending on the grade.

The material is a popular choice for bulletproof glass, roofing panels, greenhouse windows, and commercial use in high heat or caustic environments since it resists cracking and chipping better than acrylic or glass. Polycarbonate is not as shiny as acrylic and can yellow over time with exposure to the sun since it isn't UV resistant.

Polycarbonate is used for areas that require high impact resistance.

Properties of Polycarbonate

  • Significantly stronger, with a high impact resistance reaching 250x that of glass, and 30x the strength of acrylic
  • Poorer clarity than acrylic and glass, transmitting 88% of light
  • Susceptible to yellowing and discoloration with UV exposure
  • Resists chips and cracking, even when sheets get drilled
  • A working temperature of 240F, which means it has low flammability
  • Resistant to corrosion when used in chemical environments
  • Can be formed without heat

Polycarbonate vs Acrylic: A Direct Comparison

Both acrylic and polycarbonate are known to be strong, clear, and durable alternatives to glass. So let's take a look into which performs better and under what circumstances so you know you can choose the perfect material for the job.

Which is the Stronger Plastic?

Both materials are lighter and more impact resistant than glass. The two plastics are shatterproof, which means that when they break, rather than shattering into thousands of tiny shards, they break into large pieces that are easier to dispose of. This also makes them safer than glass.

Acrylic has 17x the impact resistance of glass and polycarbonate is 250x stronger than glass, so polycarbonate is clearly the stronger material. As a result, it's often used for applications such as creating bulletproof barriers, roofing, and in chemical environments.

Acrylic is usually a rigid material, whereas polycarbonate comes in various flexible grades. However, both can be bent under heat when required.

Acrylic and polycarbonate are safer alternatives in the home than glass.

Which Material is More Durable?

Because acrylic is less impact-resistant than polycarbonate, it is more likely to chip when subject to high-speed contact. It is, however, less prone to scratching, dents, and UV discoloration.

Both materials are weather resistant and will expand and contract with changes in the temperature without long-term distortions. Unlike acrylic, polycarbonate has a greater heat resistance and is better suited to high-heat environments

Which Plastic is More Transparent?

Acrylic lets more natural light pass through than glass, whereas polycarbonate is less transparent. That said, both products are available in clear-as-glass grades. When used for roof panels, bus shelters, or conservatories, polycarbonate is usually treated with a UV-resistant coat to protect it from discoloration. This coating affects its optical clarity.

Because of its exceptional transparency, acrylic is a popular choice for homeowners looking to provide secondary glazing to exterior windows on their property. Additionally, acrylic bonds well with glue to create a clean, clear finish on display areas and furniture.

Working With Acrylic and Polycarbonate

It's one thing to understand the differences between the two plastics on paper, but what about when it comes to applying this knowledge practically? If you want acrylic or polycarbonate to achieve a specific purpose, for aesthetic qualities, or to undertake a new DIY project, use the guide below to compare the two.

Working Temperature

Acrylic gets worked at temperatures between -30F and 180F. It will expand and contract with high temperatures, though it will not permanently contract over time. When acrylic is exposed to temperatures higher than 180F, small stress bubbles will appear on its surface.

On the other hand, polycarbonate can withstand temperatures up to 240F and has a very low level of flammability.


You can cut both acrylic and polycarbonate with conventional tools like saws or routers. Polycarbonate tends to resist the initial cut made, so acrylic is usually easier to work with for cutting projects.

Drilling or Machining

Polycarbonate will not crack when drilling, even when you use a conventional drill bit near the edge of the sheet. Acrylic tends to fissure if you drill it near the edge, or if you are using a drill bit that is not specially designed for plastic.


Heat bending works well for acrylic and is easy to do at home so long as you're conscious of the temperatures. Polycarbonate can be bent without heating.

Working with acrylic vs polycarbonate is not as similar as it may look.


Particularly for those seeking windows, furniture, or home decor, one of the greatest questions in the acrylic vs polycarbonate debate is which of them is easier to clean? The good news is that they're both simple and easy to keep sparkly with a microfiber cloth.

Acrylics are cleaned using only warm soapy water and a cloth. Afterward, you can polish them with acrylic polishers like Vuplex to provide a glossy finish. Ammonia-based products affect the chemical structure of acrylics - causing discoloration - so it's best to stick with mild dishwashing liquid or baby shampoo.

The compounds used to form polycarbonates can withstand chemical products better than acrylic, so it's safe to use harsher chemicals, including ammonia, to clean it. Solvents will create micro-cuts on the surface of both plastics, which diminishes the sheen. It is wise to steer away from abrasive products altogether when cleaning acrylic and polycarbonate.

Acrylic vs Polycarbonate: Which is Best?

Acrylic and polycarbonate may look similar. Beyond appearances, each plastic functions very differently. Therefore the material that works best for you will depend on what you plan to use the plastics for.

If you are seeking interior furniture or home decor pieces that glisten and shine over the long term in your home, acrylic is the way to go. Acrylic plastics offer superior light transmittance, strength, and durability than glass. Furthermore, they are easy to clean and work with. On the other hand, if you need high impact resistance or a product that will withstand harsh heat and chemical environments, polycarbonate sheeting will be a more functional option.

If you're looking for the highest quality acrylic designs to breathe new life into your home or simply need more specific information about taking care of your acrylics, contact Clear Home Design today.