What Is the Difference Between Hose, Tube and Pipe?

A hose is reinforced where a tube is not. Hoses are typically used for applications that involve high pressure, whereas a tube is more often used for lower pressure applications.

  • Pipe is designated by Trade Size, aka nominal diameter (roughly according to its Inside Diameter). Pipe is not normally Flexible.
  • Tubing is designated by actual Outside Diameter. Tubing may be either Flexible or Rigid.
  • Hose is designated by its actual Inside Diameter. The hose is not normally Rigid.

Hoses are generally reinforced. Typical reinforcements include embedded braids or wires, stiffer materials, dual walls, or heavier walls. The hose is typically used for high-pressure applications, while unreinforced tubing is usually used for gravity flow or lower pressure applications.

Hoses: Hoses are the jack of all trades. They can be the stopgap in a wide range of situations. While tubes and pipes have fairly specific uses, hoses have a multitude of applications and follow a wide range of standards. They also are made up of different materials from tubes and pipes. Hoses are typically flexible, made of nylon, rubbers, and other non-metal-based materials, and are not used for pipeline applications.

Tubes: Tubes are used for structural applications. That means they don’t have to be cylindrical. They come in squares, rectangles, and even custom shapes, and oval hollow sections that are used for pressure equipment, mechanical applications, and for instrumentation systems. Tubes are indicated with the outer diameter and wall thickness, in inches or in millimeters.

Pipes: Pipe is a hollow section with round cross-section for the conveyance of products. The products include fluids, gas, pellets, powders, and more. While tubes are used for structural purposes, pipes carry fluids or gases in pipe systems.

The most important dimensions for a pipe is the outer diameter (OD) together with the wall thickness (WT). OD minus 2 times WT (schedule) determines the inside diameter (ID) of a pipe, which determines the liquid capacity of the pipe.

  • Item
  • Reinforced
  • Application
  • Size
  • Hose
  • yes
  • Flexible,cylindrical.
  • inside diameter
  • Pipe
  • no
  • Hard, cylindrical.
  • outside diameter
  • Tube
  • no
  • round, square, rectangular
  • inches or in millimeters

Differences in Materials and the Manufacturing Process

Hoses are manufactured from a completely different material—rubber or PTFE—than tubes and pipes—carbon steel, stainless steel, alloy steel, etc.—so manufacturing processes differ.

Tubes and pipes share similar manufacturing processes, and they’re usually made up of similar materials. For instance, there are stainless steel pipes as well as steel tubes.

However, the pair have different manufacturing requirements. Tubes have stricter requirements that manufacturers need to account for, including thickness, straightness, and roundness of the cylinder. These requirements lead to a higher degree of testing and inspection on tubing compared to piping products.

While tubes, pipes, and hoses seem like similar products that serve similar functions, a deeper analysis shows otherwise. By reviewing various tube, pipe, and hose applications, sizing terminology, and manufacturing processes, it’s clear that these items serve different purposes.