A plasticizer (UK: plasticiser) is a substance that is added to a material to make it softer and more flexible, to increase its plasticity, to decrease its viscosity, and/or to decrease friction during its handling in manufacture.
Plasticizers are commonly added to polymers such as plastics and rubber, either to facilitate the handling of the raw material during fabrication, or to meet the demands of the end product's application. For example, plasticizers are commonly added to polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which otherwise is hard and brittle, to make it soft and pliable; which makes it suitable for products such as shower curtains, vinyl flooring, clothing, bags, flexible plastic tubing, and electric wire insulation/coating.
Plasticizers are also often added to concrete formulations to make them more workable and fluid for pouring, thus allowing the water contents to be reduced. Similarly, they are often added to clays, stucco, solid rocket fuel, and other pastes prior to molding and forming. For these applications, plasticizers largely overlap with dispersants.