What is PTFE, and what is it used for?

Let it slide.

Photo by Colton Deck

Most gamers have heard the acronym PTFE when referring to mouse feet. PTFE feet have the lowest friction resistance and allow gaming mice to glide smoothly on various surfaces. What may not be common knowledge is that PTFE is a common material used in many household and industrial applications.

PTFE stands for polytetrafluoroethylene, which is a type of polymer comprised of carbon and fluorine. It was discovered accidentally by a DuPont employee named Roy J. Plunkett in 1938 while he was conducting an experiment to develop a new refrigerant. During the experiment, the tetrafluoroethylene (TFE) gas escaped the bottle he was using, but the bottle still had some extra weight in it. When he sawed the bottle open to discover the source of the extra weight, he found a slippery white substance. That substance was PTFE, and it was found to have properties such as heat and chemical resistance. Another major characteristic was its low-friction coefficient, making it ideal for a wide range of applications. PTFE was trademarked as Teflon in 1945 and became popular worldwide.

Characteristics of PTFE

  • Very low friction
  • Resistant to chemicals and solvents
  • Resistant to high and low temperatures
  • Resistant to water
  • High melting point
  • Flexible
  • Resistant to UV light

Common PTFE uses

Image by Ozeri via Amazon

Thanks to the many favorable characteristics of PTFE, it’s used in many different industries and on many everyday products. One of the most popular uses of PTFE is for coating non-stick cookware. The PTFE coating ensures that food doesn’t stick to pots and pans when cooking. PTFE is also used to coat electrical cables and printed circuit boards (PCBs) because of its electrical insulation. Being heat resistant also means it’s ideal for making gaskets and thread seal tape used for plumbing. Another use for PTFE is for making corrosion-resistant containers and pipes. PTFE can also be used as a lubricant to reduce friction in machinery, and it can coat tools and automotive parts.

PTFE mouse feet

Image by Hyperglide

Mouse feet, also known as mouse skates, sit at the bottom of the mouse and make contact with the desk or mouse pad. Since gamers rely on quick movements when playing, the mouse feet must offer the least resistance possible and glide smoothly over most surfaces. 

The best mouse feet use virgin-grade PTFE because it isn’t mixed with any additives and offers the least friction. Virgin-grade PTFE mouse feet, like Hyperglides, are always white because of the lack of dyes and other additives.

Apart from the material, the shape of the mouse feet can also impact their gaming performance. Thicker mouse feet last longer, but they can interfere with tracking if the mouse has a low lift-off distance that is unadjustable. On the other hand, thinner mouse feet might not last as long, but they are compatible with more mice. 

Another factor to consider when choosing PTFE mouse feet are the edges. Mouse feet with rounded edges offer smoother tracking and less resistance than alternatives with straight edges. 

Most mouse feet are designed for specific models of gaming mice. Companies like Hyperglide and Corepad make PTFE mouse feet for most major brands, including Logitech, Razer, SteelSeries, and Corsair.