5 Tips to Open Plastic Packaging Quickly and Safely

Frustrated with hard plastic casing? Here's an easy way to open even the toughest packaging without ending up in the ER.

Have you suffered from “wrap rage,” the term coined to describe consumers’ frustration while trying to open the hard plastic packaging that encases so many things?

According to one U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission statistic, “oyster” or “clamshell” package injuries resulted in some 6,400 emergency room visits in 2004. The problem was so bad by the 2000s that Consumer Reports launched an “Oyster Awards” program to call attention to the companies with the hardest-to-open packages.

Since then, some major industry players have begun shifting to alternative packaging. But clamshell packaging is still around — and still a menace.

So, don’t become one of the statistics. Follow these tips for opening those seemingly impermeable packages without cutting hands or lopping off fingertips:

1. Avoid clamshell packaging

The easiest and safest solution to hard plastic packaging is to avoid buying products wrapped in it whenever possible.

For instance, online retail giant Amazon offers an option it calls “Amazon Certified Frustration-Free Packaging” for certain products as part of an effort to alleviate wrap rage. This packaging is recyclable and minimal.

The next-best solution is to buy products in plastic packaging that is designed to be easier to open. Check for pull tabs or perforated lines, which can help you open the package without sharp tools.

2. Use a can opener or tin snips

If you can’t avoid hard plastic wrapping, prepare to do battle with it — without getting hurt. A pair of tin snips or a rotary can opener can often do the job better than a knife or scissors while also posing less risk of injury.

If you have tin snips in your toolbox, use those. They cut effortlessly through the hard plastic packaging.

Alternatively, insert the bottom edge of the package inside a rotary can opener, like you’d normally do to open a can, and turn the can opener until you reach the other end of the package. From there, you may be able to remove the item from the package without further aid.

If not, you can repeat this can-opener process with the remaining edges of the package. Or insert a kitchen knife inside the now-open part of the clamshell — with the blade facing away from you — and run the knife along the remaining edges to free the item from the package.

You have an open package in just a few minutes with the contents and the instructions intact.

3. Get a tool made for the job

If the idea of opening packaging yourself still seems daunting or risky, a few products on the market are designed to make the task easier.

For example, the Zip-it opener promises to slide along the package. It looks similar to a can opener but works with the press of a button.

The Open It! tool, made by a company called Zibra, is also designed for the task. It looks like a pair of miniature garden shears.

4. Put safety first

Whatever method you use to open hard plastic wrapping, first put on a pair of protective gloves.

If anyone is close enough to you to possibly be injured, move away from them. Also, don’t hold the item between your legs to stabilize it.

If a sharp object like a knife is your only option, remember to cut away from your body. If you use scissors, choose a pair with blunt tips.

5. Spare children from wrap rage

If you’ve ever found yourself spending Christmas morning with a crying child who just can’t wait for you to break open that clamshell package and untwist those 14 twist ties, consider opening the package ahead of time.

Save any packaging materials in case you have to return the toy, put the toy in a box and then wrap it. Your kid or grandkid likely won’t care that the item isn’t in its original packaging, and you will avoid potential stress or injury due to having to open the packaging in a hurry.

Kari Huus and Craig Donofrio contributed to this post.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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