Nathan Dube

By: Nathan Dube on February 17th, 2020

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Can You Use A Hair Dryer To Shrink Plastic Film?

Equipment | Packaging Materials | Packaging Psychology

The short answer to this question is yes. Technically, the heat produced by most hair dryers can shrink plastic film. Specifically, polyvinyl chloride or polyolefin. Now, is it a good idea? That is a whole other can of worms. Here at Industrial Packaging, we have been helping people shrink plastic film for over 65 years.


In the article below, we will dig deeper into one of the stranger questions we have received in regards to shrink film and discuss more appropriate ways to accomplish the same goal.


Female stylist at the beauty salon looking very happy


Again... Can You Use A Hair Dryer To Shrink Plastic Film?


Sure you can! It's just not a very good idea or the proper tool for the job. Even when using a heat gun, which is the correct tool for small shrink film operations, consistency is hard to obtain. When you are using a hair dryer, on top of looking a bit loony, you can expect even more problems with quality and consistency of shrink. Problems such as constant tearing, poor shrink and temperature issues. Never mind wasted time, materials and money!


14 years ago, I actually used to refill inkjet cartridges for a local copier dealer. We had a desktop L bar sealer and a heat gun which looked a bit like a prop from a Star Wars film. Hence my pointing it at random objects and making laser sounds... Ah, right. Back to the story...


The heat gun had three settings and none of them really helped to obtain consistency. I would say that one cartridge out of every seven or so ended up with a tear due to too much heat applied to one spot.


The moral of the story is this... Yes, you can use a hair dryer to achieve even less impressive results than the heat gun from my ink cartridge days. And while that may work for a small volume of small products, it is not what I would call an overly professional approach.


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The Best Tool For Shrinking Plastic Film Is A Shrink Tunnel


Depending on the volume of products you are shrinking film upon in conjunction with the size and shape of your products, chances are, what you really need is a shrink tunnel. Now, a shrink tunnel (AKA: heat tunnel) is a significantly larger device than your average hair dryer. They are rectangular box-shaped machines that look a bit like an oven. Generally speaking, conveyors are set up on each side of the heat tunnel and your products are moved into and then out of the heat tunnel.


Shrink Tunnel


Inside the heat tunnel, warm/hot air shrinks shrink wrap around your product. Prior to entering the tunnel, other machinery places the product in a bag made of shrink wrap which is then sealed on both sides prior to the product entering the heat tunnel.


The sealed bag shrinks as it passes through the heat tunnel and on the other side, the products continue to move through your packaging line now looking all fancy and proper. Their new coats of shrink film glistening from the warehouse lights above.




Now, a shrink tunnel may be a big investment. Table top tunnels start around $2,000. Entry level shrink tunnels that go behind an l sealer can be purchased for around $8,000.00 and full sized production level machines can go for $30,000+. A table top model might be a cost saving alternative to the heat gun for you in the long run. By saving on time reworking film that has holes or can't get a tight enough seal, the tunnel would provide a more consistent looking package for your products.


Over time, the total cost of ownership of a shrink tunnel may be less than your current process. It will also be significantly faster, more consistent and produce better quality shrink. Granted, budgetary concerns may have you rolling your eyes about such a purchase. However, leasing options and financing opportunities may give you the power needed to supercharge your business with a legit packaging department complete with a robust shrink tunnel. A local packaging expert can help you to review financial and leasing opportunities.


Why You Should Not Use A Hair Dryer To Wrap Shrink Film


There was a time when people would regularly use hair dyers to apply another kind of shrink film to their windows in an effort to prevent drafts in the winter. But that doesn’t make them an appropriate tool for shrink wrapping products on your packaging line.


For a very small operation, yes, you can technically get away with using a hair dryer for this purpose. But, you will likely run into constant problems with tearing and inconsistent shrinking. Also, you definitely cannot use a hair dryer to shrink printed shrink film, it simply would not work and result in an absolute mess due to the inks in the film.


If you are currently using a hair dryer to shrink wrap small products for your business, you really should consider upgrading to a heat gun. While similar to a hair dryer, a heat gun is a professional tool that is actually designed for packaging.


The tool you ideally want to use for shrink wrapping your products is a heat tunnel. While this  may be a big investment and requires significant capital to purchase, sooner or later, you are going to want to consider upgrading to this level of professional equipment.


If you are unsure where to start when looking to procure a quality heat gun or upgrade to a professional level of shrink machinery, it would be a good idea to contact a local packaging expert.  Consider having them take a look at your current materials and process for shrink wrapping your products and ask them for advice on how to improve your packaging line. You may be able to save time, money, materials and waste byproduct.


There may be an opportunity to improve or optimize your current process for shrink wrapping with some minor adjustments such as changing the gauge of your film. On the other hand, there could be rebates or other financial incentives to acquire professional grade equipment and materials without having to make a purchase in one lump sum.


In this case, you may have the opportunity to acquire professional grade tools you previously thought may be out of reach. Either way, having a local packaging professional analyze your packaging line will if nothing else provide you with usable information to improve your business.


Depending on the size of your operation, you might technically be able to get by with a hair dryer. That being said, you run the risk of on-going quality issues from using a device that is not meant for the activity you are using it for. When all is said and done. Yes, you can use a hair dryer to shrink certain types of shrink film, but it is definitively not recommended.


At the end of the day, using a hair dryer to shrink wrap your products is a bit like cleaning your floor with a toothbrush... It does the job, but not well or efficiently.


Learn More About The Proper Tools For Shrink Film Applications


If you are interested in learning more about shrink tunnels and other types of professional-grade packaging equipment, we invite you to read or download "The Complete Guide To Buying Packaging Machinery".  This free guide is packed to the brim with all the information you need to start formulating a vision for a professional-grade packaging line with the proper shrink film equipment.


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About Nathan Dube

As the Digital Marketing Specialist at Industrial Packaging, I am honored to create content for such a phenomenal company and work with one of the greatest teams in the Packaging Industry. Whether creating a video, writing blog posts or generating other pieces of content and multimedia, I am always excited to help educate and inspire our prospects and clients to reach their highest potential in regards to their packaging processes and needs.