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What’s the Difference Between Cellophane and Plastic Wrap?

Candies are wrapped in multi-colored cellophane.
littlekiss photography/Shutterstock.com

If you’ve ever called plastic wrap cellophane, you probably aren’t alone. After all, both products are typically clear and designed to store different sorts of food. Turns out, though, that cellophane and plastic wrap are totally different products.

So what’s the difference between cellophane and plastic wrap?

Right off the bat, the easiest difference to spot is the texture and feel of both materials. Plastic wrap—like the sheer cover used to preserve leftovers—is clingy and feels more like a film. Cellophane, on the other hand, is thicker and markedly stiffer with no cling abilities.

While both are used for food packaging, the types of food cellophane and plastic wrap are used on are different.

You’ve likely seen cellophane wrapped around candies, baked goods, and even encasing boxes of teas. The packaging has low moisture and oxygen permeability making it great for keeping things fresh.  It’s much easier to tear and remove than plastic wrap.

As for plastic wrap, it can easily give food a tight seal thanks to its clingy nature, and because it’s malleable, it can fit a variety of items. Unlike cellophane, it’s much harder to tear and remove from products.

Then, there’s what they are made from. Cellophane is derived from natural sources such as wood and is biodegradable and can be composted. Plastic wrap is created from PVC, and isn’t biodegradable, but it is recyclable.

Now, if you ever need something to store your leftovers in, you’ll know to ask for the plastic wrap, not cellophane.

Shea Simmons Shea Simmons
Shea Simmons is an Atlanta-based writer who has written about everything from whether Crisco is a good moisturizer to how to KonMari your space. Her work has appeared in Bustle, My First Apartment, and Make It Grateful. Read Full Bio »
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