Shipping Supplies & Protective Packaging

Stretch Wrap: Everything You Need to Know

Will your business operations involve securing pallets, storing rolled items, or moving large objects? If so, you’re about to become well-versed in the world of stretch wrap. Hopefully, this post gives you the vocabulary to start exploring what you need with a packaging specialist. After all, knowing what you need means the difference between protecting products and losing them to damage or theft.

What is it & why do we need it?

The translucent material you see securing a wide variety of products around you is stretch wrap. It’s manufactured according to different specifications by different processes for different applications, but essentially, it’s a strong plastic wrap with a lot of stretch. When we wrap it around objects, it provides tension and constriction, which means that even when they’re heavy, the objects remain secure.

In general, we use this material to:

  • Secure loads during transit
  • Reduce threat and tampering
  • Protect products against environmental contaminants like moisture and dirt

Note that stretch wrap and shrink wrap are two different things. Stretch wrap is a polyethylene product that can hold entire pallets together. Shrinkwrap is a PVC film that “shrinks around” products meant for retail shelves (think: a flat of eggs).

Types of wrap & when to use them

Hand wrap

Types of Wrap - Hand Wrap Film
Types of Wrap – Hand Wrap Film

The name is self-explanatory. Hand wrap is designed to be applied by hand, necessitating more labour time. It’s meant for low-volume operations.

Machine stretch wrap

Types of Wrap - Machine Stretch Wrap
Types of Wrap – Machine Stretch Wrap

Unlike hand wrap, machine stretch wrap is designed to be applied by special wrapping machines. It’s incredibly robust and can stretch by 150-300%. It needs to be mechanically stretched and wrapped around objects, usually pallets.

Pre-stretch wrap

This type of wrap has already been factory-stretched and comes in rolls. Employees can use it to wrap products without a special stretching machine. Less of this product also goes further than with other types of wrap.

Blown wrap

Blown wrap is created when air is blown into freshly stretched film. After the air slowly releases, the plastic cools into a strong, tear-resistant material. It is more expensive to produce than other types of wraps (see cast wrap, just below), but enterprises choose it when they want:

  • Better load retention and less shifting during shipping
  • Higher puncture resistance
  • One-sided cling (meaning pallets won’t stick together)
  • Lower gloss (hence, less light reflection, which can be hard on the eyes)
  • Better bang for your buck (i.e., more coverage with less film)
  • Better “film memory” (meaning it’s more likely to shrink down to its original size after stretching)

Cast wrap

Cast is similar to blown wrap, but it’s cooled on rollers more quickly. That efficiency boost results in a more cost-effective product. It also means that this type of wrap doesn’t necessarily have all of the benefits of blown wrap (see directly above). But it does offer:

  • Quieter unrolling (blown wrap is quite loud when it comes off the roll)
  • Perfect clarity so products and labels underneath are easier to scan/read (albeit with a higher amount of the aforementioned annoying light reflections)
Types of Wrap - Pre-Stretch, Blown, and Cast Wrap
Types of Wrap – Pre-Stretch, Blown, and Cast Wrap

As you can see, the type of wrap you choose has a big impact on both the safety of your products and the experience your team will have using it. Now that you’re more familiar with the benefits and limitations of each, feel free to reach out to one of our packaging specialists.

If you’re moving, securing, or selling the types of items that call for stretch wrap, you’ve got serious investments on the line. Stretch wrap is made for heavy-duty enterprise; choosing the right kind means better bottom lines for our economy’s true movers and shakers. Let’s make sure we get it right.


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