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.
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 issue...so 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
Make a wig out of cling wrap
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 it...you 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.
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.
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.