Behind the Box

How to Safely Ship Fragile Items

18 Oct 2017

In a perfect world, everything we send in the mail will arrive in absolute pristine condition, just as it did when we shipped it off—a crisp, clean box without any smudges or dents, ensuring that the contents are in just as perfect shape. The reality is that no matter which shipping carrier you use to deliver your products, nothing can prevent those inevitable bumps or accidental drops as something gets transported from Point A to Point B.

So if you’re shipping something breakable, how can you protect your product so that it still arrives to the customer without getting cracked or crushed? Here are the steps to take so you can safely ship a fragile item.

1. Pick the right size box

For something delicate, you might be tempted to ship it using an extra large box that leaves a lot of additional space around the item. This can actually backfire in a couple of ways, because not only will the bubble wrap or peanuts move around in transit, but you’ll also incur more shipping and handling costs this way. Purchasing boxes that snugly fit the product won’t provide enough padding, though. So what’s the magic number?

Ideally, your box will allow two inches of extra space on all sides with the item inside—no more, no less. That’s enough to keep the shipment safe yet cost-effective. For particularly fragile items like porcelain, you can also consider sending it in a box within a box for extra safety and security.
The best way to guarantee you have exactly the correct size for shipping a fragile package is to order shipping boxes. While there are plenty of options for stock sizing, you can completely customize your boxes through Packlane. This can make the difference between a customer receiving their item in one piece and a customer needing to fill out a return or exchange form after delivery.

2. Go with a box made of high quality materials

As a business owner, consider the packing supplies you use an investment that keeps your items safe so they reach the customer without a scratch, scrape, or dent. Cheap materials don’t just look and feel cheap—they also won’t protect your products that well in transit. Sure, thinner, flimsy boxes don’t cost as much upfront, but they will result in more customer returns and product replacements due to damaged goods. You risk spending more money in the long-run and losing valuable customer loyalty.

When packing fragile items for shipping, plan to get something a little more heavy-duty. For Packlanecustomers that want to send breakable items, from wine glasses to perfumes to electronics, we offer mailers and shipping boxes made of B-flute. At ⅛ inch thick, it provides the extra security needed to protect breakable items.

3. Protect the item with bubble wrap

Before placing your breakable item in a package full of peanuts to be sent away, take care to add some layers of bubble wrap to it first. This is an art, in and of itself.

  • If the item you’re shipping has an opening or hole, fill the empty space with some crumpled up paper or bubble wrap.
  • Cover your fragile item in a layer of paper. Use a little Scotch Tape to keep it in place if needed.
  • Add a layer or two of bubble wrap, making sure you cover all parts. If you’d like to use an alternative to bubble wrap, consider a bubble wrap made of recycled grade materials or biodegradable greenwrap.
  • Secure this with packing tape.
  • Repeat steps 3-4 one more time, if necessary.

A little packing tape goes a long way, so resist the urge to cover the entire thing in endless layers of it. Too much can make the unboxing experience a frustrating one, and if consumers struggle too much, they might accidentally break the fragile item themselves!

4. Pad the interior of the box

It’s time to make use of those extra two inches on all interior sides of your box. Start with the bottom, padding it with some type of filler like crumpled paper, bubble wrap, peanuts, or air pillows. Which one you choose ultimately comes down to a personal preference—as long as you’ve protected the item with bubble wrap as detailed above in step 3, you’ll be in great shape once the surrounding area is padded. The primary goal here is to prevent the product you’ve wrapped up from moving around too much inside the box itself.

As you place your item in the box, add more materials on all four sides, and then top it off with a layer as well. Then test out to see how the box looks and feels once you’ve tucked in all the flaps.

The package should close shut without bulging, but you should also be able to move it in different directions without having anything shift inside. Packlane boxes are designed to assemble easily and close perfectly shut, making this step smooth and reducing packing time.

5. Label the box as fragile

Accidents happen, so writing “FRAGILE” on your box won’t necessarily prevent your shipment from getting dropped or damaged on its journey. Still, it’s always wise to include it—you will have way more recourse with your chosen shipping company when an item arrives broken or crushed.
To help clients take the stress out of having to remember this final (but incredibly important) step of shipping a fragile item, we suggest having “Handle With Care” or “Fragile” printed directly on the boxes. When customizing your boxes on, this allows you to include important shipping information while keeping your brand consistent with the exact look you want.

Ready to ship your fragile items? Pop on over to Packlane’s interactive design lab to get the perfect size and material box that you can customize from head to toe. If you have any questions, then reach out and we can help you find the best packaging solutions for your business.