What are the Different Types of Polyols?

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different types of polyol

When it comes to the world of polyols, understanding the different types is crucial for various industries, from food manufacturing to the production of polyurethane foam. Polyols are versatile compounds that serve a multitude of purposes. In this blog, we’ll delve into the two primary types of polyols: polyether and polyester polyols, and explore their unique characteristics and applications.

Polyether Polyols

Polyether polyols are formed through the polymerisation of propylene oxide (PO) or ethylene oxide (EO). These polyols are known for their secondary hydroxyl groups, which make them highly reactive. They are commonly used in the production of flexible foam, often found in furniture and bedding, as well as in rigid foam, used for insulation.


One of the defining features of polyether polyols is their high molecular weight. This gives them the ability to produce foam with excellent cushioning properties. Additionally, they are relatively easy to handle and store, making them a popular choice for many manufacturers.

Polyester Polyols

On the other hand, polyester polyols are produced through the reaction of terephthalic acid with various alcohols. Unlike polyether polyols, polyester polyols have primary hydroxyl groups, which make them less reactive but more resistant to hydrolysis.


Polyester polyols offer a wide range of properties, including better adhesion and higher resistance to solvents and chemicals compared to their polyether counterparts. This makes them ideal for coatings, adhesives, and high-performance elastomers.

Applications Beyond Foam

While both types of polyols are extensively used in the production of polyurethane foam, their applications don’t end there. Polyether-based polyols occur naturally and are often used as sugar alcohols in sugar-free baked goods. They are also used in oral care products to prevent tooth decay.

Health and Food Industry

Polyester polyols, on the other hand, find applications in the health sector. They are used in medical devices and pharmaceuticals. In the food industry, they are used as starch hydrolysate and in various sugar-free products.

Polymer Polyols and More

Beyond these two primary types, there are also polymer polyols, which are essentially polyether or polyester polyols that have been modified with styrene acrylonitrile (SAN) or other polymers to improve their functionality.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re in the automotive industry, construction, floor treatment, or food manufacturing, understanding the different types of polyols can help you make informed decisions for your specific needs. From polyether polyols with their high molecular weight and secondary hydroxyl groups to polyester polyols with their wide range of properties, each type has its unique set of advantages and applications.

If you’re looking to source high-quality polyols for your business, Bisley International has got you covered. We supply, have, or browse our range of polyether and polyester polyols to meet your specific requirements. Feel free to reach out to us to discuss your needs in detail.