Tools to Cure Wrap Rage
This holiday, curb the frustration. These 11 items help you open impenetrable packaging while keeping your gifts—and your fingers—intact
It's hard to have a holly jolly Christmas when you are forced to open a pile of clamshell- and blister-packaged gifts with tons of twisty ties while eager children await. In fact, more than 6,000 Americans visit the emergency room after attempts to open difficult product packaging—by tearing, biting, stabbing, and cutting—each year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Ouch! These tools (some of which are designed to exclusively open packaging and others you may already have that can be repurprosed for the task) will help you survive the gift-giving season with your presents—and your hands—in tact.
Please note: Despite their safety features, many of these package openers feature extremely sharp blades and are not intended for use by children; store these tools out of their reach.
Alloy steel jaws cut away the toughest zip and twist ties and eat through product-hugging plastic with ease. One handle features a retractable utility knife with safety lock (for opening CDs, DVDs, and boxes), while the other features a fold-out mini screwdriver (for opening toy battery compartments). If there are parents with little ones on your gift list, give them this and tell them to open it before the kids get started on what Santa brought them. It's available in Berry Red, Fire Orange, Mocha, and Sky Blue. About $12; Zibra
Rubicon's ambidextrous design allows for a steady grip and applies a pierce-and-pull method that protects your hands from the blade while cutting through tough plastic. When not in use, a locking guard conceals the replaceable steel blade. The shortness of the blade makes this a great tool for opening cardboard boxes without slicing the goods inside. About $8 for the Open Sezz Me and about $2 for a pair of replacement blades; Rubicon
The surgical-grade blade on this package opener will never need sharpening. All you have to do is trace around hard-plastic encased items to free them from packaging. For those of you particularly wary of sharp tools, the long, ergonomic handle will put some distance between your hand and the blade. The auto-close safety cover opens only when making the first pierce, then falls back into place on its own to conceal the blade. About $9; Charles Leonard
If you find yourself constantly wrestling with clamshells in particular, then this single-function tool designed especially for mollusk-tough plastic packaging, is your best bet. It works a lot like a can opener: it slices the sealed edges of the perimeter of a package. When not in use, the device closes and locks to conceal stainless steel cutting blades. About $10; Simply Simon
How many tools does it take to liberate a hard-to-open product? Five separate tools for everything from opening packages to ring-pull cans may seem a bit excessive. But, considering the fact that a large percentage of accidents caused by packaging affect the elderly (according to a University of Sheffield study), this kit may be just what the doctor ordered. Arthritis and joint-pain suffers of any age will appreciate the included soda can opener, as will your manicure-loving mom. A bag opener (for those pesky, super-sealed cereal bags) and a small CD/DVD opener are also included. About $20 for 5-piece set (products also sold separately); RNR Direct LLC
If you're not into fancy gadgetry, here's a familiar-looking tool. These new multifunction scissors by the makers of the Open-X Dual Blade Universal Package Opener feature adjustable tension to tackle troublesome materials. Let's see: What other pesky packages haven't we covered yet? Bottles without twist-off caps? Walnuts and other hard-shelled nuts? A nutcracker and bottle opener are built into this unit, and will come in handy for holiday entertaining. About $28; Open-X
If you have a movie or music buff on your list, consider picking up one of these. Each unit features a molded plastic case with a built-in carbon blade to accommodate the disc you'd like to open. Slide the CD or DVD in and out, and every layer of wrapping—from shrink wrap to security stickers—is ready to be peeled away. The entire process takes a mere two seconds. While other versions of this product are available on the market, this one's safer thanks to the inaccessible blade. About $10 for each tool; CD and DVD Stripper
This Old House editorial assistant and resident tool guy Sal Vaglica—an expert opener of several products and packages a day—gets right through just about any kind of plastic or cardboard with this power tool. "I just zip around three edges, and even the most amazingly annoying packages open right up," he says. With its Auto Sharp blade, not getting boxes and packages opened is hardly an option. The lithium-ion battery holds charge for up to 18 months, and the battery fuel gauge will tell you when you're running out of juice. This cutter isn't just for quelling wrap rage; you can use it on everything from wrapping paper to carpeting (up to ¼" thick). About $60; Skil
Members of the This Old House messageboard community raved about this multitool that can open troublesome packaging, and help with loads of other tasks, too. The 17-in-1 unit offers easy access to four locking blades without even fully opening the tool. Other package-opening helpers include hard wire cutters, a saw, scissors, and a screwdriver. The 8-ounce tool incorporates a bottle opener, diamond-coated file, ruler, and other necessities. For gifting, you can add accessories like a leather or nylon carrying case and bit kits. About $85; Leatherman
Other suggestions from the online community for removing twisty ties—according to Consumer Reports' Oyster Awards, there can be up to 50 ties on a single Bratz doll—were linesman's pliers, tin snips, and aviation shears. One user said, "If it can cut sheet metal then it can definitely cut through annoying nuclear blast-proof packaging! I've got a pair of snips in every room." Shown here are TOH editor's pick linesman pliers by Klein and Metalmaster Compound Action Snip by Wiss. About $30 for pliers and about $13 for snips; Klein Tools and Wiss Tools
You can turn to a toolbox staple if you refuse to buy a special tool just for opening stuff. TOH's Sal Vaglica often uses nail nippers, or nail cutters, to free zip-tied products. "When there is no room to get a blade or scissor between a zip tie and the surface of a product—for example, the throttle cord that is zip-tied to the handle of my lawn mower—the flat-tip of the nail cutter clips the zip toe off without having to needle its way in," he says. His favorites are the High Leverage End Cutting Nippers shown here. About $40; Knipex