Shrink Wrap By Thickness
Shrink wrap often refers to a few items: pallet shrink wrap and heat shrink wrap. Both are made differently and out of various materials and additives. Since the usage and materials are vast, we will highlight both. The measurements below are stated in gauge and mil thickness. If you have other forms of measurement, use a gauge conversion chart to help understand your film capabilities. This is slightly different than our post focused only on heat shrink wrap thicknesses, below describes common pallet and heat shrink thicknesses, strengths, and recommended uses.
Pallet Shrink Wrap
A material that stretches when pulled and conforms tightly around bundled items.
25-37 Gauge Pallet Shrink Wrap – This is a pre-stretched film. Converters use a regular 70 or 80-gauge stretch film and stretch it to 90% of the maximum stretch rate. Because the material is stretched, it becomes thinner and less puncture resistant. Pre-stretched pallet shrink wrap is excellent for wrapping light skids of stacked boxes. It is not recommended for anything with sharp corners.
42-63 Gauge Pallet Shrink Wrap – An equivalent stretch wrap made to have standard stretch wrap load retention. An equivalent wrap is excellent for wrapping uniform pallets of boxes. It does not have the best puncture resistance. Any loads under 2,000 lbs with no sharp corners can be wrapped.
65-90 Gauge Pallet Shrink Wrap – Even some 60 gauge pallet wrap can be a standard stretch wrap. Standard gauged pallet stretch/shrink wrap will have excellent stretching capabilities and puncture resistance.
Blown and cast stretch wrap will significantly differ in this range of material thickness. Many of the lighter equivalent materials are made with cast extrusion. Blown extrusion creates a more durable pallet shrink wrap with better puncture resistance.
The thickness and type of wrap should be determined by the products being wrapped. View a detailed stretch film thickness guide to choose the proper strength for the items being wrapped.
90-150 Gauge Pallet Shrink Wrap – Not much film past a 120 gauge is available for hand application. Once the wrap reaches this thickness, machine rolls are often the only option due to the amount of tension needed to apply the material.
Blown wrap in a thicker gauge is noisy from a machine roll but can provide superb holding strength and puncture resistance. Cast rolls are the most common and can be used for wrapping skids with rough edges and jagged corners.
Heat Shrink Wrap
A material that can be sealed and heat applied to shrink and conform to the item(s) being wrapped.
45 to 50 Gauge Heat Shrink Wrap – Many thinner heat shrink wrap materials are made from crosslinked polyolefin. The process of crosslinking polymers is done through the irradiation process. The interlinking of the polymers makes a thinner yet stronger shrink film.
Most lighter heat shrink materials are used with consumer products such as chocolates, soaps, produce, baked goods, electronics, and more. All crosslinked shrink film should work excellent on fully auto machines. Crosslinked materials this thin will work on manual and semi-auto machines as well.
60 Gauge Heat Shrink Wrap – A 60 gauge heat shrink wrap can be PVC, polyolefin, crosslinked polyolefin, or a few other options. One of the more popular heat shrink wrap thicknesses, 60 gauge heat shrink wrap, can be used for tamper-evident seals on bottles, as centerfold shrink wrap, or as bags.
The thinner-made material is easy to open and consumer-friendly. It is recommended for use with lighter consumable and non-consumable products. A crosslinked polyolefin shrink film can be advantageous for products with sharp edges. Standard 60 gauge shrink wrap protects pies, cookies, and other consumable items from tampering. We recommend using a crosslinked film if wrapping lighter metal pieces or parts with sharp edges.
75 Gauge Heat Shrink Wrap – The most popular thickness of retail heat shrink wrap. Commonly available in PVC, polyolefin, and crosslinked polyolefin. While still thin and relatively easy to open, 75 gauge heat shrink can wrap products weighing up to 15 lbs depending on transportation stress after being wrapped.
A crosslinked material works well for products closer to the 15 lb range in total weight. Stronger seals will help the shrunk material stay closed. Even with a crosslinked material, this thickness is not recommended for parcel shipping via USPS or UPS without a box.
100 Gauge Heat Shrink Wrap – For retail and commercial packaging of heavier items such as combo packs of two or three bottles, metal objects, boxes up to 25 lbs, and much more. A 100 gauge shrink wrap will have an excellent seal and tear strength.
Using a 100 gauge crosslinked shrink film for the exterior packaging of lighter parcels is common. Ship products up to 12 or 15 pounds with a crosslinked polyolefin heat shrink wrap and lose the external shipping box. The product will be fully enclosed and sealed. If not shipping the product being packaged with shrink film as the exterior, a crosslinked 100 gauge can package products up to 50 lbs. depending on handling after packaging.
125-150 Gauge Heat Shrink Wrap – There are some PVC, polyolefin, polypropylene, and polyethylene options in this range. All of them will be made to hold heavier items. They can be made for sleeves and tamper seals, but any shrink holding or containing products in this thickness will be for heavier applications.
In addition to finding many different shrink materials in this thickness range, there are also many wrap styles. Centerfold wrap in this thickness will fully enclose products; sleeves and caps mentioned above will shrink around bottles and containers, while single-wound or lay flat bundling film will wrap small cases of water.
2 Mil – 4 Mil Heat Shrink Wrap – A two Mil thickness equals 200 gauge. That is usually that starting point for most bundling shrink wrap for cases of water. It can easily hold and bundle cases of a dozen 12 oz bottles. For larger containers or packs, thicker bundling film will be needed.
Polyethylene and polypropylene are the most common materials in this thickness. Other mixed resins can be found, but those two are the primary options, with polyethylene more abundant. Most bundling film comes in a lay-flat or single-wound roll to run on a bundling machine. Stock centerfold rolls in this thickness are hard to find.
4 Mil - 10 Mil Heat Shrink Wrap – Beyond a four Mil thickness, shrink wrap is primarily made from polyethylene for large industrial jobs. Some people use the four mil thickness to cover patio furniture and smaller items, but for something like winterizing boats, they use at least a six mil thickness.
All of the heavy-duty shrink rolls come on a roll with multiple folds. Sizes are usually measured in feet, and the rolls are transported via motor freight. It is difficult to find clear rolls of shrink wrap this thick; the most common colors are white and blue. Large propane heat guns are used to apply heat and shrink the material.
Popular Shrink Wrap Thickness Questions
How thick does shrink wrap for Amazon FBA need to be?
The packaging and prep guidelines on Amazon Seller Central indicate general guidelines that do not apply to all products. In our experience working with customers, we recommend using a crosslinked shrink film not less than a 75 gauge thickness. We urge customers to go a size thicker than usual when sending to Amazon to avoid repackaging fees.
What thickness shrink wrap do I need to shrink wrap soda cans?
Packaging cases of soda cans, water bottles, sports drinks, and more should be done with a polyethylene shrink bundling film with at least a two mil thickness. Larger twenty-four packs may require a 3-4 mil thickness.
How thick is 75 gauge shrink wrap?
In retail packaging, 75 gauge is the most popular strength. For polymer measurements, a one mil thickness is 100 gauge, making 75 gauge 3/4 of one mil thickness. One mil is equal to one-thousandths of an inch.
What is the strongest shrink wrap?
Most extruders do not make more than 150 gauge or 1.5 mils for pallet shrink wrap. Heat shrink wrap can come up to a ten mil thickness for some industrial wraps.
First, understand what type of shrink wrap you are seeking. For pallet shrink wrap, know how it will be applied and if any sharp edges need to be wrapped. Heat shrink wrap thickness should be chosen by the product weight and what will happen after the wrap is complete.
Request samples to run in-house. If you do not have the equipment, see if the packaging company you are working with can run samples and send them back. After a full inspection of the pieces, you will be better able to choose the right shrink wrap thickness.