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Silicone Vs Rubber: What’s The Difference And Which Is Better?

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Skye Rhodes

To understand what is the difference between silicone vs rubber and which one is better, we need to comprehend each of them individually.

Let’s start first with some basic knowledge of rubber.

There are various types of rubber but they all break down into mostly two categories – natural rubber, also known as latex, which is grown from plants, and the other is a synthetic rubber, which is made artificially through chemical plants or in laboratories.

Even though both natural rubber and synthetic rubber seem to be very similar, the production process and chemical process are completely different.

Rubber is used in a huge range of things such as soft rubber, which is used for almost all kinds of daily things for example birthday balloons, elastic bands, protective gloves, pencil erasers, and condoms.

For instance, hard rubber consists of car tires, combs, and electrical insulation.

What is Silicone?

Now let’s briefly go over silicone.

Silicone is also known as polysiloxane and comes from polymers.

Silicone is also recognized as an “elastomer”.

It’s characteristically colorless and can be very similar to rubber-like substances.

Silicone is used in multiple products such as adhesives, lubricants, medicine, thermal and electrical insulation, household products, healthcare, etc., and some common forms include silicone grease, oil, resin, caulk, and rubber.

Silicone comes from a variety of specialties which includes high-performance materials that have reactive salines, silicone fluids, and silicone polymers, which are widely utilized in daily life products and industrial products.

In the early 1940s, the US researched the properties of silicone and also started to test it to help in the war.

The General Electric Company was attributed with a government contract to produce a low-cost substitute for synthetic rubber for the war effort at that time.

It was James Wright, an engineer at General Electrics from New Haven research laboratory who invented silly putty which is now developed in silicone.

The first silicone product was used on airplanes.

It was used as a paste so that they could protect electrical sparking equipment on the airplanes.

Silicone is made of oxygen, hydrogen, carbon, and silicon.

Note that silicon ingredient is not to be confused with silicone spelling.

Silicon is a chemical element that occurs naturally and silicone is a synthetic substance.

Uses of silicone materials result in vital benefits for the world economy including health care, the aerospace industry, construction, manufacturing daily life products and transportation.

Other advantages for silicone vs rubber also include moisture and flexibility enhancement, cold, heat, and ultraviolet resistance.

Expert reviews on silicone state that it’s safe to use and they do not find it toxic, unlike other products.

The use of silicone is being widely used in the medical and health care industries.

For example, silicone is being used in surgical and cosmetic body implants for those who have body complexes to increase the size of body parts such as butt, breasts, hip, chin etc.

Silicone is often mass-produced in many forms for example solids, liquids, greases, oils, semi-viscous pastes, and rubber.

Properties of Silicone

There are various properties of silicone.

It has low thermal conductivity, which means that silicone has heat conduct and heat transfer which occurs very slowly to the materials when there is low thermal conductivity compared to high thermal conductivity.

Low chemical reactivity means that silicone contains the least reactive element and it doesn’t form a stable compound which is a huge advantage.

Low toxicity is present in silicone which means there is a very small amount or minimal exposure to toxic elements while using silicone thus proving not to be harmful to humans and it maintains the safety of the environment.

Thermal stability in silicone means that silicone can resist temperatures ranging from −55 to 300 °C (−67 to 572 °F) while still maintaining its usefulness.

Silicone has the aptitude to resist water, in simple words, silicone is waterproof.

Silicone is not sticky.

Silicone does not grow micro parasitic which is a great advantage as there will be no fear of fungal microbes and bacteria.

Silicone has great resistance to oxygen, ozone, and ultraviolet (UV) light.

Silicone is categorized as being electrically conductive and an insulator for electrical goods or products, and it’s suitable for a variety of electrical applications.

Silicone has the presence of high gas permeability: at temperature (25 °C), the permeability of synthetic rubber for gases such as oxygen is approximately 400 times that of synthetic rubber thus making silicone useful for medical applications during which increased aeration is desired.

Conversely, silicone rubbers can’t be used where gas-tight seals are necessary like seals for high-pressure gasses or high vacuum.

Silicone is often developed into rubber sheeting and is compliant with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) law.

This extends the uses of silicone sheeting to industries that demand hygiene, for instance, pharmaceutical, food, and beverage industries.

Common Forms of Silicone

Some common forms include silicone oil, silicone rubber, silicone resin, silicone grease, and silicone caulk.

Silicone oils

Silicone oil is mainly used as a lubricant, thermic fluid oils, or hydraulic fluids.

They’re brilliant electrical insulators and are non-flammable.

Silicone oil temperature is very stable and it’s a good heat-transfer, making them commonly utilized in laboratories for heating baths or also known as oil baths.

Additionally, silicone oil is commonly used in wet-type transformers, diffusion pumps, and oil-filled heaters.

Silicone oil is also used in aerospace engineering, which incorporates the external coolant loop and radiators of the International Space Station Zvezda module, which discards high-temperature heat within the vacuum of space.

Silicone oil also indicates relatively high volatility, making it useful to use on cosmetic products like an antiperspirant.

Silicone oil is sometimes added to cooking oils so that excessive foaming can be reduced or stopped when deep frying.

Silicone oil is produced mainly with two main ingredients which are silly putty and boric acid.

Silicone Rubber

Silicone rubber is an elastomer; it’s more like a rubber-like solid and it’s composed out of silicone itself while containing silicon (not to be confused with the spelling), hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon.

Silicone rubbers are broadly used in the industry world and multiple extremely useful products have been created with the use of silicone rubber.

Sometimes silicone rubber may contain fillers so that cost can be reduced and also to improve its properties.

Silicone rubber can be found in a wide range of products for instance footwear, sportswear, undergarments, electronics, medical body implants, and also as sealants.

Silicone Resin

Silicone resins are more often used as resins.

Silicone resin has enormous heat resistance, weatherability, nonconductor properties and is waterproof once dried.

Silicone resin is mostly available in liquid forms but note, there are also solid forms to resin which is a little bit rare.

Additionally, silicone resins are mostly used to make paints and also coatings.

They are mainly used in a wide variety of products so that it can help to improve the durability, consistency and safety of the products.

Silicone Grease

Silicone grease also known as silicone lubricants are liquids products.

Silicone grease is widely used to lubricate fountain pen filling.

Silicone grease can additionally be used to seal and preserve many products such as waterproof watches, air rifles, and even plumbers use silicone grease.

It’s also used to lubricate and seal water-submersible flashlights which is a product that is necessary for diving and spearfishing.

Silicone grease is used with waterproof devices, and it’s very thick hence it doesn’t dissolve in water.

Silicone Caulk

Silicone caulk is used for various household uses, for instance, lubricating shower heads, door hinges, garden hose threads, etc.

Silicone caulk is like a long glue gun type, and it’s utilized for sealing and fixing plumbing issues mainly, for instance, it’s used in bathtubs, toilets, sinks, showers etc.

As you may note, the examples mentioned above are mainly where there is the use of water hence proving that silicone is a waterproof product.

Silicone caulk is known for its excellence in weatherproofing houses.

The use of silicone caulk is highly durable and easy to use.

Uses of silicone

Silicone is utilized for multiple purposes.

Find some examples of where it’s used below.

Aviation

Silicone can resist extreme temperatures.

Hence, silicone adhesives and sealants are used in aviation to seal and protect airplanes doors, windows, wings, hydraulic switches, fuel tanks, overhead bins, vent ducts, wing edges, landing gear electrical devices, engine gaskets, electrical wires and black boxes.

Personal care and hygiene products

Silicone is used in personal care goods to diminish the white residue and sticky feel of antiperspirants in deodorizers.

Silicone is also used in cosmetics products, shampoos, and hair conditioners as it helps to keep it longer and helps to hold the color and shine associated with it, and also stronger SPF on lotions.

Additionally, silicone provides smoothness and helps in an even application of all liquid cosmetics products.

Energy

Silicone expands the proficiency, resilience, and performance of solar panels by making them more cost-effective and they can also survive the sun for years.

Thus, silicone is considered to be the ideal material for solar panels and photovoltaic.

Electronics

Keyboards, keypads, and copier rollers are produced with robust and durable silicone.

Many components from computers, mobile electronics, and home equipment also utilize silicone.

Silicone is also used in enabling LED lighting technology.

What is Rubber?

As mentioned earlier in silicone vs rubber, there are two types of rubber namely, natural rubber and synthetic rubber.

Natural rubber is a product of the Rubber Tree and one source of rubber is the Hevea which is normally grown in the rain forest of South America.

A white sap is collected from the trees and processed for different outcomes.

This white sap is called latex flow out through long cuts made on the bark of the trees and is collected in pots which are further left to dry so that the watery liquid which comes with the latex is removed.

Only then is the latex given different forms.

Long ago rubber was made only from natural sources but fortunately, today rubber can also be made artificially, known as Synthetic Rubber.

Else the amount of rubber we use in our everyday life would have depleted the natural sources whose mere existence is extremely important for the environment.

The effect of World War II on Natural Rubber and the economic advantages of the Rubber encouraged the U.S.

government to study other alternatives to produce rubber quickly and on a larger scale and the increase of vehicles using pneumatic tires also increased the demand for rubber.

Fritz Hofmann and his team, working at the Bayer Laboratory in Elberfeld Germany, succeeded in producing the first Synthetic Rubber.

The emergence of Synthetic Rubber, made from petrochemicals, was a significant achievement for science and engineering and they succeeded in finding a substitute for natural rubber.

Properties of Rubber

In our everyday life, we use rubber in many different forms and different purposes.

This fact is an immediate pop in the mind that rubber, either natural rubber or synthetic rubber, has a huge variety of properties that make it valuable and an everyday product.

Elasticity is the most common property of rubber due to its ability to extend to long lengths and then return to its original shape or length shows the elastic property of rubber and different types of rubber which can be extended up to different percentages.

One example is the Rubber Band which when stretched, extends to a long length and then can return to the initial length, with almost no degradation even if this process is repeated several times.

Heat contraction is another amazing characteristic of rubber because while most material expands upon heating, rubber on the other hand contracts when heated and this is possible because the molecules of which the rubber is made are attached during the process.

Another remarkable property of rubber is its ability to act as an insulator which is possible due to its closely grouped electron that is not free to be shared by close atoms.

More properties of rubber are toughness, flexibility, tear-resistant, abrasion-resistant, compression set, and impermeable to water.

Common Forms of Rubber

Rubber is extremely useful, which is immensely used every day and everywhere, and for this to be possible there are several types of rubber such as natural rubber, neoprene rubber, silicone rubber, nitrile rubber, and many more.

Natural Rubber

Natural rubber, which is reputed for its durability and resistance to very high heat.

The properties of natural rubber enable it to be used in many products such as tires, gloves, foam rubber, insulation, and adhesives.

Neoprene Rubber

Neoprene rubber is a synthetic rubber.

It’s less vulnerable to degrading, corrosion, and burning compared to other synthetic and natural rubbers, therefore it’s mostly used for corrosion-resistant coatings, high-pressure gaskets, belts, and adhesive.

Moreover, since it’s impermeable by water, it’s also used for aquatic clothing, gear, and equipment.

Silicone Rubber

Silicone rubber, also known as polysiloxane and is highly resistant to very high temperatures, UV rays, ozone, and fire.

Silicone rubber is very flexible and manufactured in different colors in either solid or liquid form and most importantly, it’s a passive material that doesn’t react to most chemicals.

Due to this inertness characteristic, silicone rubber is both hypoallergenic and biocompatible.

Nitrile Rubber

Having the properties of resistance to heat, gas permeability, and oil, the nitrile rubber is widely used in the automobile, aviation and aerospace industry.

Nitrile rubber is also used for heavy-duty protective gloves, molded goods, floor mats, footwear, and sponges, because of its durability and resistance.

Uses of rubber

Rubber is not only in the elastic band or eraser but rubber is also a highly important material in our day-to-day life, without us even paying any attention because rubber is being used almost everywhere from household products to industrial products.

Tire

One of the most common uses of rubber is for the tire of different means of transport such as bicycle, motorcycle, car, lorries, and even airplanes.

Rubber is highly considered for the making of tires because of the ability of elasticity and traction and rubber-enabled tires to be manufactured with performance characteristics, guaranteeing better grip even on wet road surfaces.

Shoes

Rubber shoes are quite common in the industrial field mainly due to the characteristic of rubber being durable, impermeable to water, insulator, and so on.

Rubber shoes tend to be quite effective as they offer protection from falling objects, they give better grip while walking, they protect from high temperatures, and so on.

Basement flooring

Rubber is regarded as a very good material for basement flooring and again, this is possible because of the properties of rubber such as being impermeable to water, heat resistant, durable, and elastic.

Basement flooring made of rubber is also highly resistant to impact, and that’s why they are mostly used in gyms and weight rooms.

Window wipers

The windshield of vehicles is quite a delicate area, and it’s very important to always keep it clean.

Here again, the characteristic of rubber enables us to keep our windshields clean.

Despite being tough enough to remove all dirt from the windshield, rubber is also soft enough to avoid any scratches while moving along the windshield.

The heat resistance capacity of rubber allows it to be durable even though it stays in contact with the sun rays.

What Is the Difference between Silicone vs Rubber?

Rubber and silicone are both considered to be elastomers.

The main difference between rubber and silicone is that the backbones of most rubber forms contain carbon-carbon bonds while the backbone of silicone consists of silicon and oxygen.

As mentioned earlier silicone contains hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen.

To be remembered and not to be confused; polymer chains of carbon are found in rubber, whereas silicone doesn’t contain carbon, it contains only polymer chains.

Without forgetting, rubber can be stretched to an enormous size and can also be returned to the original size, whereas silicone does not have this characteristic.

Rubber is a type of product that starts changing from the moment it has been produced.

Rubber starts getting damaged when it’s used related to pressure, temperature changes and when it’s exposed to UV light hence, causing it to be a high risk of changing color, hardness, and texture.

Whereas silicone lasts almost four times longer than rubber.

Silicone is considered to be more expensive than rubber but as rubber damages more quickly compared to silicone, it’s definitely better to use silicone as it may help in saving money in the long-term.

In the production of rubber, the use of highly toxic elements is added to stabilize the product in contrast with silicone.

The production does not require high toxic elements, and it’s proven that it has low toxicity.

Also, silicone is used more often in the food processing industry as it can survive continuous pressures for a far longer time than rubber.

Silicone is known for less chance of contamination compared to rubber.

Silicone is way more hygienic than rubber.

Natural rubber can be torn out easily whereas silicone has higher tear strength.

Silicone can operate up to 230 °C, which means that silicone is more resistant to high flame than rubber.

Which is better?

Final Thoughts

Both silicone and rubber have their uses and benefits respectively.

Even though both are forms of rubber, there are some points between silicone vs rubber that differentiate them.

But when comparing it seems to be obvious that silicone is much better than rubber.

Whether it’s about tear strength, elasticity, high flame resistance, less contamination, durability, financial savings, efficiency, low toxicity, low chemical reactivity, or tensile strength.

It seems that silicone wins it all in comparison to rubber.

Hoping this article has mentioned all the facts, confusions, benefits, and disadvantages between rubber and silicone, so that you can distinguish between which one is better; rubber or silicone.

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