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Tips for Packing Paper, Bubble Wrap, Packing Peanuts, Etc.

Between furniture packing, antique book storage, fine jewelry and precious metals, there’s plenty of nuance when it comes to the best packing materials. At the same time, most small-item packing for moving and storage projects fall into one of two different categories. The simplest way to describe them might be “kind of fragile” and “really, really fragile.”

How to Handle the Really Fragile Items

Handmade Christmas ornaments and other arts and crafts pieces may be more sensitive to crushing, as well as cracks and scratches. For these items, the best advice is something similar to what you might hear for choosing your spring and fall wardrobe: Use multiple layers. For the most fragile items—or for the peace of mind that comes with over-preparing—we recommend at least three layers:

  1. Tissue or packing paper is a great first layer for filling in negative space and protecting against surface scratches.
  2. Bubble wrap or packing peanuts for more substantial protection against bumps, small drops, and edge crushing.
  3. Individual boxes, or mini storage containers to provide against general crushing and most puncture hazards.

Safe, Efficient Packing for Kind of Fragile Items

What about ceramic kitchenware, heavy pint glasses, smaller wall hangings, knick-knacks, and other items that clearly need to be wrapped, but which may not need the 3+ layer strategy for packing materials? Especially if you have boxes with cardboard partitions and/or cardboard cutouts for plates and bowls, then a single layer of strong but flexible packing paper may be enough for these kind of fragile items.

Labels are a critical part of distinguishing between kind of fragile and really fragile items—as well as how to handle them. Different types of items and moving boxes face different types of threats. Let’s say you have a box that’s on the borderline of being too big, too old, or too damp to safely hold, say, a dozen heavy ceramic plates or maybe two dozen academic textbooks. You’ve decided to roll with it. At the very least, give you and anyone who may end up unpacking the box on the other end of the move a clear reminder. Something along the lines of: HEAVY-FRAGILE-HEAVY (Pick up from bottom). Good labels for really fragile items might instead read: FRAGILE-LIGHT (Do not stack).

Free and Low-Cost Packing Material

Between newspapers, workplace connections, local stores, and home delivery services, there are many strategies for sourcing free packing material. If you’re on a short deadline and there’s no ready-made answer for your moving project, you may need to buy a certain amount of:

  • Tissue and Packing paper: Expect to spend at least $5-$10 on a package of packing paper. Duck Brand and Scotch/3M are popular choices. You can also spend more on larger bundles and/or nifty dispenser boxes for bigger packing projects. 
  • Packing Peanuts and Bubble wrap: Here, too, you can spend $5-$10 on basic and small bundle bubble wrap, or you can pay more for wider rolls for large-item wrapping, longer rolls for bigger packing projects, or “green” bubble wrap created from partially recycled materials. Again, Duck Brand and Scotch offer great, widely available products. In addition to Amazon, you can buy them through online stores like Uboxes or Uline. You can also find these products at your local hardware/office supply store.

Moving vs. Storage for Fragile Items

There’s also more than packing supplies to think about when it comes to long-term storage. Take glassware, for example. If you’re moving to a different city, your glassware may be able to withstand an overheated car interior, though you don’t want to take kitchen glasses immediately from a hot car and fill them with ice water. Thermal shock can seriously weaken or even crack glass on the spot. Keep in mind, too, that not all damage is immediately visible. In a frozen or overheated self-storage unit, glass can weaken as imperfections within the glass substrate grow. Then, it’s the next time you set the glass down a little too hard on the counter or dry rack that the glass ends up cracking on you.