Shrink Film vs Stretch Film – What’s The Difference?

There are many differences between shrink and stretch films, some obvious and some not so much. Both types are used for a similar purpose – to protect products or hold products together – but have differing properties. It’s vital you know the differences between these types of packaging to ensure you choose the correct one for your specific goals and industry.

There are various terms which are used to describe both types of films, which may lead to confusion when deciding which is best suited to your products. This short guide makes the distinctions between shrink and stretch as crystal clear as our films…


Shrink Film

Shrink film is a type of plastic sheeting that is designed to constrict with the application of heat from a shrink wrapping machine (or a heat gun when lower volumes are required) to produce a tight seal around an object. The finished effect is a (usually clear) plastic outer layer that is moulded around the shape of the product within.

Shrink wrap is a popular packaging choice for a number of reasons, including making items water-tight, tamper-resistant, protected from damage, maintaining their freshness, creating multipacks and improving aesthetic appearance.

Shrink film is available in varying thicknesses and widths and in either polyolefin or polythene specifications. Polyolefin is typically used for display applications where the presentation of a product is the most important factor and polythene is typically used in transit applications to protect a product during transportation. Shrink film properties can be tailored to the requirements of many different products, with high optics, breathable, antifog and puncture resistance amongst the variations available. Printed shrink films are also possible.

Best for wrapping: The possibilities for shrink film are almost endless!

  • Food and drink
  • Toys
  • Cosmetics
  • Aerosols
  • Doors and windows
  • Bottles
  • Building products

are just some of the most common applications for shrink film.

Compatible machinery types:

  • L sealers
  • Side sealers
  • Sleeve wrappers
  • Shrink tunnels
  • Flow wrappers


Shrink Film


Stretch Film

Also known as ‘Pallet Wrap’, stretch film is used to secure many items that are stacked together on a pallet prior to transportation in order to provide stability and protection. Stretch film is applied either by hand or with a stretch wrapping machine. It has an adhesive surface that clings to itself as it is wound several times around a loaded pallet and the tension that is created maintains the bundled structure.

Stretch wrap is usually clear in colour and is thicker than shrink wrap. It is available in varying lengths, widths and stretch ratios, depending how taut the finished pallet needs to be wrapped. Differing levels of puncture resistance and tear propagation are available depending on exact requirements.

Best for wrapping: Any pallet configuration!

Compatible machinery types:  Fully or semi-automatic stretch wrapping machines, either turntable or rotating head.


Stretch Film


For all your shrink and/or stretch wrapping requirements, contact our friendly team and we’ll be happy to help!

Please note that all of our shrink and stretch films are fully recyclable to LDPE 04.

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