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What is Plastic Wrap?

Plastic wrap is a thin plastic film used to cover food to keep it fresh.
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  • Last Modified Date: 15 October 2014
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Plastic wrap, also called cling film or cling wrap, is a thin, plastic film used mainly for covering food items to keep them fresh. It was invented in 1953 by a scientist attempting to create a thick plastic covering for his car. Glad® Wrap and Saran™ Wrap are the two most well known brands worldwide and are often used as generic terms. The first plastic wrap on the market was made of polyvinylidene chloride (PVC), commercially known as Saran, though today many brands — including Saran™ Wrap — are made of low density polyethylene (LDPE).

One of the benefits of using plastic wrap is that it usually forms a seal without the use of adhesive by clinging to itself or to the container. It commonly comes on a roll packaged in a box with a cutting edge, although perforated varieties may also be available.

PVC was originally used for plastic wrap because it has a low permeability to oxygen, water vapor, and flavor and aroma molecules. There have been concerns in recent years about the toxicity of PVC and its tendency to leach chemicals into foods. LDPE is cheaper and easier to manufacture than PVC and may be safer for household use and easier to recycle. Nevertheless, PVC is still more widely used, especially in the food catering industry, as it clings better, is less permeable to oxygen and flavors, and better protects against freezer burn.

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Neither PVC nor LDPE cling well on their own, so other polymers such as polyisobutene (PIB) or polyethylene-vinylacetate (EVA) must be added to the film. The first plastic wrap marketed in Australia, Glad® Wrap, used an edible gum adhesive, and some newer products use similar technology. Glad® Press'n Seal, for example, has pockets of edible adhesive that are activated when the film is pressed.

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anon974116
Post 16

Does anyone know if plastic wrap keeps heat from escaping in cookies?

Speechie
Post 15

@recapitulate - I also try to avoid plastic wrap, it just seems like that it has to be better for the environment to use reusable plastic containers.

But honestly, I also loved knowing that I was saving money eventually by not having to continue to buy plastic wrap as well as I sometimes found that the plastic wrap cutters were frustrating in that they did not actually cut all that well.

But as some people have described, sometimes there are just no substitutes for plastic wrap in some applications.

sunshined
Post 14

Every year during the holidays I make up a batch of my great aunt's homemade caramels. These are a soft caramel that just melt in your mouth.

Once my caramels have set, I slice them and wrap them up in small pieces of plastic wrap. In recent years they have come out with red and green plastic wrap that you can find in the stores around the holiday time.

This adds such a festive touch to the candies I make. Even though they don't stay covered for very long, it is nice to present them wrapped in festive colors of plastic wrap.

SarahSon
Post 13

Once I started using stretch tite plastic food wrap, that is about all I use anymore. It costs a little bit more than the traditional food wrap, but has a stronger, different texture.

You can use this to store things in the freezer or refrigerator and it is quite heavy duty. Another thing I like about it is that if the bowl tips over, you don't have to worry about anything leaking or spilling out.

Sometimes it is nice to have both kinds of plastic wrap on hand, but I find myself using the stretch tite much more often than the regular plastic wrap.

LisaLou
Post 12

I always have a roll of plastic food wrap and aluminum foil in one of my kitchen drawers. I use plastic wrap a lot when I store leftovers in the refrigerator.

This way I know it stays fresh and I can see what is in bowl by looking through the clear wrap and don't have to remove the cover.

When I am ready to heat it up in the microwave, I always remove the plastic wrap though and cover the bowl with a paper towel or paper plate.

I have read several articles that say it is not good to heat your food in the microwave covered in plastic wrap. There is something about the condensation under the wrap that can have cancer causing properties in it.

orangey03
Post 11

I like to make party favors using plastic wrap. When you tie it up with decorative ribbon, it looks just as good as a plastic gift bag.

For this, I often buy the colored plastic wrap. At my Halloween party, I use orange or yellow wrap. I lay a piece of it flat and cover the middle with candy corn pumpkins and chocolate candies. Then, I gather the edges in a bunch and tie it with brightly colored, curled ribbon.

For baby showers, I use pink or blue wrap and pastel colored candies. For birthday parties, anything goes. I usually let my kids choose their colors and fillers.

cloudel
Post 10

Teenagers often use plastic wrap to pull pranks on people. I know of a couple of different things that are commonly done with it.

I have heard of kids wrapping up people’s cars with plastic wrap. They actually pass the stuff under and over the car, making it impossible for the owner to open the car doors. It has to be cut off with scissors.

I also have heard of wrapping a toilet in plastic wrap. They lift up the lid and secure a piece tightly over the bowl, getting rid of any wrinkles so that it looks like nothing is there. Then, they lower the lid and listen for the scream when someone uses it. This is pretty cruel, and I wouldn’t do it myself.

wavy58
Post 9

I used to wrap or cover my food with aluminum foil. For some things, this is fine. However, there are several foods that take on a metallic taste when wrapped in foil. I have switched to plastic wrap, because it doesn’t alter the taste of food at all.

When I make fudge, I pour the hot liquid into a pan covered in foil to solidify. This makes it easier to remove the fudge once it’s ready to be eaten. I used to store the pan in the refrigerator with the foil still under the fudge, but within a day, it started to taste metallic.

Now, I remove the fudge from the pan, place it in a plastic container, and cover it with plastic wrap. If I take some of it to work with me for dessert, I wrap a few pieces in plastic wrap and throw them in the sack.

shell4life
Post 8

@burcinc - I also wrap my sandwiches in plastic wrap. I was using sandwich bags, but they seemed to be giving my food a strange, unnatural taste. It made my lunch unappetizing, so I switched.

I wrap bananas in plastic wrap before putting them in my lunch sack. If I leave them bare, they make everything else in the bag taste like bananas, even if the other food is wrapped.

I also like wrapping certain foods together to combine the flavors. For instance, I wrap chocolate and nuts together, and this makes the chocolate a little salty, while the nuts taste a bit sweet.

Sara007
Post 7

I was trying to save cash and ended up buying some cheap plastic wrap from the dollar store and it was a huge mistake. It wouldn't cling to anything and I ended up throwing it away. Does anyone know of a really good brand of plastic wrap that works well and isn't too expensive?

I was eyeballing Glad plastic wrap in the store the other day and it came with a nifty plastic wrap dispenser that looked like it would come in handy. I thought it was a bit overpriced, but if it really works that would be great. Also, do you know of any plastic wrap that is strong enough to cover liquids in bowls?

wander
Post 6

Plastic wrap can be a traveler's best friend, as it can be used to keep liquids tightly sealed and can be used to cover open items. I used to use plastic bags for everything, but have since discovered that plastic wrap is a lot easier to use, and it seems stronger than your average sandwich bag.

The stretch plastic wrap is quite strong and I use it to wrap up my shampoo and soaps so they don't leak all over my bag. In addition, I also use the wrap to condense anything I need to fit into my bag. Just a little while ago I ended up wrapping a whole bunch of markers together to save on space.

bear78
Post 5

The massage salon I go to for massages uses plastic wrap in some of their treatments. They have one treatment for cellulite where they brush on a special cream on cellulite areas like legs and thighs and then wrap around it with plastic wrap.

I had this done once and my massage therapist said that since plastic wrap prevents air to enter or leave, it's a great way to induce sweating to remove toxins and improve blood circulation. After about ten minutes with this treatment, I felt my skin become much warmer and hydrated and it really did help with cellulite.

It's so nice that something we all have at home can be used for so many different purposes. I wonder what other types of things plastic wrap could be used for?

burcinc
Post 4

I use plastic wrap to wrap sandwiches and snacks for work. The first time I did this, I had actually run out of sandwich bags and I needed to rush out of the house to go to work. So I grabbed some plastic wrap and wrapped my sandwich in it. It worked so well! I started doing this all the time after. I also save money this way because plastic wrap is cheaper than sandwich bags. You can wrap different things in it too as long it is not a liquid, like an apple, some almonds, a piece of brownie.

It's pretty sturdy too because plastic wrap sticks really easily to itself. I think it's harder to cover containers with wrap, especially if it is a plastic or glass container because it just doesn't stick. But simply wrapping food in a layer or two of plastic wrap works great and sticks together real well.

I know about plastic wraps with adhesives, I've seen them at the store. I haven't tried them yet though because they cost more than regular plastic wrap.

serenesurface
Post 3

I use plastic wrap all the time because it is so convenient. I think it's a great way to store away food especially when I have leftovers from dinner and I don't feel like making more dirty dishes by transferring them to plastic containers. I just cover with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge.

It's also a lifesaver when you have guests over. It's crazy how fast you can run out of plastic containers to put stuff. When that happens, I resort to plastic wrap.

recapitulate
Post 2

I try to avoid plastic wrap and instead put things in reusable containers whenever I can. If I do have to use some sort of wrap, I do like to use aluminum foil because it can be reused.

FernValley
Post 1

When thinking about aluminum foil vs. plastic wrap, some people say you should not wrap foods in aluminum foil for the long term because they could contaminate your food. At the same time, there are not many studies to back this up.

I personally prefer foil because it can be reused and recycled, though plastic wrap is nice because you can see through it.

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