Cling Wrap

The Birth of Cling Wrap

It's an old truism that the best inventions happen by accident. It's certainly true in the case of cling wrap - that stretchy, clear, versatile but sometimes very annoying plastic that countless school lunches have been swathed in.

Seal in the freshness, seal out the germs

1953 was a significant year - President Truman announced the development of the hydrogen bomb, Walt Disney's Peter Pan premiered, Stalin had a stroke, Jonas Salk announced the polio vaccine...and somewhere deep in the bowels of a laboratory, an exciting new consumer product was being squeezed down the commercial birth canal. It was a product that would revolutionize kitchen storage, give the Tupperware manufacturers a migraine and signal the end of stale, dried-out food forever.

It all happened by mistake. A scientist  was trying to make a hard plastic cover for his car but it all went terribly wrong...and terribly right. It was obvious that, while useless for the car, the thin, flexible clear polymer plastic had potential in other areas.


NB: There's another version of the 'who invented of cling wrap' story. This one asserts that it was invented in 1933 by a man called Ralph Wiley, a Dow Chemical worker who was trying to invent a dry-cleaning product and discovered cling-wrap by accident. I'd like to say I knew which one was correct but unfortunately I don't.

Cutting edge...

Whoever invented cling wrap, it did not hit the domestic market until the 1950s. It's the plasticisers added to the formula that give plastic wrap its clinginess. This works by causing the polymers to separate slightly from each other, thus allowing the chains to slide over each other and soften the plastic. The plastic was rolled onto carboard tubes and packed in boxes with a serrated edge on one side to enable convenient cutting.


In the mid-twentieth century there was an optimistic feeling that science could solve any problem, deal with any certainly, it could lighten the domestic burden. Hadn't it already given the world washing machines, vacuum cleaners and toasters? Cling wrap was just one more miracle in an age of domestic wonders.

The new product, first manufactured under the brand name Saran and later by Glad in Australia, was handed over to the marketing departments and as the 12 inch rolls of flexible polymer went barrelling down the production lines, advertisements were disseminated in order to inform consumers of the pressing need for them to keep up with the times and purchase some miracle plastic. The product was a hit and before too long the populace went cling wrap crazy.

Housewives everywhere stuffed their shopping trolleys with rolls of the stuff, cake stand organizers swore by it and there was scarcely a schoolchild that didn't unwrap their peanut butter sandwiches via a film of clear maleable plastic. Yesiree..cling wrap had gone viral.

Over the following decades it was to become a household standard - as indispensible as the kitchen sink and as commonplace as the potato peeler. Cling wrap had worked it's way into kitchens everywhere...

and not just kitchens. Once it had conquered the homefront, cling wrap began to extend its demographic.

Sexy Cling Wrap Dress

A cling wrap dress in the window of a boutique
A cling wrap dress in the window of a boutique

Make a wig out of cling wrap

An eccentric cling wrap wig by Kate Cusack
An eccentric cling wrap wig by Kate Cusack

The Many Uses of Cling Wrap

Hairdressers use it, artists, heath professionals, tattooists, gardeners - it has a myriad of applications- I've even seen someone do a foot massage on a cling wrapped foot (evidently for *hygiene* purposes).

Some unusual but apparently effective uses for clingwrap include:

  • Makeshift cork - screw up a handful of clingwrap and stuff it in an opened wine bottle to keep contents fresh
  • Keep Paint from drying out - cover your paint can with cling wrap . Also during a painting job you can minimize tedious brush washing by wrapping your brush in can even leave it even overnight and it'll be good to go the next morning.
  • Draught stopper -Roll it up and use it to stop draughts in windows
  • Hair Conditioning - Increase the effectiveness of conditioning treatments by wrapping your hair in cling wrap
  • For picnics, place your chilled wine between two ice cube bags and wrap cling film around it to keep the wine nice and cold (thanks to Merlin for that one)

By the way...

Don't use cling wrap as a condom substitute...apparently there's an urban myth floating around that it works. It doesn't.

Wrapping yourself in cling wrap will not help you lose weight. Pity.

Don't you hate it when the wrap doesn't cut cleanly...?

Cling Wrap as a Malevolent Force

If you've managed to read this far you may be thinking what a boon cling wrap has been to humanity - but alas, it has a dark side too. People have been killed by cling wrap. This deceptively harmless, ultra-convenient kitchen aid has been used as a murder weapon as well as a method of suicide and its most impressive feature, ie; to act as an airtight seal, is also it's most lethal. Yes, I'm talking about...gasp...suffocation by clingwrap.

The evils don't end there. Recent research has revealed cling wrap may be a serious health hazard, particularly when heated (think microwave). Plastic wraps commonly contain PVC and although for ordinary household use, wraps made with the less harmful LDPE rather than PVC are gaining some ground on the domestic front, for commercial catering (supermarkets, restaurants ect.) PVC is still the preferred substance. This is because LDPE produces a lower quality plastic wrap..not as good for odour control and protection against fool spoilage.

The ubiquitous cling this case swathing supermarket meats
The ubiquitous cling this case swathing supermarket meats

Although the evidence is not conclusive, (the debate continues), consumer groups are warning of the potential dangers of toxic materials leeching into the food supply through plastics.Some of the chemicals in plastics mimic natural hormones and have been linked to breast cancer, infertility, heart disease and diabetes.

Many manufacturers also use softening chemicals, called phthalates, to soften the plastic. Such chemicals have been associated with hormonal disruption and developmental problems.

If that's not enough, cling wrap also has environmental implications. Anything throwaway is usually bad news environmentally and plastic wrap is no exception. It's difficult, perhaps even impossible to recycle and is almost never re-used. There's an awful lot of cling wrap around...where does it all go? How long does it take to break down? I'm still searching for the answers to this.

Glass container...a beautiful object.
Glass container...a beautiful object.

The Return of Glass

As widespread and convenient as cling wrap has been, reusable non-PVC and glass containers are really a better option..particularly when heating food in the microwave.

In the story of the kitchen 'revolution' spawned by cling wrap, it seems things have come full circle.

Oh, Cruel Cling Wrap

In the video at right, some cruel pet owners take an evil delight in sending their dogs to the brink of insanity...

Yet another example of cling wrap being used for malevolent purposes. Warning: contains gratuitous laughter.

So Clingy...Cling Wrap Music

You must have thought I was your snack
'Cause now you'll stick to me like cling wrap.
Oh, 'cause you love me.
When did you get so crazy?
When did you get so crazy?
When did you get so crazy?
La, la, la
You're sticky, you're sticky, you're sticky
and you're like cling wrap

From Clingwrap by Sam Sparrow.

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Comments 29 comments

Just Ask Susan profile image

Just Ask Susan 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Wow what a great hub! Great Tips! Oh and BTW I use nothing but cling wrap everyday.

Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

Saran will be Glad to hear that Susan..! Thanks very much for the visit.

Les Trois Chenes profile image

Les Trois Chenes 6 years ago from Videix, Limousin, South West France

Who would have thought that such an interesting, informative, varied and humorous article could be written about cling film?

Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 6 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

It seems that a lot of stuff for the home happened within the first ten years after WW2. Tupperware also took off around this time. The biggest problem with any plastic product is that you need oil to make it happen. With glass what you need is the right sand.

The 1950s was a time of rapid change especially for ad men.

Dexter seems to get some enjoyment out of the use of cling wrap. So I suppose it is good for fictional television assassins.

Good read.

drbj profile image

drbj 6 years ago from south Florida

Consider yourself the Queen of Cling Wrap, Jane, you have outdone yourself with this entertaining exposition and creative copy.

A new "consumer product was being squeezed down the commercial birth canal" . . . "suffocation by clingwrap"?

It will be difficult to top this winner, Jane. Brava!

Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

Les Trois Chenes, the article isn't half as good as your comment. Thanks!

Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

Rod, thanks and very good point about the oil. Did you ever see that ABC documentary "Crude"? It was rivetting. Prior to that I hadn't realised/thought about how many things require oil for their production.

Yes, the 50's were the era of the Ad Men. Hey, that would make a good TV series.

Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

Lol drbj..."The Queen of Clingwrap"...sounds like some sort of kinky erotic-asphyxiation specialist.

Thanks for the generous praise...I love it (naturally).

sueroy333 profile image

sueroy333 6 years ago from Indiana

I typically hate clingy things, but Cling Wrap is the exception. Very enjoyable article, as well as informative. You may also have saved several women from unwanted pregnancies. (Can you imagine??.. ewww)

voted up, funny, and useful. This was great!

Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

Haha Sue...'ewww' indeed. Yuk! Yet apparently it happens. I guess if there's nothing else around...

Thanks very much for stopping by

scall profile image

scall 6 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

An interesting read and I must say your tips are timely as I have painting to do - it never even dawned on me to use cling wrap for paint cans & brushes. I also found myslef sizing up the car for a moment...these Canadian winters are hard on the paint job. Voted up!

Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

Thanks scali..the paint brush thing really works. It's very handy if you're painting and want to stop for lunch or leave it for a while.


Merlin Fraser profile image

Merlin Fraser 6 years ago from Cotswold Hills

Great information you may like to keep a roll handy for April fools Day, it goes great over the toilet underneath the lid !

Though I'd pass it on being as I got caught last year!

Another tip for you, you know those plastic bags you get to fill with water to make ice cubes, well for picnics and the like take your chilled wine and sandwich it in between two ice cube bags and wrap cling film around it to keep the wine cold.

Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

Haha..I'll think I'll pass on the cling wrapped toilet seat Merlin. That must have been a bit disconcerting!

Thanks very much for the tip about the wine, I'll add that to the list.

Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 6 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

Jane, there is a series on TV called Mad Men about the ad men of the 1960s. Maybe someday they'll do the 1950s.

Yes, I saw the documentary, Crude.

Stina Caxe profile image

Stina Caxe 6 years ago from Virginia

I had no idea there were so many uses for cling wrap! I remember seeing that Rodney Dangerfield commercial on TV when I was a kid, what a flashback!

Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

Rod, I do know about Mad Men..I was just making a lame joke..;) By the way i very much enjoyed your latest hub, "Change and the Industrial Age".

Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

Yes Stina...cling wrap is nothing if not versatile! Thanks for reading.

Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 6 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

Glad you liked Change and the Industrial Age, Jane. I love history as if you couldn't tell.

Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

Writers are always at their best when they enjoy their topic..:)

tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa

Great Hub - I had some good laughs and learned some useful stuff too. Glad you warned about using it as a condom! I was about to try that - not!

Love and peace


2patricias profile image

2patricias 6 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

An interesting hub on an unusual topic.

I remember Saran wrap, and how much my mother hated it. She always ended up with the clingfilm all stuck together and just put whatever it was she was trying to cover into the fridge uncovered. Actually, she probably only bought 1 roll and then gave up on the product.

A few years ago there was a lot in the UK press about the health danger of cling film in contact with your food.

Don't know whether that was proved or disproved. I admit to using it to hold my sandwiches together. (I take it off before eating them!)

Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

Thanks tonymac. If you do ever try it, you're probably better off with the Glad bag than the wrap..:)

Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

2patricias, it's a wonder they don't make edible cling wrap.

I've had my issues with the stuff too...especially on those occasions when I've bought a cheap roll and the serrated edge thingey just won't cut properly.I end up like Rodney Dangerfield in that ad.

It IS good for sandwiches...I can't argue with that.

Thanks for visiting!

Docmo profile image

Docmo 6 years ago from UK

What a great hub, like a blockbuster this hub has everything- the storyline, the positives, the evils, the music, the characters, the puzzle over the origins ... you have truly created a holistic hub!

Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

Docmo, thanks very much for that terrific comment.

Golfgal profile image

Golfgal 6 years ago from McKinney, Texas

I do not know how I would make it a day without my cling wrap. I use it everyday and Yes, I have used it to wrap paint brushes for days and cover paint trays to pick up the next day with great success. Now the cling wrap hair...well that's where I draw the line. Great job.

Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 6 years ago from The Fatal Shore Author

Hello Golfgal, it's really handy, yes. I haven't used it on my hair yet either...but I'd be willing!

Thanks for the cheery comment.

Maira 3 years ago

That's a skillful answer to a dicfufilt question

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