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TPU vs. Silicone: What's the Difference?

By Janet White & Harlon Moss || Published on March 5, 2024
TPUs (Thermoplastic Polyurethanes) are known for their elasticity and resistance to oil and grease, while Silicone is celebrated for its heat resistance and flexibility. Both are widely used in protective casings but serve different preferences and needs.

Key Differences

TPUs, a class of polyurethane plastics, offer a unique blend of flexibility and durability, making them ideal for items that require frequent bending or stretching. Silicone, on the other hand, is a rubber-like material that excels in environments requiring high temperature resistance and is often preferred for kitchenware and medical devices due to its stability and non-toxic properties.
Silicone stands out for its exceptional heat resistance, capable of withstanding temperatures significantly higher than TPU without degrading. This makes silicone a preferred choice for cooking utensils and bakeware. TPU, while resistant to many elements, does not perform as well at extreme temperatures, focusing its strengths on mechanical properties and chemical resistance.
In terms of environmental impact and safety, Silicone is often highlighted for its non-reactive nature, making it safe for food contact and medical applications. TPU, while also safe for various applications, requires careful selection to ensure it meets specific safety standards, especially when used in sensitive environments.
When it comes to the manufacturing process and application versatility, TPU can be processed in various ways including injection molding, extrusion, and blow molding, allowing for a wide range of product applications from automotive parts to medical devices. Silicone's manufacturing process, primarily involving molding and extrusion, lends itself well to products requiring precise shapes and dimensions, such as seals and gaskets.
The choice between TPU and Silicone often comes down to the specific requirements of the application, including factors like temperature resistance, flexibility, environmental safety, and the desired physical properties of the end product. Manufacturers and designers weigh these factors to select the material that best fits their needs.

Comparison Chart

Material Type

Plastic Polymer
Rubber-like Polymer

Heat Resistance

Moderate (up to 80°C)
High (up to 230°C)


Highly Flexible
Extremely Flexible

Chemical Resistance

Resistant to oils and greases
Resistant to water and many chemicals


Protective casings, automotive parts
Kitchenware, medical devices


Generally safe, specific grades for medical use
Non-toxic, widely used in food and medical applications

TPU and Silicone Definitions


It can be clear or colored, used in various consumer products.
The clear TPU cover protects the tablet without hiding its design.


Medical devices often utilize silicone for its biocompatibility.
The medical grade silicone tubing is used in hospital equipment.


TPU is recyclable, aligning with eco-friendly initiatives.
The company uses recycled TPU to manufacture its eco-conscious products.


Silicone molds are popular in baking for their non-stick nature.
The baker used a silicone mold to create perfectly shaped cakes.


TPU is a versatile, elastic material used in phone cases.
The new phone case is made of TPU, offering both flexibility and protection.


Silicone's heat resistance makes it ideal for kitchen utensils.
The silicone spatula can withstand high temperatures without melting.


TPU's abrasion resistance makes it suitable for protective gear.
The cyclist wore TPU-based knee pads for protection.


It is widely used in sealants due to its waterproof properties.
Silicone sealant was applied around the window to prevent leaks.


Known for its durability, TPU is often used in the soles of shoes.
These running shoes feature TPU soles for enhanced wear resistance.


Any of a large group of oligomers and polymers based on the structural unit R2SiO, where R is an organic group, characterized by wide-range thermal stability, high lubricity, extreme water repellence, and physiological inertness and used in adhesives, lubricants, protective coatings, paints, electrical insulation, synthetic rubber, and prosthetic replacements for body parts.


(chemistry) Any of a class of inert, semi-inorganic polymeric compounds (polysiloxanes), that have a wide range of thermal stability and extreme water repellence, used in a very wide range of industrial applications, and in prosthetic replacements for body parts.


(transitive) To join or treat (something) with a silicone-based product.
Silicone the bathtub to the tile


To enhance or reconstruct (a body part) with a prosthesis containing silicone.


Any of a large class of siloxanes that are unusually stable over a wide range of temperatures; used in lubricants and adhesives and coatings and synthetic rubber and electrical insulation


Silicone wristbands are popular for events and support causes.
Attendees received a silicone wristband as part of the event kit.


Can TPU be used in high-temperature applications?

TPU can be used in moderately high-temperature applications but is not as heat-resistant as silicone.

Which is more flexible, TPU or silicone?

Both materials are highly flexible, but silicone generally offers a higher degree of flexibility and elasticity.

What is TPU best used for?

TPU is best used for applications requiring durability, flexibility, and resistance to oils and greases, such as protective casings and shoe soles.

Are both TPU and silicone environmentally friendly?

Both materials have eco-friendly aspects; TPU is recyclable, while silicone is durable and long-lasting, reducing the need for frequent replacements.

What are the key differences in the manufacturing processes of TPU and silicone?

TPU is typically processed through injection molding, extrusion, or blow molding, while silicone is mainly processed by molding and extrusion, requiring different techniques due to their material properties.

How do TPU and silicone perform in water?

Silicone is inherently waterproof, making it ideal for seals and gaskets, whereas TPU's performance in water depends on its formulation but generally offers good resistance.

Why is silicone preferred in kitchenware?

Silicone is preferred in kitchenware for its high heat resistance, non-stick properties, and safety in food contact applications.

Is silicone safe for medical use?

Yes, silicone is widely used in medical applications due to its biocompatibility and stability.

Can TPU be used in food contact applications?

Specific grades of TPU are safe for food contact, but it's essential to ensure the material meets food safety standards.

Can TPU replace silicone in kitchen applications?

While TPU can be used in some kitchen applications, its lower heat resistance compared to silicone limits its use in high-temperature environments.

How does aging affect TPU and silicone?

Silicone typically has excellent aging resistance, maintaining its properties over time. TPU also has good aging resistance but may degrade faster in harsh environmental conditions.

Can both TPU and silicone be used in protective casings?

Yes, both materials are used in protective casings, with TPU offering durability and flexibility, while silicone provides shock absorption and grip.

Are there any health concerns associated with TPU?

TPU is generally considered safe, but as with any material, ensuring it is free from harmful additives is crucial, especially in applications involving direct contact with skin or food.

Can TPU be made in transparent forms for optical applications?

Yes, TPU can be manufactured in clear forms, making it suitable for optical applications where transparency is essential, such as protective phone covers and eyewear lenses.

How do TPU and silicone react to chemicals?

TPU is resistant to oils and greases, whereas silicone is resistant to water and a broad range of chemicals, making each suitable for different environments.

Is silicone or TPU better for outdoor applications?

Silicone is often better for outdoor applications due to its excellent UV and temperature resistance, while TPU is preferred for its wear resistance and durability in active use cases.

Why is silicone preferred in electronic cases and accessories?

Silicone is preferred for its shock-absorbent qualities and its ability to provide a non-slip grip, making it ideal for electronic cases and accessories.

How does the cost of TPU compare to silicone?

The cost can vary based on the grade and quality, but generally, TPU can be less expensive than silicone, particularly in bulk applications.

Is TPU or silicone easier to color?

Both TPU and silicone can be colored through various methods. However, silicone may hold colors more consistently due to its stable chemical structure.

Can silicone and TPU be recycled?

TPU is generally easier to recycle due to its thermoplastic nature, allowing it to be remelted and reformed. Silicone recycling is more challenging but possible, focusing on downcycling or energy recovery methods.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Co-written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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