A corrugated box, the right void fill, and some strong packing tape—that’s a well-packed box, ready and waiting to be shipped. But what about shipping a bunch of well-packed boxes at once? That’s where stretch wrap comes in.

Used to protect bulk shipments, stretch wrap is one of the most common (and least understood) packaging supplies out there today. Let’s take a closer look at the stuff, shall we?

What is stretch wrap?

It’s a polyethylene plastic film that secures product loads—usually on a shipping pallet. It’s a pre-stretched film that’s highly elastic, so once it’s pulled tight and wrapped around a group of boxes or products, it tries to return to its unstretched state. That tension provides excellent hold during shipping and even provides some puncture resistance. Properly wrapped around a pallet, it also protects against dust, dirt and (depending on its color or tint) can protect against sunlight or prying eyes.

How is stretch wrap different from shrink wrap?

They’re both used to secure loads and products, but their application is handled quite differently. Shrink wrap is made from polyolefin plastic, and once wrapped around something it must be exposed to high heat (300 F) to make it shrink and tighten. This also seals it against dirt and dust and makes it resistant to tearing and contamination.

Shrink wrap is most often used for food packaging and is popular for sheltering boats and patio furniture from the weather.

What are the types of stretch wrap?

There’s two forms of stretch wrap:

  • Hand wrap is applied manually and is best for smaller pallet loads or low-volume projects. It can stretch 25-100% when pulled tightly.
  • Machine wrap needs powered machinery and is best for large loads or high-volume projects. It can stretch 150-300% when pulled tightly.

There’s also several types of stretch wrap:

  • Cast film has less memory and tear resistance
  • Blown film has more memory and tear resistance
  • Pre-stretched film is easier to apply by hand
  • Colored film is great for privacy, organizing and branding
  • Anti-static film is used for shipping static-sensitive electronics
  • UV film prevents exposure to the sun’s rays
  • Vented film prevents the buildup of moisture
  • Printed film can carry warnings or a company logo

What accessories or gadgets do you need for stretch wrap?

Hand stretch wrap can be applied, of course, by hand. But to make it easier on yourself, and avoid burnout, stretch wrap dispensers are a great accessory to invest in.

They’re available in two styles. The first is a set of handles that plug into the sides of a stretch wrap roll and act as handholds. The second is a carrying device that has a spindle to hold the wrap and a handle to give you leverage during wrapping. Either one is a smart, time saving addition.

Machine stretch wrap comes in large rolls and needs machinery to apply it properly.

What businesses use stretch wrap?

  • Warehouses that pack and ship palleted items
  • Manufacturers that ship static-sensitive electronics
  • Businesses that buy and sell high-theft products

As you can see, stretch wrap is a strong and versatile packaging product. Providing strength, stability and even opportunities for privacy or branding, it’s an ideal addition to a warehouse or other shipper’s packaging strategy. Be sure to stop by our stretch wrap category before you prep your next pallet.