Shrink Wrap Versus Pallet Covers
Posted: updated July 2020 Author: Jim Higgs
Table of Contents
- What Is Shrink Wrap?
- How Does Shrink Wrap Work?
- What Is a Pallet Cover?
- How Do Pallet Covers Work?
- Choosing the Right Pallet Cover for Your Shipment
- How to Measure for a Pallet Cover
- What Is the Standard Size of a Pallet?
- How Do You Wrap a Pallet?
- How Long Does It Take to Wrap a Pallet?
Thanks to the many different methods available, wrapping a pallet can be done using multiple materials, including shrink wrap and pallet covers. Both have their benefits, but deciding which one is best suited to your logistics needs can be difficult, especially if you don't have a thorough understanding of these methods.
Both pallet covers and shrink wrap — as well as stretch wrap — have their pros and cons, which can vary based on the products you store. Which option is better for your company will ultimately be up to you to decide. Before you do, here's a summary of everything you need to know about shrink wrap and pallet covers.
What Is Shrink Wrap?
What do you wrap pallets with? The answer is often shrink or stretch wrap. Both provide the same level of protection for products on pallets, but they differ in application. Shrink wrap, as its name suggests, shrinks the wrapping around the product, creating an air-tight seal. It protects the goods from external pollutants, like moisture, dust and air. It's fairly waterproof and transparent, which means you can easily see your stock.
Shrink wrap uses heat to shrink the plastic around the product, whereas stretch wrap — also known as stretch film — is stretched over the pallet. Once it's been placed over the pallet, it begins shrinking back to its original size, wrapping the pallet in an air-tight seal. The tricky thing is figuring out how much stretch wrap you need to cover your pallet adequately. There are two ways to manufacture stretch wrap:
- Blown stretch wrap: This type is made by blowing heated resin vertically into a bubble, which is then formed into rolls as it cools. This method makes the stretch wrap more resilient.
- Cast stretch wrap: Cast stretch wrap is made when a heated sheet of resin is rolled with chilled rollers, creating a clear, transparent film.
How Does Shrink Wrap Work?
Heat is the main ingredient for shrink wrapping pallets. You loosely drape the plastic film over the pallet and, using a heat tool, vacuum out all the excess air, forcing the film to conform to the pallet's shape.
Once shrink-wrapped, the pallet is rust-resistant and safe from spills and dirt. You can easily store it inside or outside since it's also safe from rain and wind. The wrapping keeps the products on the pallet secure, eliminating the chance of stock falling off or being stolen.
To unwrap a shrink-wrapped pallet, simply cut off the plastic film.
Some of the biggest pros of shrink wrap include:
- Protection: Shrink wrap provides 360-degree protection for all products, keeping them safe from contaminants and protecting foodstuffs from spoiling.
- Multi-purpose usage: It's common for manufacturers to wrap products individually in shrink wrap to seal them and protect against fouling. Shrink wrap is great for unitizing items and securing large product bulks, such as those on pallets.
- Ease: While there is a level of training necessary to handle the heat tool safely, the overall process is fairly simple and safe.
While there are many benefits of shrink wrap, there are two things that may make you reconsider using it:
- Lack of reusability: Unfortunately, shrink wrap cannot be reused. Once you wrap your pallet, you'll need to cut the plastic film off, and it won't be useable again. This also means more plastic will likely end up in landfills.
- Lowered productivity: Shrink wrapping takes time. You'll need to wrap the pallet and ensure the film is properly shrunken to reap the benefits of the wrapping. This process can slow down production, especially if you're using shrink wrap to package individual items.
What Is a Pallet Cover?
A pallet cover is a plastic cover used for protecting your shipment. Usually made out of breathable polyethylene, pallet covers come in a variety ranging from clear, disposable covers to reusable, thermal covers. They also come in various sizes, so protecting a pallet is never impossible.
Black pallet covers are suitable for hiding shipments, which is a great way to deter theft. They can also have an ultraviolet (UV) coating to protect your shipment from the sun — which is ideal for perishable products, like food.
You can even get custom pallet covers for shipment protection of pallets of irregular sizes or shapes.
How Do Pallet Covers Work?
Pallet covers are straightforward to use, requiring you to simply drape them over your pallet to secure it for indoor or outdoor storage. Thermal pallet covers are excellent for shipments that need to be temperature controlled, and they can keep the pallet warm or cool during storage and shipping.
Disposable pallet covers are an option, but reusable versions are often a better investment and can last through many uses. Protecting a pallet from contaminants like dust, moisture and even spills or leaks becomes much easier when you use pallet covers. They're also commonly used to cover pallets that have already been shrink- or stretch-wrapped.
There are many benefits of pallet covers, but the most common ones include:
- Security: Because they can be used in addition to shrink wrap, pallet covers can provide an added layer of security, which is especially useful for products that may be sensitive to temperature or weather. Thermal pallet covers or covers with UV protection can prevent perishable goods from spoiling during storage or shipping.
- Variety: Because they're available in a range of sizes, pallet covers are perfect for all types of pallet protection, regardless of the pallet's size or contents. Custom pallet covers further increase the variety of options. Fully waterproof pallet covers are available for sheltering a pallet that may be exposed to heavy rains.
- Reusability: Aside from being easy to use, one of the best pros of pallet covers is their reusability. You can save a lot of money on pallet wrapping tools or plastic film, and the reusable pallet covers won't end up in landfills after use.
Two factors to consider when using pallet covers are:
- Lack of waterproofing: While most pallet covers can protect against smaller spills or leaks, they generally don't provide thorough protection against heavy spills or inclement weather, like heavy rain. However, since they're available in various sizes and finishes, you can buy reusable, waterproof pallet covers for instances where you expect your shipment to face harsh weather.
- Waste: Unfortunately, polyethylene is not biodegradable, which makes using disposable pallet covers environmentally unfriendly. The plastic ends up in landfills, further adding to the world's waste problem. However, reusable pallet covers are a cost-effective and environmentally friendly option.
Choosing the Right Pallet Cover for Your Shipment
As we mentioned, there are several options for how to secure a pallet. The pallet cover you choose will depend on certain factors, including:
- Is the pallet already shrink-wrapped?
- Will the shipment sit in a warehouse, or will it be shipped straight away?
- How much of an issue will the weather or temperature be?
- Does the shipment contain any perishables?
The main options for pallet covers are clear, black and thermal covers.
Clear Pallet Covers
Clear pallet covers are transparent covers that provide protection from the elements, plus irritants and contaminants like dust and humidity. They allow you to see clearly what the shipment consists of, and they can be used for pallets stored inside or outside.
Keep in mind that clear pallet covers may not offer the protection necessary for perishable items like food. Their transparency also makes the products vulnerable to temperature changes, especially sunlight.
These covers are best for short-term use on all types of shipments.
Black Pallet Covers
The biggest benefit of black pallet covers is that they allow your shipment to remain unidentified. Without being able to see what's inside, would-be thieves are less likely to attempt to steal the contents. Black pallet covers also tend to have a UV coating to protect the contents from direct sunlight. The plastic makes the shipments resistant to smaller spills and leaks and protects against dirt, dust and humidity.
Because these covers are black, it's not as easy to identify the pallet contents. However, pallet covers come in a range of opacities. The option to get fully waterproof covers makes them ideal for outdoor storage, even in aggressive weather, as they can protect your stock from weather-related damages and excessive moisture.
Thermal Pallet Covers
Some products require a controlled temperature, which thermal pallet covers are useful for. Whether you need to keep your shipment cold during the summer months or warm during the winter, thermal pallet covers can be helpful for either option. They tend to be more opaque, providing the same type of anonymity that black pallet covers do, which reduces the likelihood of theft.
How to Measure for a Pallet Cover
Not all pallets are built the same, and that includes size and shape considerations. This characteristic can make choosing pallet wrapping solutions tricky. When buying a new pallet cover, you need to be sure it's the right size, so it fits snugly over the pallet and its contents.
The simplest way to ensure you've got the right size pallet cover is to measure the shipment itself.
Simply measure the width (W), depth (D) and length (L) of the pallet. Then, add approximately four inches to the width. Divide this new calculation of the width in half and add both numbers together to get the length of your pallet. This formula will help you calculate the size of the pallet cover you'll need.
Those extra four inches can vary in size based on how snugly or loosely you want the cover to sit on your pallet. For a tighter fit, calculate using two inches instead of four.
For example, if your pallet has a width of 46 inches, a depth of 49 inches and a length of 50 inches, the size of the pallet cover you'll need will be 50 inches x 49 inches x 75 inches:
- W: 46 inches + 4 inches = 50 inches
- D: 49 inches
- L: 50 inches + 25 inches (half the width) = 75 inches
You should also make sure the pallet cover you choose will be able to handle the total weight of your pallet.
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What Is the Standard Size of a Pallet?
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) established a list of the standard sizes for pallets for various regions across the world. In North America, the standard pallet has a width of 40 inches and a length of 48 inches.
How Do You Wrap a Pallet?
While there are no universal pallet wrapping guidelines, pallets are generally wrapped in the following order:
- Attach the shrink or stretch wrap to the pallet.
- Begin wrapping from the base and work your way up.
- Once you're done wrapping, secure the wrap by tearing it and sticking the end to the pallet.
- For shrink wrap, use a heat tool to shrink the film so it forms an air-tight layer over the pallet.
- For stretch wrap, let the film contract to fit the pallet.
- Test the stability to make sure the products are all secure and won't topple over during transport.
- Slide a pallet cover over the top of the secured load to ensure added protection.
You can also wrap your pallet without shrink or stretch wrap and use a pallet cover on its own:
- Stack your products onto the pallet.
- Measure the shipment to ensure your pallet cover will be the right size.
- Once you know the dimensions and have obtained the cover, simply slide it over the shipment so it sits snugly.
How Long Does It Take to Wrap a Pallet?
There's no universal answer to how long it takes to wrap a pallet because every pallet and shipment will differ in size and weight. If you decide to shrink wrap your pallet ahead of covering it with a pallet cover, this will also add to the total amount of time it will take to wrap it.
Since shrink wrapping needs to be done in a specific way to reap the benefits of a properly secured pallet, wrapping a pallet with film before covering it with a pallet cover will take longer than using a pallet cover alone. You could use a pallet cover by itself if you're seeking to prioritize efficiency and don't necessarily need the extra protection that shrink wrap can provide. Otherwise, you'll need to factor in the additional time it takes to shrink or stretch wrap your shipment before protecting it with the pallet cover.
Buy Bulk Pallet Covers at Caltex Plastics
Protecting your products is crucial to a successful return on investment, which is why Caltex Plastics offers a range of unique barrier properties to protect against damage, including contaminants, water vapor and electromagnetic interference. Our pallet covers are ideal for most products and can safeguard your shipments against these external factors. We provide a cost-effective way to help you protect the integrity of your stock, from storage and transportation to retail.
Our selection of pallet covers is suitable for all industries, and our experienced staff is happy to help you develop custom solutions for your unique needs. Caltex Plastics is dedicated to helping you keep your merchandise safe, all while offering wholesale distributions and custom manufacturing.
For more information about our products, get in touch by calling 800-584-7303.
Last updated: November 15th, 2019