Saran, the trademark name for vinylidene chloride polymer, was made up by Dow chemists, who added the word Wrap to clarify the new plastic's purpose.
Swiss chemist and businessman Jacques Brandenberger invented cellophane and spent the next ten years developing the machinery to mass-produce his invention. In 1908 he patented the manufacturing process and in 1911 began selling cellophane, named from cellulose (the wood pulp derivative used to make the film) and the Greek word diaphanes ("transparent"). Coating cellophane with polyvinylidene chloride gives the film the lowest gas and moisture transmission.
In Midland, Michigan, Herbert Dow had developed a process in 1897 to use electricity to extract bromides and chlorides from underground brine deposits. He founded Dow Chemical, and the company's first product was chlorine bleach. In the 1940s, Dow research yielded synthetic plastics, leading to the introduction of Saran Wrap, the company's first major consumer product, in 1953. Plastics and silicone products boosted sales, catapulting Dow to the forefront of U.S. companies with sales topping $1 billion in 1964. Today polyvinylchloride and polypropylene films have replaced cellophane in almost every area where heat is not present.
The unique composition of Saran Wrap provides the highest temperature tolerance and resistance to hot fats and oils, making it the best product for use in a microwave oven. It is strong enough to go directly from the freezer to the microwave oven without melting or tearing. (Always turn back one corner of the plastic wrap to let excess stream escape during cooking. Never use any plastic wrap to microwave foods with a high sugar content. These foods can be extremely hot and may cause plastic wrap to melt).
In 1992, when Dow-Corning, the leading manufacturer of silicone breast implants, was accused of putting a breast implant on the market without proper testing, the joint venture stopped producing the devices.
Rumor contends that a piece of Saran Wrap can be used as an impromptu condom. It does not work. Plastic film does not withstand the friction of sexual intercourse nor does it provide an adequate barrier against sperm.