Best Practices for Storing Shrink Film & Packaging Materials
Let’s say you bought the highest-quality shrink film money can buy and stored it away for future use. On a scale of one to 10, how upset would you be if it became unusable or deteriorated into the worst shrink film money could buy? No matter how high-quality the packaging material is, you must take proper precautions when storing it.
Temperature, moisture, dust, and time are all storage factors that can affect the performance and aesthetic of your film. By addressing these few simple storage-related problems, you can improve the look of your product, increase the shelf-life of your shrink film and minimize your long-term costs.
In this article, we’ll detail how the aforementioned factors can degrade the quality of your shrink films and share best practices, highlighting the seasons that have the greatest risks.
Conditions That Affect Your Packaging Materials
Both extremely hot and cold temperatures can affect the condition of your materials over time. Excessive heat can shrink your films, and when running in your machines, they are more likely to jam. It will also become more difficult to package your product with the affected film. Conversely, extreme cold can cause films to become more brittle and increase the risk of cracking.
Dust and other airborne particles can also become problematic. These contaminants can affect your stretch film’s ability to stretch, and your shrink film's ability to shrink, which could create problems for your machines and your finished goods. Even if your machines have no trouble with the materials, the shrink film can become cloudy and cause trouble with a product that doesn't shine on the shelf as it should.
Lastly, the more time your shrink film sits in storage, the more likely it will suffer from these problems. The longer temperatures fluctuate and other environmental factors can impact your films, the more likely that they become baggy and develop slack edges. When it comes time to wrap your final product, you may find out that the wrapping process will either take longer or produce far too much waste.
Best Practices for Storing Shrink Film
Before purchasing and storing shrink film or any other packaging material, make sure you know its storage requirements. You don’t want to try to work with climate-compromised packaging. Your supplier should have this information available if you’re unsure what your material requires.
Overall, shrink packaging is best stored in temperatures between 30 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Naturally, summer and winter are the seasons which require you to be most attentive to your storage environment.
Your facility will likely be subject to high heat in the summer, if not during springtime. If shrink sleeves are kept in temperatures exceeding 100 degrees, they may prematurely shrink and compromise their ability to protect your goods.
During these hot months, keep your shrink materials stored in the coolest areas of your facility without subjecting them to refrigeration. They should be kept cool, but not too cold. The coolest spots in your warehouse are typically close to the floors – on the lowest part of your pallet racks – and away from windows or places that are subject to a lot of sunlight. You’ll also want to keep your shrink films away from high-traffic doors because the temperatures in these areas tend to fluctuate greatly.
Additionally, try to schedule your shrink film deliveries early in the day, especially in the summer. That way, the materials won’t sit in the back of a hot trailer when traveling from warehouse to warehouse. Not only will you avoid the harshest hours of the sun, but you’ll also give yourself more time to store them before the temperature reaches its peak.
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As we noted above, packaging films tend to become especially brittle in cold temperatures, which greatly reduces its stretching and shrinking properties. While the PVC may crack, it can even shatter like glass if left in extremely-cold conditions for too long. Surely you didn’t expect your shrink film to present a safety hazard.
As in the summer, store your rolls away from doors to avoid temperature fluctuations. You also want to ensure rain or snow won’t create unwanted moisture in the rolls. If you’ve been using PVC shrink film to package frozen foods or other products that spend time in a freezer truck or refrigerator, consider switching to a polyolefin film. This is a more durable, food-safe and recyclable material that will keep your package intact during transit and packaging.
How to Identify Damaged Rolls
When you take shrink film out of storage, you may not know how to tell if it’s been compromised. One key sign is sticky rolls. If PVC rolls stick together, they were likely exposed to too much heat. Don't risk downtime on the packaging line by trying to use them anyway. Skip over the rolls that are stuck together.
Bagging and sagging are also signs of overheated film. The rolls may begin to sag on the edges or show bagging within its layers. Using these rolls can interfere with the tracking on your machines, so avoid using these compromised rolls as well.
Remember, even the highest-quality shrink film and packaging materials are apt to deteriorate when subject to these environmental factors. No matter what quality film rolls you’re purchasing, take the time to assess how you’ll store them to ensure they protect and present your product exactly as you’ve planned.
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About David Roberge
Part of the outstanding Industrial Packaging team. I'm lucky to hang out with some of the most knowledgeable folks in the packaging industry. I feel even luckier to be able to share our knowledge with you. I love learning about our readers and helping them grow their brand through unique, flexible package design from the birth of the product idea, through the supply chain, and to the launch and placement on the shelf or at the consumer's door.