Shipping Fragile Items: A Guide to Packing & Sending Breakable Items

It's all about packing properly when shipping glass and fragile items
shipping fragile items
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So, you need to ship something fragile. Maybe it’s a wine glass or a piece of artwork you bought while on vacation. Whatever the case, if you’re worried about your item breaking or being damaged in the shipping process, you’re not alone. Shipping fragile items can be nerve-wracking, but fear not! We’re here to help. We’ve all heard the golden rule of real estate: “Location, location, location.” Well, we came up with a little golden rule of our own when it comes to shipping glass & fragile items: “Pack, pack, pack!”

Here’s the bottom line: when shipping fragile items, the key is to pack the item with as much protection as possible. Follow the steps we’ve listed below and you won’t go wrong!

Table of Contents

First Step: Get the Necessary Supplies

First thing first: start by using a new box. New boxes are more able to withstand the pressures of shipping, handling, and all the potential bumps along the way.

Choosing the correct box size is critical. You’ll need to make sure your item fits inside the box without too much empty space left over. For instance, if you’re shipping a wine glass, DON’T go and buy a 3-foot by 3-foot box that the glass is going to roll around in. Seems like common sense, right?

Once you’ve got your box, stock up on plenty of packing materials like packing peanuts, bubble wrap, foam sheets, and air pillows. You’ll need them for protecting those fragile items.

Learn more about your various options when it comes to packing material.

Next Step: Pack, Pack, Pack!

Once you’ve got your box and your packing supplies, it’s time to pack, pack, pack! Here’s what to do:

  • Line the bottom of the box with a couple of inches of packing peanuts, and lay bubble wrap on top of the peanuts to create a cushion. This gives the bottom of the box a safe base. If your item is on the heavier side, it never hurts to add more layers on the bottom to create an even stronger base.
  • Using bubble wrap, wrap each item completely. Don’t be stingy! As a rule of thumb, you’ve used enough bubble wrap when you can’t feel the item or see its color. Any glass plates or artwork frames should be covered with foam sheets.
  • Place any large items on the bottom of the box. Then, cover those items in a layer of peanuts and bubble wrap before you add in any smaller items.
  • Make sure the item is facing the right way. Some items do better when upright, and some do better sideways. Every item is different, but common sense usually prevails.
  • Once you’ve filled the box, add some more peanuts, foam sheets, or air pillows on top to fill any extra void.
  • Seal the box along all open areas with at least two layers of heavy-duty packing tape and mark “Fragile” on the box. If one particular side needs to be kept facing up, be sure to also mark that on the box with an arrow pointing in the right direction. This information lets handlers know how to treat your package.

How Much Packing Material is Enough?

If you’re wondering how much packing material is considered “enough” to protect your fragile items, we suggest following some guidelines that UPS has published. According to their website’s Packaging Advisor, a good rule of thumb is to follow the two-inch rule. Here’s what UPS says about it:

“Each item should be surrounded by at least two inches of sheeting and placed two inches away from the box walls. This prevents product-against-product damage and protects the contents from shock and vibration, which can pass from the outside of the box to the contents. Use enough sheeting to ensure that the contents cannot move when you shake the box.”

In other words, wrap your items with at least two inches (2″) of large bubble wrap and fill up the empty space inside your box with other packing material such as foam sheets or packing peanuts.

Last Step: Shipping

When you’re ready to ship, choose a carrier with a good track record and an easy claim process (so you can be compensated in case anything bad happens…knock on wood). All of the major carriers deal with tons of fragile items on a daily basis, but if your item is over $100 in value, we recommend that you purchase extra shipping insurance just in case. If the item is really valuable, we suggest purchasing insurance from a third-party insurance provider (available through most shipping software options).

Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

Pack, pack, pack! Packing fragile items correctly is the best way to protect them from breaking or taking damage. If you want to take it a step further, purchasing shipping insurance with your carrier or through a third-party insurance provider is another way to safeguard against any accidents. Before shipping fragile items, let the wise words of Ice Cube be a reminder: “Check yourself before you wreck yourself!”

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