Parafilm | What is this thing?!

Parafilm | What is this thing?!

What is this thing? This is Parafilm. Parafilm is the lab version of
plastic wrap except way better. Parafilm is made from
paraffin, a waxy substance derived from petroleum
that we normally think of in stuff like
candles and wood polish. Parafilm is great
because it’s stretchy, and it sticks to itself,
and it’s waterproof, so it makes it great
for sealing things. It’s most often used
in the biology lab to steal plates and bottles,
and it’s also a great palette when mixing small
quantities of liquids. Parafilm is ubiquitous in labs. It’s useful. It’s kind of fun, and it’s
really just everywhere. It’s the only thing
like it in the lab, and its packaging seems
to have remained unchanged for many years. So when my lab’s summer
students suggested that I do a “what is
this thing?” on Parafilm, I decided to do some digging
into this stretchy lab staple. Now, I couldn’t find a lot
about the invention of Parafilm online other than the
fact that the trademark was filed in 1934 by the
Marathon Paper Mills Company. It was classified as a
moisture-proof, self-sealing flat wrapper, and the
trademark was later acquired by Bemis, the current
manufacturer of Parafilm. I couldn’t find much more
information about its invention online, so I
reached out to Bemis to see if they had anything
that they could share with me. They did send along a
little bit of information, but first they actually sent
me a big box of Parafilm, so I let the summer students
who inspired this video open it. [MUSIC PLAYING] Oh. Wow. Oh, my god. Oh, my god. That’s really big. We can wrap Anna in this. OK. Why? All for free. Oh, my god. All right, well, we’re going
to have Parafilm for a while. Parafilm party. Bemis did also send along a
little bit more information. From their email, they said,
since the commercialization of the product in the
1930s, the formulation has remained virtually unchanged. The original end use
was listed as map mounting although no one knows
exactly what that entailed. So clearly, my first
task was to figure out what map mounting is. It took a little
bit of searching, but I found a book called The
Fundamentals of Cartography that suggests that
paper maps that are going to be handled
a lot, like in a library, should be mounted
on a sheet of cloth. One of the ways
that they recommend doing this is called dry map
mounting, which takes a paper map and sticks it
onto a piece of fabric imbued with paraffin
wax, using a hot iron. So perhaps– and this is
just my hypothesis here– Parafilm was first invented to
be this paraffin film that you could put between a paper
map and a piece of fabric to stick them together. Now, this hypothesis
is supported by a 1952 popular
science advertisement for Parafilm, which suggests
that you can stick photographs printed on thin paper onto a
sweater or jacket by putting a thin piece of Parafilm in
between and then ironing it on. It’s not perfect,
but I can definitely see how this would make
a map a lot more durable. Bemis also sent me a
list of uses of Parafilm that they had aggregated
from their customers during interviews,
and they wanted to point out that they
do not necessarily endorse all the
uses in this list, and I also would
like to point out that I do not
necessarily endorse all the uses in this list. Here are a couple
of my favorites. Preserving open wine
as a cork replacement, replaces missing earring
backings, sealing containers prior to flying, put on
the end of screwdrivers to hold screw in
place, earplugs– this is not comfortable. I also asked on Twitter for
your favorite uses of Parafilm, and I got responses ranging
from stealing whiskey bottles to using a long
piece of Parafilm and a string as a cat toy, and
I love the diversity of uses here. I also found entire
Reddit threads of people proclaiming their love
and their many different uses of Parafilm, and I’m going to
link those in the description box below. So what is this thing? A much beloved lab staple. I want to note here
that this video was not sponsored by Bemis,
the makers of Parafilm. In fact, I reached
out to them, saying that I was making this video. But they did kindly send me some
Parafilm, which I appreciate. So thank you to Bemis. But this video was supported
by my wonderful, fantastic Patreon patrons,
who make it possible for me to do crazy
stuff like this and to spend a lot of time
babbling about a lab supply that I and many
other scientists love and make this sort of unusual
“what is this thing?” video. In fact, I have also
filmed and recorded this video entirely on equipment
that Patreon allowed me to buy. So thank you so much my Patreon
patrons, and also a shoutout to our lab’s summer students,
who inspired this video. Go forth, and do
well-sealed science.

Comments (70)

  1. You're finally back!!!

  2. Have you thought about doing a video on the current tax overhaul? I want to go to graduate school, but tax changes are making me think I'll never get there, due to taxing tuition waivers as income.

  3. Before this I never knew parafilm existed.

  4. About time! You finally uploaded … Can i get a hallelujah 😂😂

  5. It was nice to know about a thing we use everytime in lab but knew nothing about. Thank you!

  6. The research is strong with this one.

  7. Glad you’re back!
    I never heard of parafilm before, it seems incredibly useful in the lab.

  8. Until now I didn´t even know that Parafilm exists and I somehow already love it.

  9. Thank you for the video and welcome back!

  10. And now I crave this thing I didn’t know existed five minutes ago. 😮

  11. I wonder if they sell this thing worldwide? 🤔

  12. Man how exciting – parafilm isn't cheap I reckon you saved your lab some money there 😉 i love having a tiny piece and stretching it out as far as possibel!

  13. Wow after a long time we are seeing you back.

  14. Parafilm is magic. I don't remember ever ordering any but there was always plenty there. Instead of, like, a Bag of Holding, Parafilm was like a Box of Giving.

  15. I didn't know this. I'm smarter today.

  16. I guess that's one way to get lab equipment on a tight budget.

  17. I found my way here because of Smarter Every Day on Patreon. Great video – now I'm checking out your whole channel!

  18. Parafilm is the greatest thing for covering stuff in the lab if they made it in 18 inch wide straps I'd buy it instead of saran wrap. Also great to see a new video out of you I was starting to wonder if you had given up on youtubing

  19. Nice to see you post something again. I was just going over your old videos the other day as I missed having new ones.

  20. Yay another Alex Dainis video!!! I shall learn something awesome today!

  21. I somehow never made the connection between parafilm and paraffin, interesting!

  22. It doesn't like pathology machines. We have a machine that caps tubes with parafilm and it is ALWAYS getting jammed and needs fixing. Also it's no good for transporting specimens either.

  23. Alex, you look great but you never needed makeup to make great videos. This just the signs of being done with your dissertation and being stress free?

  24. This moment, if you get a push notification about this video, currently having a box of parafilm in hand in lab… 😀
    But I NEVER saw such a big role of parafilm :O

  25. I once used parafilm to make a spinning top out of a pipette tip and a ceramic ring from what I think was an inductor (which came from an old computer's power supply)

  26. I usually just use parafilm to cover volatile chemicals so they don't evaporate away when I store them for a while. It's cool to see the uses for it in biology.

  27. since you refer to them as summer lab students, did you shoot this in the summer and not upload until now?

  28. Small pieces of parafilm between the corners of a stack of paper with a hot air gun, and then it's a real lab staple.

  29. I want to be a summer student in your lab just to be filmed opening a massive box of parafilm 😀 can you give us a hint about the next videos?:)

  30. Parafilm is my antistress in the lab! I'm in love with it! 😀

  31. can you tell us a little about your experience in scientific writing and publishing papers

  32. Yayyyyy you're back! We missed you <3

  33. As I was got smarter as well today!!!! Thank you so much

  34. You gave summer students scissors…? You're one brave grad student!

  35. Long time no see! I really enjoyed this video!

    Has anyone gone through one parafilm roll? These things seem to last forever! Judging by their retro look, my hypothesis is that parafilm rolls are self-regenerating and that only a few were made a long time ago. I demand isotopic dating! :p

  36. I'm a software engineer, but my mom used to work in a lab. So I love parafilm. I once used parafilm to mend a violin bow I snapped right before a concert. I still carry a folded piece of parafilm in my wallet.

  37. Last video I saw from you was "DNA In Space." I went to your videos and noticed you've uploaded at least two more videos!? I had no notifications. I guess I'll use that bell thingy. Can't way too see more content from you!

  38. Could those be used… as… condoms?

  39. I used to fold parafilm to bigger pieces and use it as chewing gum.

  40. Never saw the ultrawide film! It’s amazing that this is just one company since 80 years! A thing that I always wondered, is it possible to make a candle out of parafilm?

  41. Welcome back. It's always a pleasure to see your videos!

  42. Plastic makes things happy, like "lab rats" 🙂 But not seas! Seas don't like plastic, at all…

  43. I bet you 5 bucks: someone totally used this as a condom once

  44. you should make a video about gel electrophoresis, it's 'bread and butter' for all molecular biology lab.

  45. I love your use of reels on YouTube. And I love this channel

  46. We missed your channel. This is what should be in YouTube rewind. I did not get this in my sub box saw from your reels video.

  47. Can you recycle it?

  48. Are you the "bitescized" chick?

    Also, in your weird "look, YouTube has snapchat now" video, mobile users can't click on the link.

    Glad to have found this channel if you are who I think

  49. Hey Alex! How are you? My name is Felipe and I'm a 17yo Brazilian Education YouTuber which was inspired a lot by your videos. In my channel I do a lot of chemistry experiments inside a homemade lab! Well, I actually want to thank you for being a motivation for me during this YouTube years, your passion for science makes me realize that we still have brilliant minds thinking and creating. Congratulations for your work and please keep doing it, you definitely have a worldwide public and I'll help translating your videos to Portuguese if you wish so! A big shout out from Brazil! 🙂

  50. I use it for cuttings and grafting

  51. Hey I'm not sure what major I should do because I love chemestry but not big on biology what would you recomend

  52. wait for it !….. @ 1:44.. laugh = awesome !

  53. I love your videos. I am writing a novel, so your videos are so helpful!

  54. I love parafilm! I want to get a pack myself for home use cuz it's so handy in the lab 😂

  55. Best teacher ever!

  56. I have used this very successfully to seal perfume bottles before shipping. I make sure the crystal or glass stopper is turned well in until it stops. Then I take a Parafilm strip about 1" x 3" long, start stretching it at one end, and then holding the stretched end against the perfume bottle, slowly start winding and stretching all the time, round and round the place where the stopper and the neck meet, and even over the top and back around the neck. When I am near the end of the strip, I pull it down against the bottle so that the receiver can find the end. Magic! Even if the bottle leaks a little bit, the Parafilm holds the liquid and it doesn't escape and spoil the bottle's label. I was able to buy precut strips from Germany, but any will do.

  57. Ive never heard of parafilm. Definitely looks useful, but also kinda expensive.

  58. Any saxophone players out there?


  60. Parafilm is the shit

  61. My fav use is grafting trees!
    I'm searching for a cheap source of parafilm or no brand paraffin grafting tape and that's how i found out this vid! 🙂

  62. It is used a lot for grafting fruit trees

  63. i use it for grafting fruittrees

  64. Cactus collectors love this!

  65. It is also used alot by us, chemists, and for weighting small weights 😀

  66. 0:34 is giving me war flashbacks

  67. That parafilm mixing trick Going to use that for my experiments now!

  68. That's some shit you put on stuff to keep shit in

  69. Hi ad, can we use the parafilm M for wrapping a erlen glass (contains culture medium inside) and then autoclave?

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