How to use plastic wrap for moving

The many uses of this versatile wrap

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Where are you moving to?

a large roll of plastic wrap on a table

When moving homes, apartments or offices, there are some supplies you need to have on hand. These include tape, boxes, moving blankets, bubble wrap — and even plastic wrap.

Plastic wrap has many uses when it comes to moving, but people primarily use it to protect upholstered and large furniture items from moisture, dirt and dust. However, plastic wrap can also be used to keep drawers closed, secure rolled-up rugs, wrap artwork and more. Just keep in mind that not all plastic wrap is alike.

Key insights

Plastic wrap comes in different sizes and gauges (a measure of the wrap’s thickness), which have different uses.

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Blankets should be used for padding, while plastic wrap adds a protective layer.

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You can utilize plastic wrap to keep items organized, bundled together and closed when moving.

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Use plastic wrap instead of tape when you want to avoid adhesive residue.

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Regular kitchen plastic wrap (generally 35- to 40-gauge) often is not sufficient for moving; 80-gauge, which can secure medium loads up to 2,400 pounds, is best.

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What is plastic wrap?

Plastic wrap is a thin, flexible, transparent sheet of plastic that’s often packaged in rolls. Also known as cling film, shrink wrap and food wrap, plastic wrap is primarily used to store food because it protects food from air and moisture exposure, which can lead to spoilage. However, plastic wrap also has a key use as a tool for moving.

When moving large, bulky items like hutches, plastic wrap can be used to protect them from scratches, dust and dirt. If you cover one of these items in a thick blanket, you can then cover the blanket with plastic wrap to make the entire bundle more compact.

When you think of plastic wrap, you may picture the standard box that you see at your local grocery store. However, plastic wrap is actually available in different thicknesses (also known as gauges).

» LEARN: Moving yourself vs. hiring movers

Not all plastic wrap is the same

When it comes time to find the right plastic wrap for moving, pay close attention to the different gauges available. The higher the gauge, the thicker the plastic wrap film, according to U.S. Packaging & Wrapping. Most store-bought plastic wrap for kitchen use ranges from 35- to 40-gauge.

However, a lighter gauge may not be best for moving heavy items like furniture. Instead, according to Mr. Shrinkwrap, the industry-standard plastic wrap for moving is 80-gauge, which is best for medium loads up to 2,400 pounds. For heavy-duty loads up to 3,000 pounds, 100-gauge plastic wrap tends to be best, while 60-gauge plastic wrap is used for light to medium loads up to 1,600 pounds.

You should also take into account that plastic wrap comes in different widths, such as 5-, 10-, 15- and 20-inch-wide rolls. “The shrink wrap we use is industrial strength and comes on a pretty large roll, 18 inches wide,” Nancy Zafrani, the general manager at Oz Moving & Storage, said. Industrial-strength plastic wrap (80-gauge) can be purchased at big box stores such as The Home Depot, Lowe’s, Ace Hardware, Office Depot, Staples and U-Haul.

You should also be mindful of the plastic wrap color you choose for your moving needs. “Dark-colored plastic wraps can leave a dye and residue on furniture, especially in hot weather,” Matt Graber, owner of Cool Hand Movers in New York City, said in an email. “Stick to clear as much as possible.”

How to use plastic wrap during a move

There are a variety of different ways that moving-grade plastic wrap can help you out while moving. Here are some possible uses:

  • Protecting large pieces of furniture: First, clean and dry the furniture. Then, wrap the item in a blanket and cover it with plastic wrap. Allow extra wrap on the sides and corners so it sticks to itself.
  • Preserving fabric and upholstered items from dirt and moisture: Cover mattresses, throw pillows and other upholstered products with plastic wrap to keep them clean and dry. This is especially helpful if you are moving on a rainy day.
  • Keeping drawers and doors closed: For items like dressers, desks and cupboards, use plastic wrap around the doors and drawers to keep them shut during transport.
  • Securing rolled-up rugs: To make a large rug easier to carry and move, simply clean and dry the item, roll it up and wrap it in plastic wrap to prevent the rug from unraveling during transport.
  • Bundling awkward, long items: Use 5-inch, 80-gauge plastic wrap to bundle and wrap items such as shovels, rakes, bed rails and brooms. Focus the plastic wrap at the top and bottom of the bundle so the items won’t shift during moving.
  • Wrapping artwork and wall decor: When transporting or storing art or wall decor, make sure these items are clean and dry. Then wrap them in a blanket and encase the blanket in plastic wrap for extra protection.
  • Keeping utensils organized: To keep utensils like forks, spoons and knives organized and in their proper places when moving, place them in your utensil tray. Then cover the entire tray with plastic wrap to prevent the items from moving during transport.
  • Sealing open bottles and jars: Remove the lids from open bottles and jars. Then place plastic wrap over the jar opening for extra leakage protection. Replace the lid, and tape the lid closed. Take extra care when transporting liquids.
  • Binding moving boxes together: After your move, when you have a bunch of empty moving boxes lying around that you’d like to store for the future, cover them with plastic wrap before placing them in storage. This will keep the boxes together while protecting them from dust, dirt and dampness.
  • Protecting items in storage: To keep your items protected from moisture and debris while in storage in a garage, basement, attic or storage facility, cover them with plastic wrap. Make sure the items are clean and dry before doing so to ensure that you are not trapping any moisture or dirt inside (which can cause mold and mildew).

Plastic wrap vs. tape

Plastic wrap and tape are two tools that are essential in the moving process. However, they both have different uses. “For securing drawers and doors, stretch wrap won't leave adhesive behind if applied directly, like different kinds of tape,” Graber said. “You get the security without the stickiness.” In other words, if you don’t want adhesive residue left on an item you are moving, do not apply tape directly on it. Instead, cover it with a blanket before applying the tape.

If the items are going into storage without climate control (like a basement or garage), a layer of stretch wrap on top will help protect against moisture and pests.”
— Matt Graber, Cool Hand Movers

Though Zafrani does not recommend moving liquids, she said to use adhesive tape for liquids if you must. This will ensure that a bottle or jar lid does not come off during transport, causing an unwanted spill.

As for moving items into storage, Graber stated that plastic wrap is key: “If the items are going into storage without climate control (like a basement or garage), a layer of stretch wrap on top will help protect against moisture and pests.” An extra layer of plastic wrap protection will also keep dust and dirt at bay.

Where to buy plastic wrap — and what type to get

If you’re looking to buy plastic wrap for moving, you can locate larger rolls at the same establishments where you would find moving boxes: hardware, office supply, shipping and packaging stores.

Think of the big box stores such as Home Depot, Lowe’s, Ace Hardware, Office Depot, Staples and U-Haul. You can also call your local independent hardware stores to see if they have plastic wrap for moving in stock. Online retailers like Amazon also sell plastic wrap for moving.

Some moving companies also offer moving supplies. Simply reach out to a mover in your area to see if it sells plastic wrap for moving.

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Are there any downsides to using plastic wrap for moving?

Using plastic wrap for moving can have a negative environmental impact because plastic wrap is non-biodegradable and tends to only be used for one application. While some businesses and recycling centers do offer plastic wrap recycling, in general, it is not easy to recycle plastic wrap because you can’t simply throw it in your recycling bin for pickup.

If you are moving a large quantity of items, using plastic wrap to protect every item can be costly and time-consuming. This is especially the case if you don’t have the proper gauge and size, so therefore you would need even more plastic wrap around each item.

Should I use plastic wrap for padding?

No, you should not use plastic wrap for padding purposes. It’s too thin. Instead, use moving blankets and other forms of cushioning for padding. Then you can wrap the padding in plastic wrap to keep it in place and protect the entire bundle from dust, dirt and moisture.

Bottom line

Plastic wrap can come in handy when moving, but make sure you buy the right size and gauge of moving-specific plastic wrap for your needs. Choose plastic wrap over tape when you want to avoid adhesive residue and protect items from dirt and moisture.

Though plastic wrap can’t be used as padding, it can provide a protective layer over moving blankets, help ensure drawers and cabinet doors stay closed during moving, and help you bundle together and organize the items you need to move, transport or store.

Article sources
ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. Specific sources for this article include:
  1. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move.” Accessed Jan. 23, 2024.
  2. U.S. Packaging & Wrapping, “Plastic Wrap 101.” Accessed April 15, 2024.
  3. Mr. Shrinkwrap, “​​Choosing the Right Stretch Wrap.” Accessed April 23, 2024.
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