Many brand names have become generic household terms over time. We generally refer to all disposable foam cups and plates as “styrofoam,” but actually that is incorrect in much the same way as it’s not always correct to say you’re grabbing a “kleenex” instead of a tissue, or making a “xerox” copy instead of a photocopy. So, what exactly is the difference between Styrofoam and polystyrene foam?
According to the Styrofoam™ website: Genuine Styrofoam brand foam is NOT used to make disposable foam products. Styrofoam is a trademark of Dow for the white and green foam found in floral designs and craft projects, and for blue Styrofoam brand insulation.
According to Wikipedia: Styrofoam is a trademarked brand of closed-cell extruded polystyrene foam currently made for thermal insulation and craft applications. It is owned and manufactured by The Dow Chemical Company.
Smoothfoam™, on the other hand, is a trademarked brand name for molded expandable polystyrene, owned and manufactured by the Plasteel Corporation. It is a smooth, closed-cell foam, most commonly (albeit incorrectly) referred to as smooth “styrofoam.” It is molded from tiny beads into many shapes like blocks, discs, balls, eggs, miniature fruit shapes and more. Because of its smooth surface, it is excellent for painting. It’s also very durable and won’t crumble, making it great for projects requiring pins or glue.
When should you use Smoothfoam vs. Styrofoam?
This depends on the project. If you want to paint the surface without having to prep it or pin something firmly in place, Smoothfoam will likely work the best. If you need to insert lots of thicker stems or sticks into the surface, you might prefer working with Styrofoam. Try both and see for yourself which product works best for you.