How to Pack and Ship Dishes and Cookware

Learn how to properly pack dishes and cookware so they don't break during transit, and how save the most money in the process
ship dishes and cookware

Have you whipped up a killer sandwich, but don’t have a plate to put in on? Then it’s time to order yourself some dishes and plates! In all seriousness, dishes and cookware are some of the most popular items out there for shipping. Well-known home goods operations like West Elm and Crate & Barrel have doubled down on their online operations, and as a result, retail giants like them ship huge amounts of dishes and cookware on a daily basis. So, whether you need to send boxes to your new place across the country or you’re starting your own online business selling home goods, this guide is all about how to pack and ship dishes and cookware for shipment. Let’s get cracking (but, you know…hopefully not)!

Properly Packing Dishes and Cookware for Shipment

Dishes and cookware are some of the most fragile items you can ship, so a huge part of shipping them properly is—you guessed it—packing them properly. We’ve listed out some simple steps to follow below:

Use a Brand New Corrugated Cardboard Box and Line it with Cushioning

First thing’s first: you’re going to want to put your plates and cookware in a sturdy cardboard box, preferably one that hasn’t been used before. Make sure to find the smallest possible box that works for your particular set of items! The less space they have to move around inside the box, the less chance they have of breaking during transit.

Once you’ve got your box, the next step is to line the bottom of it with some cushioning material, like sheets of foam paper. Feel free to use as many sheets as you like; this will help absorb shock from any sudden movements during transit, and will help any ceramic dishes or glassware from cracking.

Pro Tip: You can pick up some corrugated cardboard boxes of all sizes on the ULINE website. If you’re not feeling like spending the extra money, you can also order free Priority Mail Boxes on the USPS website…but these boxes are on the smaller side, and may not contain enough space for all of your dishes.

Wrap Each Individual Dish and Piece of Cookware in Several Layers of Newspaper or Foam Paper

Remember those sheets of foam paper we just talked about? It’s time to bust those out again—this time, for wrapping each dish or piece of cookware individually. You can also use bubble wrap to insulate your items (and you can order rolls of bubble wrap through ULINE, as well). This is an even better option if you can swing it…but no matter which option you choose, be sure to wrap each dish or plate at least a couple of times, and then tape the packing material together so there’s no chance of your item slipping out of it.

If you don’t have any foam paper or bubble wrap, sheets of newspaper will work, too! It’s a classic moving tactic, after all…because it totally works!

Pack Your Dishes Vertically, and Side by Side

Here’s an inside trick from seasoned ceramics shippers that most people get wrong: don’t stack your plates on top of each other! Instead, pack them vertically and side-by-side, as though you were placing books on a shelf. This way, each plate inside your package only bears only its own weight, and not the weight of the entire stack. You’ll just need to be sure to add in extra cushioning material on the bottom of the box, which we’ll get to in the next section.

Add Even More Packing Material to Fill Out the Box

Lastly, once your dishes are all packed inside your box, fill out the extra space in between the plates and around them with additional kinds of packing material that will cushion your items and keep them from moving around. Stuffing in extra foam sheets is a good option here, as well as adding other “space-fillers” such as packing peanuts or bubble wrap. The more packing material you can fit inside your box, the better off you are!

A good test to see whether you’ve packed your box well enough is to pick it up, shake it gently, and turn it over a few times. If you don’t hear or feel anything moving around inside, you’re good to go! If you do, it’s time to get in there again and add more packing material to fill out any extra space inside.

Choose the Cheapest Shipping Carrier

Packages containing dishes and cookware tend to be fairly heavy a lot of times, especially if the dishes are made of porcelain, stoneware, or any of those fancy types of ceramics. That said, it’s common for these shipments to be on the smaller side, as well, and able to fit within a lot of the free USPS Priority Mail boxes. As a result, you’ll have two solid options to choose from out of the three major carriers: USPS and UPS.

As a general rule of thumb, Priority Mail beats UPS services in terms of price a little more than half the time, and also covers you with $100 of insurance when you use shipping software to buy postage online (more on that in the next section).

UPS, on the other hand, is best for larger, heavier shipments…and the thing is, some packages containing dishes and plates can weigh a substantial amount. So, if your box is on the larger side, UPS will likely be your best bet, and the cheapest service they’ll offer is UPS Ground. All UPS labels also come with $100 of insurance—which they call “carrier liability”—so you’ll be protected with a little amount of coverage no matter which of the two carriers you ultimately go with. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to rate shop and figure out which carrier will provide the cheaper services!

Learn about the differences between USPS and UPS insurance.

Use Online Shipping Software to Save the Most Money on Your Labels

As is the case with shipping literally anything under the sun, you should never pay retail price for your labels. Don’t go to the Post Office, the UPS Store, or your local FedEx ship center. Instead, use shipping software to buy discounted postage online. When you use shipping software, you don’t just get to buy and print your own labels at home. You also get access to special shipping discounts that carriers only reserve for huge shippers, such as USPS Commercial Pricing. Think of it like buying labels for wholesale; in some cases, you can even save up to 89% of what you’d pay to ship the same package at the Post Office!

Here’s an added bonus: with most shipping software options, you don’t even have to worry about choosing the cheapest carrier…a lot of these companies do that legwork for you, and will present you with all your options. All you need to do is enter your recipient and package information (weight, dimensions, etc), and you’ll see all the available services laid out in a nice list to choose from. At that point, it’s up to you to choose the service you feel is best.

Finally, on top of saving you more money than you thought possible, buying labels with shipping software also saves you time by giving you the ability to schedule pickups from your carrier of choice. Forget going to your local Post Office or UPS Store…you can have USPS and UPS come directly to your door to pick up your packages! Pretty sweet deal, right?

Don’t Forget to Insure Your Shipment

We’ve said it countless times in this guide, and we’ll say it once more: dishes and cookware are among some of the most fragile items you can ship. So, if the insurance you get from either USPS or UPS isn’t enough to cover the full value of your shipment, you should consider protecting your package with shipping insurance. The good news is, when you use shipping software, you’ll always be able to purchase extra insurance right when you enter your shipment information. Just make sure to look out for it before you buy and print your label!

Purchasing shipping insurance allows you to declare a value for your shipment higher than $100, and you’ll be able to claim the full amount in the case of a lost package, or a shipment that arrives with damaged contents. Trust us when we tell you: shipments that arrive with damaged contents are more common than you might think. So, when it coms to shipping delicate items, it’s almost always worth it to spend the extra few bucks…even just to give yourself that peace of mind.


Looking for the right shipping software for you?

To save the most money on shipping labels, check out our guide:

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2 Comments

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  1. Earl

    I have been in the fine china business for over 50 years and I must offer this bit of information that most shippers get wrong…pack plates vertically, like books on a shelf, NOT flat like pancakes. This was one of the early things that I learned from my first representatives of Wedgwood, Spode, etc., Ask any physics student. Each plate then bears only its own weight, not the weight of the whole stack. And put more packing on the bottom of the box. same reason. Before sealing the box give it a vigorous shake – you may need to add more packing as things can settle a lot. My two tips for packing dinnerware.

    Reply  
    • Rockwell Sands

      Earl – thank you for this great info! I have added this tip to the article!

      Reply  

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