Clear, relatively non-toxic, non-shattering cover for indoor greenhouse?
November 16, 2021 9:57 PM   Subscribe

I'm making an indoor "greenhouse" - basically a large, attractive (I hope) structure to keep humidity up around my plants. I might even let my frog run around in there. What's better than clear vinyl, which is probably too toxic for all involved, and less milky/translucent/white than the polyethylene sheeting I've found so far? Cost < $50 for 10 yards is a bonus.

I already know this might not exist, so please don't spend your precious time reminding me :)

Glass: I've considered glass and buying old windows off Craigslist, but I want this to be _beautiful_ in a way that's not overly intrusive in the living room, and also safe for someone (me) who occasionally walks into things.

Polycarbonate: Maybe? I don't want the air-cell-grid-whatever stuff that's used for outdoor greenhouses, because the internal structure would obscure the view inside, and I don't really need insulation.

Shrink film: My current best idea is using that plastic shrink film with 2-sided tape you can put over your windows to add insulation - it really does shrink with hair dryer heat to be invisible - but I'd like something more durable. Also, I have no idea what kind of plastic it is, but I'd bet it's vinyl.

Plexiglass: Seems too expensive and almost as dangerous as glass.

Polyethylene: Seems like a promising alternative, and I can find rolls of it for sale. Some photos show some varieties as very clear, but I'm not sure I can trust them. Also, I'm not sure about cost here -- can you recommend a particular brand/model/thickness?

I'm thinking I'll make it have a 4' x 2' footprint and be ~ 8' high (so I can mount a light inside), with a thin frame made of 1x2" lumber. It will probably dominate whatever room it's in.
posted by amtho to Grab Bag (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Shrink film strikes me as the only correct answer from an ease of construction and appearance of results standpoint.

I just sent a query to the makers of Duck Brand Max Strength window shrink film asking whether it's made of PVC or polyolefin or something else, and will post the answer here when it arrives.
posted by flabdablet at 12:05 AM on November 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

Polycarbonate and acrylic are both available in quite thin sheets (2mm, or whatever the US equivalent measurement is). Not super-cheap, but fairly safe and durable. You'd probably want to work with smaller panels, rather than doing the 8' x 4' sides as single sheets.
posted by pipeski at 2:48 AM on November 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

My vote is the polycarbonate in very thin sheets since you are indoors. The thin stuff is flexible but rigid enough. I don’t recall the thickness, I feel like it was less than 2mm. I used to live fairly close to a plastic company and became acquainted with it through the plastic ends they sold for cheap. It was really handy when I had a fish room and could be cut with trauma shears, so easy to work with as compared to thicker polycarbonate or acrylic.

And on that note, I would actually see if there is a plastics company near you, find out if they have a retail outlet and just wander in, give them an overview of what you want to do and see if they have any other tricks up their sleeves.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 3:47 AM on November 17, 2021

You might consider films for artists that are designed to be transparent, such as acetate. Here is a video from Blick that introduces the range of plastic films for artists, including discussion of the types of plastic.
posted by mortaddams at 6:49 AM on November 17, 2021

Re shrink film: it comes in different grades/thickness. The cheapest stuff is about as durable as saran wrap but the heavy duty thickness is pretty tough and easier to work with.
posted by Mitheral at 7:01 AM on November 17, 2021

Best answer: Got a reply from Duck Brand. Their Max Strength shrink film is polyolefin, not vinyl.
posted by flabdablet at 9:07 AM on November 17, 2021 [3 favorites]

What's better than clear vinyl, which is probably too toxic for all involved, and less milky/translucent/white than the polyethylene sheeting I've found so far? Cost < $50 for 10 yards is a bonus.

clear shower curtain from the Dollar Store/Big Lots etc.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:12 PM on November 17, 2021

Clear shower curtain usually is vinyl.
posted by flabdablet at 6:34 PM on November 17, 2021

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