An experimental investigation of the surface modification of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) by an Ar and Ar/O2 plasma created with an atmospheric-pressure radio frequency (r.f.) torch is presented here. The surfaces were analyzed by atomic force microscopy (AFM), XPS and water contact angle (WCA) to get an insight of the surface morphology and chemistry. An increase of roughness is observed with the Ar/O2 plasma treatment. The WCA analysis shows that these surfaces are more hydrophobic than pristine PTFE; a contact angle of 135° was measured. When a PTFE surface is treated by Ar plasma, no roughening or significant change of the surface morphology and chemistry of PTFE was observed. The effects of the Ar and O2 fluxes on the PTFE surface treatment were analyzed, as well as the effect of the power and treatment time. The plasma phase was also analyzed by optical emission spectroscopy, and some correlations with the treatment efficiency of the plasma are made. The chemistry on the surface is finally discussed and the competition between etching and re-deposition chemical reactions on the surface is proposed as a possible explanation of the results. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.