Shrink Wrap Film - a Guide to Film Selection 

When it comes to shrink wrapping your soap, you have options. In this article we discuss the different types of shrink wrap films, so you can make the best choice for your product packaging.

ShrinkWrapPulled
Which shrink wrap is right?

Wrapping your soap protects it from the environment, excess handling and your clients, while increasing customer confidence in the integrity of your product. There are several different types of plastics used to make shrink wrap film, and each comes in different weights, with and without perforations. So when it comes to selecting the best for your individual application, the answer depends on a number of factors.

PVC Film

If you don’t want, or don’t care if, the scent of the soap comes through the film, 75 gauge PVC is the best-looking film to use. It is also the easiest to work with. PVC is crinkly, with a beautiful glossy finish. It makes your packages sparkle, which is why PVC is the first choice for gift applications such as Spa Kits, gift sets and gift baskets, as well as single items such as soap or candles. It’s often a good choice for products placed in retail outlets other than your own, as it looks great, and typically, will not allow the scent through quickly, if at all.

The weight of the PVC film makes a difference. We often hear complaints about “hard, rough edges” from soapers who are using the pre-made PVC shrink bags which are typically made from 100 gauge PVC. The recommended thickness for PVC used to wrap small items (such as a bar of soap) is 75 gauge. Anything over that is way too thick and will result in those sharp edges.

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PVC Wrap is great for display!

For moisture sensitive items such as bath bombs, fizzies and MP soap, the same properties of PVC that keep the scent from escaping will also protect the moisture (or rain!) from getting in. That makes PVC film an excellent choice for these items as well.

Perforated PVC

Tip: Sometimes if you perfectly seal a bar of soap, it will trap some air in the package and puff up like a little pillow as you shrink it down. To resolve this minor issue, squeeze the bar as you handle it normally for shrinking. The air will find a way out and it doesn’t take any extra time.

If you want the glossy look-and-feel of PVC for your soaps and candles but still want the scent to come through the film, think about Perforated PVC. This is the same 75 gauge film, but made with tiny pinholes that will allow the scent to come through. Keep in mind when considering Perforated PVC for moisture sensitive items that there are actual holes in the film that will let in humidity and water.

Polyolefins

If you DO want the scent to come through, polyolefins can be a better choice. It is an FDA-approved-for-food-contact film that is breathable, freezable, microwaveable and allows the scent through the film, whether perforated or not.

Polyolefins are soft shrink films with a feel similar to that of your standard Ziploc-type sandwich bag. There are two processes by which polyolefin is manufactured, the latest of which is a method called cross-linking. Cross-linked polyolefin yields a stronger and more puncture-resistant film than shrink packaging produced by the old method. It’s more expensive than standard films and is usually sold under the “premium” designation. (This is the only type of polyolefin we sell at National Shrinkwrap.)

60 Gauge vs. 75 Gauge Polyolefin

Within the confines of a shop or if you ship mail-order, 60 gauge polyolefins is the film of choice. It is thinner, easier to cut and seal, and quicker to shrink than any of the other films. Keep in mind, though, that it’s also easier to blow a hole through 60 gauge film if you get a little careless with your heat gun.

However, if you are often moving your product (for example to and from fairs, festivals, or farmer’s markets) the stronger, thicker, 75 gauge film will make for stronger packages that will stand up better to the repeated handling during packing and unpacking and setting up your racks or displays. The heavier weight film also offers a bit more protection from customers’ handling of your products.

In the same vein, you might want to wrap Multi-Bar packs, gift sets or soap/dish combinations. These would also benefit from the added strength and durability of 75 gauge polyolefin.

Just to give you some perspective on the film, Apple uses 60 gauge film wrapping iPad boxes. Polyolefin film in 60 gauge is available in standard, perforated and Soft Shrink varieties.

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60 or 70 Gauge Polyolefin Rolls?

Perforated Polyolefins

At National Shrinkwrap, we originally perforated many of our film selections for the benefit of our customers making goat’s milk and dairy based soap which need to “breathe” (to avoid rancidity from any dairy components).

Another reason many of our soapers, even those not using milk in their recipe, prefer the perforated films is that the perforations make it easier any air trapped in your package to escape.

Finally, the perforations allow the scent through quickly on wrapping. However, given a day or so, the scent of the soap will still come through the non-perforated polyolefin films just as well.

As with perforated PVC, we don’t recommend perforated polyolefin for MP soap, bath bombs, fizzies or other moisture-sensitive products. In humid or rainy environments perforated film allows moisture in more easily; and in an arid environment it may allow for too much moisture evaporation over time. That said, at National Shrinkwrap we do have many customers who us the perforated polyolefin for MP soaps and are happy with it, especially those that do not typically sell in outside environments.

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It's a tall decision, can you shrink of the right one?

Soft Shrink Polyolefin

Soft shrink polyolefin is a special formulation that requires less heat to shrink down, a big plus for wrapping butters and other heat sensitive items. It also exerts less force during the shrinking process, allowing it to conform to intricate shapes better than other films. If your decorative bars feature delicate designs like the petals on a soap rose, or if you make shaped soaps, like pie slices, cupcakes or frosted items, you might want to opt for this variant of polyolefin film.

Biolefin™

If you’ve “gone green,” Biolefin™ is a biodegradable film that will take 90% less time to degrade in the environment and will decompose into biomass in a span of 3-5 years in a landfill situation.

Biolefin serves the same purposes as standard film, and is available with or without perforations. As with all polyolefins, it allows the scent of your soaps through whether perforated or not. NOTE: Biolefin is only available in 60 gauge.

Summary

So, in a nutshell, here are your film options, in order of popularity, amongst our legions of soapmaking customers.

    1. 75 gauge Polyolefin - Allows the scent to come through. Extra strength for frequent handling and packing, soap/dish combinations, spa and gift sets, or multi-bar packs.
    2. 60 gauge Polyolfein - Easiest to cut and seal, quickest to shrink. Allows scent to come through within hours.
    3. 75 gauge Perforated Polyolefin - Best for dairy-based products that need to breathe. Same features as standard 75gauge polyolefin, with the additional feature of allowing air to escape easily when shrinking.
    4. 60 gauge Perforated Polyolefin - Best for dairy-based products that need to breathe. Allows scent through instantly and avoids trapping air in package during shrink process.
    5. 60 gauge Biolefin™ (Biodegradable, $$) - Same as standard 60 gauge polyolefin, but degrades 90% more quickly.
    6. 60 gauge Perforated Biolefin™ (Biodegradable, $$) - Same as 60 gauge perforated polyolefin, but biodegradable.
    7. 75 gauge PVC - Prettiest film, easiest to work with. Glossy finish; great for gift & spa kits. Inhibits scent. Best protection from moisture. Looks best on candles.
    8. 75 gauge Perforated PVC - AS above, but perforations allow scent through. Allows trapped air to escape when shrinking.
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Beautiful basket with wrapped soaps
National Shrinkwrap has been manufacturing, supplying and servicing shrink systems for over 30 years. The shrink wrap systems are not mass-imported — they custom manufacture and assemble each and every one of their systems. Like many of their customers, they are a small, home-based business, and as such, treat their customers as they want to be treated by their vendors. National Shrinkwrap has been a member of the HSCG since 2008.

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