This Is Why Shrink Wrap Is Essential for Moving
Some call it “plastic wrap”, others say “stretch wrap”, and movers in a hurry call it “shrink”. But the most common name for that huge roll of sticky sheet plastic that movers use? It’s just “shrink wrap”.
Shrink wrap resembles Saran Wrap, but it’s bigger – about eighteen inches long – and it’s as thick and heavy as a log. While Saran Wrap covers your leftovers, shrink wrap covers your couch to protect it from dirt and more importantly, keep everything in place while moving.
Despite its name, there’s nothing small about shrink. It’s claimed its place as a staple in the toolbox of every moving team. This is why I’m going to share why using shrink wrap is so important and how you should be using it for your next move
Why do movers always use shrink wrap?
Some might say that the sky’s the limit when imagining how you can use shrink wrap. Once I witnessed wo of my fellow crew members, who were in the process of tackling a garage, enclose an entire plastic shelving system with everything still on the shelves as an alternative to packing everything on those shelves in boxes. It actually worked! (Although, I don’t recommend it.)
Most professional movers use shrink wrap for three things:
- To keep dust and dirt off of upholstered furniture (“OS”, in mover-language)
- To keep furniture pads in place around larger items like OS, major appliances, pianos, large TVs, and heavy tabletops
- To keep things safely in place. This means keeping drawers from sliding out of your dresser, keeping the cushions on your sofa and loveseat from falling off and getting dirty (or lost); and keeping the doors on your china cabinet or armoire from suddenly swinging open and breaking right off their hinges.
Now that we have covered why movers use it, let’s talk about how to use it. It might be a little harder than it looks.
How do you use shrink wrap?
The whole point of using shrink wrap is to create a tight protective layer of plastic over whatever you are wrapping. You’ll notice pretty quickly that shrink wrap doesn’t generally stick to your stuff; it only sticks to itself. So if you don’t have a shrink wrap dispenser and are shrink wrapping, say, your sofa, you’ll need to do the following:
- Either tie the end of the plastic wrap around one leg of your sofa, or have your friend hold the end of the plastic in place against one side or corner of the sofa
- Walk backward with your shrink wrap in your hands, letting it unroll as you go, circling until you overlap the end of the roll (and probably your friend’s hands)
From there, with your shrink wrap now stuck in place, keep circling your sofa (or china cabinet or tool chest) until it’s safe enough to be loaded into the truck.
Important Mover Tips for Using Shrink Wrap
As we mentioned, the secret is wrapping tightly to keep the plastic from sagging and becoming useless. We recommend doing this to ensure you’re using shrink wrap like a pro.
Wear work gloves
Some shrink wrap comes with handles on either end, making it look like a big rolling pin. But I find that these handles just get in the way, especially when you try to wrap the bottom edge of your upholstered sofa or heavy dresser.
It’s much easier to hold your roll of shrink wrap loosely, letting it unroll around your fingers as you go. But be careful before you find out the hard way that the friction of the spinning roll of shrink wrap will burn the skin right off your fingers, kind of like a rope burn, but potentially much worse. Trust me. Find some decent gloves.
Don’t let your shrink wrap fall or roll on the ground
Suppose you drop it on the floor and damage one edge of the roll. The fall can cause the plastic to shred (!) as you unroll it over your furniture, and that will most likely result in you throwing that now-useless thing out the window in a rage of frustration because the stuff is also expensive!
Likewise, don’t roll it across the floor, or your driveway, or the floor of your truck or container. Even one small rock can nick the surface, causing the plastic to pull apart in pieces the next time you try to use it. Feel free to test me on this if you don’t believe me, but I will not be held responsible for your ruined roll of shrink wrap or the window you throw it through.
Don’t use shrink wrap on wood and other specific surfaces without an extra layer of coverage
One of the most common uses of shrink wrap is for OS and mattresses (But I strongly recommend reusable mattress bags over one-time landfill-filling shrink wrap). Wrapping OS and mattresses with shrink wrap generally does not cause problems because it won’t adhere to the fabric and damage it.
On the other hand, shrink wrap can get stuck to wood, vinyl, even metal. This is crucial for long-distance moves and items that are going into storage. Over time and in extreme temperatures, shrink wrap will stick to your wooden dining room chairs, your leather couch, and maybe the surfaces of your fridge. And it may never completely come off.
To guard against this, cover these items in furniture pads or thick brown Kraft paper sheets before wrapping them tightly in shrink wrap. “Tightly” is the key word here, because if it is not tight, it will not hold those pads or sheets of brown paper in place, and your fridge will slip right out of your hands.
Don’t ever lock in any moisture
While shrink wrap’s primary purpose is to keep dust and dirt away, completely sealing your sofa in the stuff can backfire. If moisture gets trapped inside and has no way of escaping, you can end up with mold (the black, blue, and green stuff) and mildew (the white stuff) all over your living room set. Again, extended time and extreme temperatures can exacerbate the situation. Be sure to leave a few openings when you wrap your OS (and everything else).
Don’t squeeze too tight!
As mentioned, shrink wrap should be stretched tight (within reason) when used. This of course, means pressure on what is being wrapped. So if you pull it too tight around your dining room chairs or your coffee table, you might snap the legs right off. This applies to any other pieces of furniture with legs, like upright pianos, sideboard tables, and the rare dining room or kitchen table with legs that don’t detach.
Similarly, I don’t advise shrink-wrapping cheap IKEA-type furniture. That bookcase you bought and put together yourself was probably not made to withstand a three-day bear hug.
Upholstered furniture will likely not get irrevocably dusty after one day in the back of your rental truck. Tape is often effective enough to keep furniture pads – and dresser or armoire doors – in place.
However, if stuff is going into storage for a while, and you want to make sure everything remains safe and protected, shrink wrap might be a worthwhile investment, and it’s always important to keep some in stock back at headquarters.