What is the Best Method for Shipping Fragile Items?

Knowing how to ship fragile items is key to ensuring your goods arrive undamaged.

wooden crate for transportation
Shipping fragile items requires proper packaging material, stabilization, and labeling.

For businesses and individuals, shipping goods can be the least enjoyable and most difficult part of buying and selling. There’s plenty of preparation involved, and that’s even more essential when shipping fragile items.

Knowing the best way to ship fragile items is essential because there is a higher risk of damage and breakage before the package arrives at its destination. In addition, with the world as connected as it is, consumers have more choices than ever before. Letting them down through unsuitable packaging will likely result in them choosing a different company for their next purchase.

The reputational impact of delivering an unsatisfactory service could easily cost you more than having to replace the damaged goods. One bad customer experience can easily spiral into poor reviews and lost prospects. With those dangers in mind, you want to minimize the risk of something going wrong along the way while ensuring you still keep your costs reasonable.

This post will guide you on how to ship breakable items, covering everything from the best fragile shipping boxes to packing delicate items correctly. So whether you’re looking to ship something large or small, valuable or delicate, we have the information you need to do it right.

What Items are Considered Fragile?

There is no hard and fast definition here. However, any item that requires greater care and attention during shipping can be classed as fragile. Consider labeling as fragile anything that might break or shatter and items like electronics that cannot withstand shaking well.

While not necessarily as delicate as the above, other items may be treated as fragile if they are of significant value or are hard to replace. Musical instruments, artwork, electronics, glassware, and antiques are all common examples of items requiring extra attention.

Knowing how to ship something fragile is critical if you’re looking to send anything of this nature. This is particularly true for e-commerce businesses, which are subject to far higher return rates than traditional retail.

What Packing Materials Do You Need for Shipping Fragile Items?

If you’re shipping anything fragile, the packaging is essential to get right. You may need several components to pack and ship your breakable items safely. These include:

  • A suitably large and sturdy box or container
  • Wrapping to provide your item with the first layer of protection
  • Padding materials to fill any voids inside the container
  • A vapor barrier or foil bag if you need to keep your item free from moisture
  • Tape, tie-downs, or latches to secure the container, depending on its type
  • Appropriate labeling for shipping delicate items

Whether you need all of these components depends on the nature of the item and the expected shipping journey it has ahead of it. For example, a small, less valuable item moving across states isn’t going to need the same level of protection as a large, expensive item being shipped a significant distance overseas.

How to Choose the Right Box for Shipping Fragile Items

Choosing a suitable container for your fragile items isn’t always straightforward. The correct choice depends on the size and nature of the item, but your container choice could also factor in how far it’s being sent and by what method. The cost could also be a factor—balancing the value and security of the item with the expense of shipping it.

You generally want to pick a container that is slightly larger than the item you’re shipping. Having sufficient extra space to add padding is important, but you don’t want to choose a container that’s so large that you can’t afford to fill it. Having a couple of inches on each side of the item will usually be sufficient.

A small, lightweight container will keep costs down. A more robust container will offer better protection. For shipping large, fragile items, a crate may be the best choice. Crates are sturdy enough to provide sufficient protection for these items, even when being shipped across long distances.

If you’re using a lightweight box, adding cardboard inserts or a lining may offer more protection. While it can be tempting to reuse old boxes, be aware that they may have lost some of their rigidity and structural integrity. A compromise like this could be the difference between your item arriving safely or not.

How to Pack Breakable Items

Once you’ve decided on the container or box you’re using, packing your fragile items for shipping is the next step. There are several different options for wrapping and padding fragile items within their container.

Wrapping fragile items for shipping

First of all, you may want to wrap the item itself. Bubble wrap is usually an excellent option here, as long as you’re careful about not applying too much pressure on any individual part of the item. Small parts, like the limbs of figurines, are particularly vulnerable during transit and should be wrapped separately if possible. Likewise, avoid wrapping too tightly, which will put additional pressure on the items.

Packing around your item

Packing peanuts are a good alternative for items with unconventional shapes. There are many eco-friendly alternatives for packing fragile items, including reusing old packaging or using crumpled newspapers. Whatever packing materials you use, ensure your fragile items are well protected. You want to restrict the movement of the items as much as possible so that they don’t break during transit.

Corrugated inserts can help add further strength to boxes and separate items within the container. Shredded cardboard is also an effective way to offer further protection as well as shock absorption.

Foam is a reliable alternative to protect your products. Several different varieties of foam are good for specific applications. For example, egg-crate foam can offer a very high level of shock absorption and is an easy and versatile way to fill all the space in your container. There are even anti-static materials that can keep electronics safe from static damage.

Using vapor barriers and foil bags to prevent corrosion

Depending on the journey your fragile items have ahead of them, you may also want to use a foil bag or vapor barrier to protect your items from moisture. These are large plastic bags that are wrapped around your items, vacuumed, and then heat-sealed shut.

Using a vapor barrier prevents your items from being exposed to moisture, which can cause the deterioration and rusting of metals or damage to other items. Moisture exposure can be a particular problem if your item is being shipped by sea, contains exposed metal or electronics, or is otherwise susceptible to moisture. Valuable works of art are an often-overlooked example of a fragile item that would benefit from using a vapor barrier.

Consider ocean container loading services for shipping fragile items

For overseas journeys, particularly when shipping large, fragile items, you may want to consider employing a firm for proper ocean container loading. The company will ensure that your items are appropriately strapped, blocked, and braced during the loading or unloading process to or from an ocean facility.

How to Seal a Box for Shipping Fragile Items

Once your item is safely packed within your box, you need to seal it. For most smaller boxes, this will simply be a case of using tape to secure the box. Packing tape or Scotch tape is usually the preferred type to go for, offering great adhesion, strength, and water resistance.

The best way to seal a box when shipping breakable items is to use the H tape method. First, run tape along the open edges, then add another piece along the middle to form the shape of the letter H. This taping method ensures all the weakest points of the box are covered.

The further your fragile items are being shipped, the better your container needs to be sealed. If you’re using a shipping crate for maximum protection, you’ll need tie-downs or latches to secure the crate.

Latches offer a more robust solution to sealing your crate closed and cannot be torn or ripped off like tape can. Tie-downs will be used to ensure your container stays fixed in place during the journey and doesn’t suffer any damage from moving around within the transport vehicle.

Weigh Your Item Once It’s Packed

To get an accurate idea of the shipping costs, it’s important to weigh your container once it has been fully packed and sealed. Any home scale, especially a digital one, should be accurate enough to give you a good idea of the package’s weight.

Add Appropriate Fragile Shipping Labels

Shipping labels tell postal workers that your container needs to be handled carefully. Warning them about fragile items and indicating which way up the container should be can maximize your items’ chances of reaching their recipient unscathed. Though best practice varies between companies and couriers, adding stickers or notices to all sides of your container should help, and you can even get specially marked boxes and crates.

Add Your Return Address

If the items you’re shipping don’t reach their destination or can’t be delivered, adding a return address means they should at least find their way back to you. Write your full address clearly on the package and ensure it is labeled as the return address.

Consider Insurance for Valuables

Even if you fully understand how to ship fragile items correctly, you have little control over what might happen to the container throughout its journey. Accidents can happen to even the best-packed boxes. Insuring valuable items with a sufficient level of cover provides additional peace of mind and compensation if things do go wrong.

Choose the Right Courier

There are plenty of courier companies, so finding the best shipper for fragile items isn’t always straightforward. When evaluating a courier, consider their costs, any rules and regulations you will have to follow, and the tracking information they provide during your items’ journey.

How to Pack the Most Delicate and Valuable Items

If your items are extremely fragile or valuable, the prospect of packing them yourself may be daunting. Getting any one of the above steps wrong could spell disaster for your shipment. For that reason, if you’re sending particularly valuable, important, or fragile items, you may want to consider on-site packing or crating services.

What are on-site packing and crating services?

On-site services take the stress, effort, and guesswork out of packing valuable and breakable items for shipping. They entail employing professionals to come to your address or facility and pack the items there. The best packing services will include appropriate shipping containers as well as padding and protective material for your items.

Larger items, or ones requiring the highest level of protection, can be packed into sturdy, robust crates used by crating services. Crating services can cover anything from a single fragile item to an entire laboratory of scientific equipment.

The advantages of having a packer come to you are that you don’t need to source any of your own packing materials, and there is no risk of you accidentally damaging your items during the packing process before the courier even picks them up.

Offering you the best on-site packing services for shipping fragile items

At SSCP, we can offer a wide range of on-site packing and crating services. This offering is ideal for expensive, fragile pieces of equipment that you’d prefer to keep on your premises. We can pre-fabricate suitable crates and bring them to you or fabricate the right crate for your requirements at your location.

We provide everything needed to safely pack, secure, and transport your fragile items, including the actual packaging and packing of all goods with bubble wrap, foam, and sturdy containers. We can also handle the stressful and sometimes confusing process of shipment.

We count colleges, laboratories, museums, mechanical engineering sites, auctions, real estate foreclosures, barn finds, consumer transactions, and remote facilities among our satisfied clients. We operate throughout the Boston area and most of New England, and we can arrange for worldwide shipment. For a service that goes above and beyond for shipping your fragile items, get in touch today.

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