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Hand stretch wrap and Machine stretch film

Hand Stretch Wrap vs Machine Stretch Film – What is the Difference?

If you are starting a new business and planning to build out your packaging line or shipping department, at some stage you’ll require stretch wrap, although the type of stretch wrap will depend on your needs.

If you are employing human labour for stretch wrapping, and do not have relevant machinery, you will need to use hand pallet wrap. If you want to automate or semi-automate the operation, you will need to use a stretch wrapper machine, which would make use of machine stretch film.

In this article, we will discuss the differences between hand stretch wrap and machine stretch film and will assist you in selecting the best solution for your operations.

Hand stretch wrap

Hand stretch wrap

Hand stretch wrap, also known as manual stretch wrap or hand film, is a type of packaging material used to secure and protect smaller loads or individual items. Unlike machine stretch film, which requires a stretch wrapping machine, hand stretch wrap is applied manually or by using a stretch wrap dispenser as shown in the image above.

Hand stretch film can wrap different types of products and stacks. If you wrap fewer than 50 pallets per day, this film is a suitable choice.


Here are some key features and benefits of hand stretch wrap:

      • Convenience and Portability: Hand stretch wrap comes in rolls that are lightweight and easy to handle. It is a portable packaging solution that can be used in various settings, including warehouses, retail stores, and homes.

      • Versatility: Hand stretch wrap is available in different widths, lengths, and thicknesses to accommodate various load sizes and wrapping needs. It can be used for bundling items together, wrapping individual boxes, or securing irregularly shaped objects.

      • Load Stability: By applying hand stretch wrap, you can stabilise and secure the items or load on a pallet, preventing shifting, tampering, or damage during handling and transit.

      • Protection: Hand stretch wrap provides a protective barrier against dust, dirt, and moisture. It helps to keep the wrapped items clean and shielded from external elements.

      • Cost-Effective: Hand stretch wrap is generally more cost-effective compared to machine stretch film, as it does not require the use of specialised equipment. It is a practical solution for smaller-scale operations or when occasional wrapping is needed.

      • Flexibility: Hand stretch wrap offers flexibility in terms of tension control. It can be stretched to a desired level to achieve optimal load containment without compromising the integrity of the wrapped items.

      • Easy Application: Applying hand stretch wrap is relatively simple and requires minimal training. It can be done by hand, without the need for any additional tools or equipment.

      • Tamper-Evident: Similar to machine stretch film, hand stretch wrap can be used as a tamper-evident solution. It provides a visible seal around the wrapped items, making any unauthorised access or tampering noticeable.

    Machine stretch film

    Machine stretch film

    When using machine stretch film, it’s important to consider the type and weight of the load, the desired level of stability, and the specific requirements of your application. These considerations will help you choose the appropriate film thickness, width, and stretching capability to ensure optimal load containment and protection.


    Here are some key features and benefits of machine stretch film:

        • Elasticity and Stretchability: Machine stretch film is made from linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE), which has excellent stretch and recovery properties. It can be stretched up to 200-300% of its original length without losing its elasticity, allowing it to tightly conform to the shape of the palletized load.

          • Load Stability and Protection: By applying machine stretch film, the load on a pallet is secured and stabilised, preventing shifting, sliding, or toppling during handling and transportation. This helps to minimise the risk of damage, such as product breakage or collapse and ensures the integrity of the load.

            • Dust and Moisture Resistance: Machine stretch film provides a protective barrier against dust, dirt, and moisture. It helps to keep the wrapped goods clean and dry, reducing the potential for damage caused by environmental factors.

              • Tamper-Evident and Security: Stretch wrap can be used as a tamper-evident solution, as it tightly encloses the goods and makes any unauthorised access or tampering readily visible. This feature is particularly useful for high-value or sensitive products.

                • Cost-Effective: Machine stretch film is an economical packaging solution compared to other methods such as strapping or shrink wrapping. It requires less material and time to wrap a load, leading to cost savings in packaging and labour.

                  • Versatility: Stretch film is available in various thicknesses, widths, and lengths to accommodate different load sizes and types. It can be used for a wide range of industries, including manufacturing, warehousing, logistics, and retail.

                    • Sustainability: Many manufacturers offer machine stretch film options with recycled content or those that are recyclable themselves. Additionally, the efficient use of stretch film reduces material waste compared to other packaging methods.

                  Hand stretch wrap vs Machine stretch film, which one is right for you?

                  When attempting to determine which sort of stretch film is the best fit for your needs, you will need to answer a few questions to gather the appropriate information to answer this question. You should ask yourself the following:

                      • What is your budget? Depending on your answer, you may or may not be able to buy a stretch wrapping machine. If not, you would need to use hand stretch wrap.

                        • How many pallets do you have wrapped? Hand wrapping is preferable if you wrap fewer than 50 pallets per day.

                          • How many workers are you employing to stretch wrap with hand wrap? Consider the number of employees required, the number of hours they would take to complete the work, and the number of pallets or objects requiring wrapping. Compare these expenditures to the cost of converting to a stretch wrapping machine. Upgrading to a stretch wrapper could save you a significant amount of time and money.

                        “What is the difference between hand stretch film and machine stretch wrap” is a regular question we get from new businesses and even some seasoned ones.  Polythene UK has assisted thousands of customers in determining the best stretch film for their packaging and palletising needs. 

                        If you are still uncertain about which type of film to use or have questions about switching to a new kind of film, get in touch with us. Our team of specialists will advise you about the stretch film best suited for your stretch wrapping requirements. 

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