How to Make Styrofoam? The Ultimate Guide

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Polystyrene foam, is a material that looks ordinary but plays an important role in our daily life.

Such a ubiquitous material, are you curious about how to make styrofoam? What kind of magical craftsmanship and technology are behind it?

What is Styrofoam?

what is styrofoam

Styrofoam is a brand name for a type of expanded polystyrene foam.

It is a lightweight, rigid, and insulating material that consists of small, closed cells. Styrofoam is known for its excellent thermal insulation properties, making it commonly used in construction for insulation purposes, such as in walls and roofs. It is also widely utilized in the packaging industry to protect fragile items during shipping and storage. For example, Styrofoam peanuts or molded Styrofoam containers are often used to cushion and safeguard products.

However, Styrofoam is not biodegradable and poses environmental challenges due to its persistence in the environment.

When Was Styrofoam Invented?

Styrofoam was invented in the 1940s. It was developed by The Dow Chemical Company and quickly became popular due to its unique properties and wide range of applications. Since its invention, Styrofoam has been widely used in various industries and has had a significant impact on packaging, insulation, and other fields.

Is Styrofoam Harmful?

Is Styrofoam Harmful

Styrofoam can be harmful in several ways:

Environmental Impact

  • It is not biodegradable and takes a very long time to decompose in the environment. This leads to significant pollution and accumulation in landfills and natural habitats.
  • When Styrofoam waste ends up in the ocean, it can harm marine life. Animals may mistake it for food and ingest it, causing digestive problems and even death.

Health Concerns

  • Some studies suggest that the chemicals used in the production and processing of Styrofoam may have potential health risks, especially if they leach into food or beverages when in contact.

However, when used and disposed of properly, and in controlled circumstances, the immediate harm can be minimized. But overall, the long-term and widespread use of Styrofoam has raised significant environmental and potential health concerns.

How to Make Styrofoam?

How to Make Styrofoam

How to Make Styrofoam? (expanded polystyrene), the following general steps are involved:

Materials and Equipment Needed:

  • Polystyrene resin beads
  • Blowing agent (often a hydrocarbon gas)
  • Heating oven or extruder
  • Mixing equipment
  • Molds or shaping tools

The Process:

  1. Prepare the polystyrene resin beads: Ensure they are clean and dry.
  2. Add the blowing agent: The blowing agent is mixed with the polystyrene beads in a controlled ratio.
  3. Heating and Expansion: The mixture is heated in an oven or through an extruder. The heat causes the blowing agent to vaporize, creating pressure within the polystyrene beads. This leads to the expansion of the beads, forming a foam structure with numerous small cells.
  4. Shaping and Cooling: The expanded polystyrene is then either molded into the desired shape or allowed to cool and solidify in a free form.

It’s important to note that the production of Styrofoam often requires specialized industrial equipment and strict safety measures due to the use of chemicals and high temperatures. Also, Styrofoam is not environmentally friendly and its disposal poses significant challenges.

Can You Eat Styrofoam?

Can You Eat Styrofoam

Some people asked us if they could eat Styrofoam? No, you should never eat Styrofoam.

Styrofoam is a type of plastic and is not meant for consumption. It is not digestible and can cause serious harm to your digestive system.

Ingesting Styrofoam can lead to blockages in your intestines, causing pain, discomfort, and potentially more severe health issues.

It does not provide any nutritional value and poses a significant risk to your health.

Is Styrofoam Waterproof?

Styrofoam is generally waterproof. It is a closed-cell foam material, which means that water has a difficult time penetrating the cells. This property makes it suitable for various applications where exposure to moisture or water is a concern, such as insulation in damp areas or as a protective packaging material for items that might come into contact with water.

However, prolonged exposure to water or submersion in water over an extended period can eventually cause some degradation or weakening of the Styrofoam structure. For example, if a Styrofoam float is constantly in water for a long time, it might start to absorb a small amount of water and lose some of its buoyancy.

How to Clean Styrofoam?

How to Clean Styrofoam

Cleaning Styrofoam can be a bit tricky because it’s a delicate material and can be easily damaged. Here are some methods you can try:

  1. Gentle Dusting: Use a soft brush or a clean, dry cloth to gently remove dust and debris from the surface of the Styrofoam.
  2. Vacuuming: If the Styrofoam is large and has loose dirt or particles, you can use a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment on a low suction setting.
  3. Spot Cleaning: For small stains or marks, dampen a soft cloth with a mild soapy water solution and gently blot the affected area. Avoid rubbing vigorously as it can damage the Styrofoam.
  4. Isopropyl Alcohol: In some cases, a small amount of isopropyl alcohol on a cotton swab can be used to remove stubborn stains, but use it sparingly and test it on a small, inconspicuous area first to make sure it doesn’t cause damage.

It’s important to note that when cleaning Styrofoam, always be gentle to prevent crushing or deforming the material. For example, if you’re cleaning a Styrofoam decoration, using a soft brush would be ideal to avoid any scratches or dents. And when dealing with a Styrofoam cooler, vacuuming or spot cleaning with a damp cloth would be the safest approach.

How to Melt Styrofoam?

Styrofoam can be melted using heat. One common method is to use an oven set to a high temperature (around 400°F or 200°C), but this should be done with extreme caution as it can release harmful fumes. Another option is to use a heat gun, but again, be careful as it can cause uneven melting and potential fires. It’s important to note that melting Styrofoam at home is not recommended due to the toxic fumes it releases, which can be harmful to your health and the environment. For example, if not done in a well-ventilated area, the fumes from melting Styrofoam in an oven could cause breathing problems or other health issues.

Where Can You Buy Styrofoam?

Where Can You Buy Styrofoam

You can purchase Styrofoam from the following places:

  1. Hardware Stores: Many hardware stores carry Styrofoam sheets, insulation boards, or packaging materials.
  2. Building Supply Stores: These stores often stock Styrofoam for construction and insulation projects.
  3. Online Retailers: Websites like Amazon, eBay, and specialized building material or craft supply websites offer a wide range of Styrofoam products.
  4. Craft Stores: If you’re looking for smaller pieces or Styrofoam for crafting purposes, craft stores may have what you need.
  5. Wholesale Suppliers: For larger quantities or commercial use, you can contact wholesale suppliers of building and insulation materials.

It’s important to note that in some areas, there may be restrictions on the use or sale of Styrofoam due to environmental concerns.


Prepare polystyrene resin particles and a suitable foaming agent, and precisely control the mixing ratio of the foaming agent to the polystyrene particles. Heat the mixture, strictly controlling the temperature and time of heating. Inject the foamed polystyrene into the mold to form it.

We encourage you to try making Styrofoam while following strict safety regulations. This is not only a fun practice, but also allows you to gain a deeper understanding of the characteristics and production process of this material.

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