Polyethylene (PE)

Spectroscopy chart PE

Washing-up bowl, 1940s



Plastics Historical Society.


The condition of this bowl makes it clear that it was well used.


Made entirely of the featured material, polyethylene.


Polyethylene is generally stable but this object is very early and unusually thick and may not be representative.The bowl is stained, worn and discoloured. It has also stiffened and cracked. The cracks may be the result of interaction with washing-up liquid and hot water, a phenomenon known as environmental stress cracking.


Degradation typical of the material not visible in this example

It can smell very strongly of 'plastic'.


The damage cannot be reversed.

Display and storage

Follow standard practice: keep in a stable environment and, when not on display, in the dark.

Polymethyl methacrylate >