What is plasticizer?

Plasticizers or dispersants are additives that increase the plasticity or fluidity of a plastic, especially polyvinyl chloride (PVC) tubing in computer liquid cooling. Unfortunately majority of plasticizing agents break down over time and under heat thus leaching the fine powder particles which deposit on all surfaces.

Tubing with plasticizer is usually the culprint for majority of systems failures by clogging of the microchannel fins in the water block or by building up on the water pump impeller shaft thus overloading the motor.

Leached plasticizer (source: Overclock.net)

Top photo shows a cut section of plasticizer leaching affected PVC tubing. Photo oin the bottom shows (green) dyed strains of plasticizer powder 'gunk' (source: overclock.net)

In the past these 'buildup' or 'gunking' issues have been mistakenly attributed to pre-mixed coolants (and their glycol base) instead of tubing . Plasticizing powder, dyed by the colour of the pre-mixed coolant, was leading users to false conclusion that the coolant itself was the issue.

Cleaning the equipment, used in water loop which has been affected by this occurence, is unfortunately a time consuming task: EK Water Blocks recommends taking apart all cooling equipment and cleaning it by following our cleaning guidelines. Warm soapy water and plastic q-tips for cleaning the hard-to-reach spots are a must. The affected tubing should be discarded and a fresh tube must be installed.

Preventive steps:

  • Use plasticizer-free tubing only in your water cooling loop. EK-Tube ZMT (Zero Maintainance Tubing) type tubing is a EPDM rubber type tubing, has no added plasticizer and is thus safe to use. Rubber ensures great bend radius!
  • As an alternative to EK-Tube ZMT type tubing EK Water Blocks recommends Primochill LRT Advanced series tubing, a market proven PVC tubing which does not suffer from plasticizer leaching. Not to be mistaken with older LRT Pro!
  • If you are uncertain whether the plastic tubing contains plasticizer it is best not to use it! As of 2013 all tubing manufactured and sold by EK Water Blocks is safe to use.
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