Ripping, biting and waterboarding: Just how tough will the new plastic bank notes be?

Polymer bank notes are now set to be introduced to replace the traditional cotton-paper ones from 2016. The proposed plastic notes are said to be smaller, cleaner and should even survive a spell in the washing machine, the Bank of England has said.

Here at we take economic promises with a pinch of salt, and we want straight answers about the durability of the new notes. If they’re going to cost millions or billions or possibly millions of billions to implement, then it had better be worth it, and those notes ought to be indestructible, otherwise the entire project is pointless.

So we put a polymer Australian five dollar note through a rigorous series of physical experiments to see how it fared.

Test number 1 - The rip test

Children and overeager barmen are a common cause of much of the note rippage seen in Britain today. The average five pound note is lucky to see its first birthday. Will polymer notes put an end to the shame of handing over sellotaped lunch money?

We passed the five dollar note round the office, with the promise of a half-bottle of gin for anyone who could rip it in half with their bare hands. Nobody could pull-off the feat and the note remained unscathed.

Test number 2 – The hot coffee test

Will the new notes be able to survive the staining potential of being accidentally plunged into a boiling hot mug of black coffee? We’ve all lost notes this way, so if the new polymer material can deal with this sort of abuse, perhaps it will be worth it after all.

The note was unaffected by the scalding heat and black waters of Nescafé Original and came out looking insufferably conceited.

Test number 3 – the biting test

We’ve all had the misfortune of accidentally eating money. But can you chomp through a polymer note? We phoned expert biter Mike Tyson to see if he would come round and bite our plastic money, but his assistant didn’t understand the question, so we had to do it ourselves. We discovered that no matter how much you screw your face up, you can’t bite through the plastic note.

Test number 4 - The toaster test

With high energy prices making traditional heating methods unaffordable, people across the UK are burning their paper money to heat their homes this Christmas. Will the polymer burn? We didn’t have a match or lighter to hand, so stuffed it into a hot toaster.

The note quickly began to shrivel up, and gave off an unpleasant odour. We hadn’t finished with it yet, so we threw it back into its cell to cool off.

Test number 5 – the waterboarding test

We put the five dollar note on its back and held a wet flannel over the Queen’s face, and while continuing to pour water over the flannel we asked demanding questions, like “What is Kevin Rudd doing now?” The note was not phased, and only revealed its denomination, watermark and serial number.

Test number 6 – the stress tests

Finally, the bank note was left in stress positions and forced to endure the white-noise of keyboards tapping in the editorial department at We also denied the note access to texts such as Russell Brand’s Booky Wook, and told it that it was undervalued.

But did it crack? No. can reveal that polymer notes are pretty resistant to traditional interrogation techniques, but that it fares badly when exposed to extreme heat. But then, who doesn’t.

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