Packaging is quite the topic, isn’t it? No matter how much you already know, there’s never a shortage of things you can still learn. Whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned packaging veteran, you’re just a blog post away from new and usable info. A blog post like this one.

Words Worth Knowing is an ongoing series here. It gathers up the basics of a certain packaging topic and provides a quick summary of what people interacting with it need to know. The best part of it all? It’s a super quick read that doesn’t take more than five minutes to get through.

When it comes to buying stretch wrap, here’s 5 things you should know about it.

Hand Stretch Wrap

Stretch wrap is a polyethylene film that’s used to secure product loads for shipping. It’s highly elastic, so when you stretch it around a pallet, it tries to pull back into its unstretched state. That tension is where its strength comes from, and why it’s so widely used in shipping bulk products around.

Hand stretch wrap is applied, you guessed it, by hand. It’s been slightly pre-stretched so it’s easier for your team to handle and apply, and it’s best used for smaller pallets or lower volume projects. It can stretch roughly 25-100% when pulled by hand.

Machine Stretch Wrap

This kind of stretch wrap is engineered for use by wrapping machines—typically a large platform that spins a pallet while a mechanical arm holds and pulls the wrap around it.

It hasn’t been pre-stretched like hand wrap, so it’s tougher to apply properly. Machine stretch wrap is meant for use in warehouses and fulfillment centers, where larger pallets and higher volume projects are common. It can stretch roughly 150-300% when pulled by machinery.

Blown Stretch Wrap

This type of stretch wrap is made by blowing heated resin vertically into a bubble. It’s then air-cooled and transformed into rolls of wrap. This technique produces film that can be a little cloudy and experiences more friction (it makes more noise during unrolling and stretching).

The upside to blown stretch wrap is that is has more stretch memory and tear resistance. That makes it ideal for machine application and wrapping large or irregular loads.

Cast Stretch Wrap

This type of stretch wrap is created by running (and stretching out) a sheet of heated resin along a path of chilled rollers. This technique produces film that is much clearer than blown stretch wrap and makes less noise (up to 75% less noise!) during unrolling and stretching.

As you can imagine, these features are highly desirable in warehouses—barcodes and other information remain visible under the film, and noise is reduced in an already noisy environment.

The flip side to using cast stretch wrap is that it has less stretch memory and tear resistance. However, that makes it suited to machine application since tension and stretch can be kept constant.

Pre-Stretch Wrap

This kind of stretch wrap is meant for hand application. By pre-stretching the film, it’s easier for your team to wrap a pallet. At the same time, pre-stretching increases load tension on the film, compensating for those with less hand strength.

Information overload is a real possibility when you’re researching packaging. That’s why Words Worth Knowing exists—you’re now five minutes more in the know, and that’s enough to empower you to make good, basic decisions for buying stretch wrap. If you’re really going to invest in stretch wrap for your business, you can always do a deep dive into the topic.

Got any packaging topics you’d like to know a little more about? Be sure to let us know!