Person Using Polyvinyl Alcohol on a Microscope Test

What Is Polyvinyl Alcohol and What Interesting Uses Does It Have?

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We use a lot of complicated-sounding mixtures and chemicals in our everyday lives and may not realize it. One of these chemicals is polyvinyl alcohol.

But what is polyvinyl alcohol? 

In this article, we’ll explore what it is and what its uses are.

What is Polyvinyl Alcohol?

Scientifically, polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) is a synthetic colorless resin chemical compound that is water-soluble. 

PVA is distinct from other polymers in that it is created by dissolving polyvinyl acetate in alcohol. It’s then given an alkaline catalyst like sodium hydroxide.

Polyvinyl acetate is commonly used in glue or paint.

PVA is formed because the alcohol removes the acetate groups from the compound mixture.

When the chemical reaction is complete you should be left with polyvinyl alcohol that is highly soluble in water. To get different polyvinyl alcohol grades, you can remove different degrees of the acetate groups.

The end result of your chemical reaction should be resistant to grease and oil, odorless, and non-toxic. The compound should be strong but flexible. 

How To Create It?

PVA can be created in one of two ways: conventional heat or microwave heat. It’s easier and quicker to use microwave heat, and it’s the preferred method.

The chemical compound should last between 6 and 8 weeks. It is recommended to use tap water and refrigeration to promote the growth of bacteria. 

What Are the Uses?

You might be surprised to know of the wide variety of uses for PVA. Its unique properties make it desirable for multiple industries.


One of it’s coolest uses is in the fishing world. PVA’s ability to dissolve in water make it an in-demand chemical in the bait.

Bait can be filled in PVA coated bags. When the line is cast, the bag will dissolve in the water leaving bait to surround the hook attracting fish.


The food industry uses PVA to coat packaging. Polyvinyl alcohol can be made to be thin and water-resistant.

Moisture is the enemy of food preservation processes, so this makes the PVA extremely useful.


The water-resistant qualities make it perfect for glass on cars. PVA is mixed with another compound polyvinyl butyral to laminate the glass.

Combining PVA with polyvinyl formal makes a coating used for wires.

Paper and Yarn

PVA is known as a strengthening agent for textile yarns and paper. The resistance to oil and grease helps make it a popular choice.

Detergent Pods

In the same practice as the fishing bait, detergent pods use the PVA’s water-solubility in their products.

If you’ve ever wondered what happens to the plastic in the pods, it dissolves thanks to polyvinyl alcohol.

There are plenty of other applications, but these are the most common we see every day. Polyvinyl alcohol is the building block for other products such as pharmaceuticals and metals.

Basic Understanding

Now that you have a basic understanding of the chemical compound, you’ll be able to answer if someone asks “What is polyvinyl alcohol?”

Keep scrolling to read more articles that can educate and entertain you.


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