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How to Shrink Wrap | U.S. Packaging & Wrapping LLC

Shrink wrapping products for retail sales can be an excellent choice for business owners seeking a professional packaging option at an affordable price. Many people are confused about the term shrink wrap and do not understand the process.

How To Shrink Wrap: (with Pictures)


1. Insert products into the heat shrink wrap material of choice. Bags, tubing, and centerfold film are the most popular options.

Insert product into shrink wrap material


2. Seal open ends with a heat sealer. Impulse sealers, I bar sealers, and L bar sealers are the most popular options.

Sealing shrink wrapped product

3. Use a heat gun or heat tunnel to shrink and conform the material to the product.

Heat shrink wrap is used for wrapping anything from boats and electrical wire to thousands of different retail and wholesale products.

See each step below to help gain a basic understanding of the shrink wrapping process.

Step One - Determining Equipment

Effectively and professionally shrink wrapping products for retail sales requires three key elements.

1. The type of shrink film to be used

2. A heat sealer to seal open ends of the material

3. A heating source to heat the film so it will shrink and conform to the product.

There are a few applications, such as gift basket shrink bags and some shrink tubing applications that do not require a heat sealer. The majority ofshrink wrapping applications do need all of the elements listed above. Below is a brief breakdown of each. 

Shrink Film

Shrink film comes from four types of plastics: Polyolefin, PVC, Polyethylene, and Polypropylene. Each type of material offers different characteristics, advantages, and disadvantages. Polypropylene shrink wrap is the least common; the other three types of films are used in multiple industries around the world. In a recent blog post, a contributor helps to describe the differences and characteristics of each kind of film.

Once the type of shrink wrap is determined, users should consider the form of shrink film they will use. Shrink film can come in tubing, bags, centerfold rolls, and single wound (flat) rolls. Here is a complete list of shrink wrap products, including different forms of shrink film available.

Heat Sealer

The cost of a sealer is directly related to the seal width and the desired levels of production. A small four-inch hand sealer is much less expensive than a large 24"x32" L-Bar sealer, but efficiency is much less. Our guide to shrink wrap machine costs will help determine what type of sealers to consider.

I Bar Sealers
L Bar Sealers

Heating Source

The heating element applies heat to the shrink film after the open ends are sealed. The film shrinks, conforming to the products. The two primary forms of heating elements are heat guns and shrink tunnels. A heat gun is a fraction of the cost compared to a heat tunnel but has many disadvantages compared to a shrink tunnel. Our guide to shrink wrap machine costs referenced above details the benefits and costs of shrink tunnels and heat guns.

Heat Shrink Gun
Heat Shrink Gun

Step Two - Proper Measurements

Proper measurements will help determine the size and form of shrink film to consider, the size of the sealer needed, and the size of the shrink tunnel if required. We recommend length x width x height measurements of the largest product wrapped. Purchasing shrink film, a heat sealer, and a shrink tunnel to accommodate the largest product will enable users to package smaller products as well.

Depending on production levels, using different sizes of film can reduce waste and cost. If using shrink bags, multiple bag sizes, and proper product measurements are essential. The same is true for tubing when wrapping products of different sizes.

How To Measure

The best option to measure for bags is to measure the circumference and length of each product. The circumference measurement is the measurement around the product at the widest point. See the illustration below.

Shrink Wrap Width Calculator

Check out our "How to" videos below.

*Formula For Centerfold Shrink Film

Width + Depth + 2 Inches = Width of Roll Needed

*Formula For Shrink Tubing

Circumference + 10%  ÷2 = Width of Tubing Needed

*Formula For Shrink Bags

Circumference + 10% √∑ 2 = Width of Bag Needed

Length + Depth + 2 Inches = Length of Bag Needed

Step Three - Sealing Open Ends

Once measurements and proper film sizes are determined, the rest is easy. Place the product in the film roll, bag, or tubing. Close the sealing bar on the open ends of the film approximately half an inch from the product and make seals.

Step Four - Apply Heat

Once open ends are sealed, apply heat with a shrink gun or shrink tunnel. If the film balloons and fills with air when the heat is used, a small vent hole may be required to allow air to escape.

How To Shrink Wrap With an I-Bar Sealer

How To Shrink Wrap with a L-Bar Sealer

How To Shrink Wrap With a Shrink Packaging System

How To Shrink Wrap With a Shrink Combo System

How To Use Shrink Wrap Bags

Shrink wrap bags are an affordable, low quantity shrink wrap option. For best results, a shrink wrap bag should be used with a heat sealer and a heat gun. Insert products within the bag and seal the open end of the bag. Once sealed, use the heat gun to apply heat to the bag causing it to shrink and conform to the interior products. See the video below for different ways to utilize shrink wrap bags.

A gift basket shrink bag can be inserted with the open end facing down at the bottom of the basket. A heat gun or hairdryer applies heat to the bag to conform to interior contents. Because the opening is at the bottom, a heat sealer is often not used. See the video below to view how to use gift basket shrink bags.

How To Use Shrink Wrap Bags With a Heat Sealer

How To Shrink Wrap a Gift Basket

Shrink Tubing without a Heat Sealer

Pallet Diagonal Calculator

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Pallet Diagonal


Shrink Film Width Calculator

Enter the correct measurements per label. All fields are required.

Shrink Film Width