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12 Tips for Packing and Shipping Fragile Items

Woman at her desk, packing a fragile item into a box

Most people are familiar with the shipping phrase, “Handle with care.” When packing and shipping fragile items, caution is the watchword. Packing fragile items involves more than simply crossing your fingers and hoping for the best. It takes a little extra time and attention.

From vintage glassware to porcelain plates, here are 12 top tips for getting your fragile items to their destination in one piece - literally.

1. Wrap Each Item with Air Bubble Cushioning

Remember: air bubble cushioning is your friend. Stock up on the good stuff before beginning your project. Be sure to handle your item carefully. Use a primary layer of air bubble cushioning to protect the object’s surface. Then cocoon the item in two additional layers of larger air bubble cushioning. Lightly tape the cushioning to ensure the piece can’t slide around inside.

2. Wrap Each Item Individually

If you’re shipping several items, resist the urge to bundle them together when wrapping. That expensive dinner set will not fare well if you don’t take the time to protect each piece individually.

3. Use a New Box

Make sure your shipping box is new. Used boxes break down over time and don’t offer the same protection as new ones. Pick a sturdy box that’s the right size for your contents and appropriate for shipping. The UPS Store Certified Packing Experts® at your local The UPS Store® location[1] can help with supplies, including picking out the right size box for your items.

4. Avoid Poly Mailers and Moving Boxes

Poly mailers—made from polyethylene plastic—are handy, but they’re not recommended for breakables. Avoid moving boxes, too. Those boxes are designed for moving, not shipping fragile objects.

5. Pack with Care

Lay large air bubble cushioning at the bottom of your box. Then carefully place your wrapped objects inside, using layers of air bubble cushioning to keep them apart. As a rule, don’t pack small items in the same box as larger, heavier ones. Depending on what you’re shipping, corrugated fiberboard dividers may be a good option. That delightful glassware deserves the right amount of protection.

6. Go Heavy on Void Fill

Use the appropriate packaging materials, such as large air bubble cushioning, to fill any remaining space around your breakables. For items weighing less than 10 pounds, kraft paper can also be used. Avoid packaging peanuts if possible. You don’t want to give your items any opportunity to move around in transit. Otherwise, it might be you who’s going nuts.

7. Protect Your Edges 

As you begin filling voids in the box, try for at least two inches of cushioning material between your item(s) and the box wall. You shouldn’t feel any edges on the outside of the box.

8. Consider Double Boxing

Double boxing is exactly what it sounds like—placing your primary container in an outer box slightly larger than the first one. (A good guideline is for the box to be two inches larger in each direction.) Then, fill the space between the boxes with cushioning. If you’re unsure whether double boxing is right for your shipment, check with the packing experts at your local The UPS Store location. 

9. Check Before Sealing

Close the box lid and move the package gently. The box should feel tight without bursting and there should be no sliding around inside. Better to be safe than sorry before you seal the box.

10. Tape Well

When shipping fragile items, use good quality packaging tape. Avoid duct tape, electrical tape and anything other than packaging tape. Apply the tape across all the seams of the box. Make sure the bottom of the box is securely fastened. 

11. Consider Your Service

It’s the old dilemma: air or ground? For highly fragile items, using a UPS® air shipping service means your package gets delivered faster and is subject to less movement and handling in transit. If this is less of a factor, UPS Ground offers day-definite delivery across the United States.

12. Attach Labels Securely 

Securely stick the shipping label to the main side of the box. Attach “Fragile” stickers and “This Side Up” directional markings if you wish, but don’t rely on these. Stay focused on properly securing the contents within the box to withstand bumps and shakes. 

Get Packing Help

Check out the UPS Packaging Advisor for practical guidance on how to best prepare a wide range of items, including fragile items, for shipping.

Looking for in-person assistance? Chat with the packing experts at your neighborhood The UPS Store location. They can help you choose the right box and packaging materials for your shipment.

The UPS Store locations stock more than 20 standard box sizes as well as packaging materials to ship just about anything, from artwork and electronics to jewelry, and of course, fragile items.

Protection Guaranteed

If you decide to have one of The UPS Store Certified Packing Experts® pack your fragile items, be sure to ask about the Pack & Ship Guarantee, available at participating The UPS Store locations.

The Pack & Ship Guarantee includes coverage for UPS and USPS®[2]. If a participating The UPS Store location packs your item using only new materials purchased at that participating location and ships the package via UPS or USPS (on that participating location’s applicable UPS or USPS account) and that item is damaged or lost in transit, you’ll be reimbursed[3]

  • The item's value (subject to the lesser of actual value, replacement or repair cost)
  • The full retail price you paid for packaging materials and services
  • Your cost for shipping (excluding Declared Value charges or costs for Insurance as applicable)  

Peace of Mind

As a shipper of fragile items, you don’t want to send broken goods. You’ll feel better when you’ve done everything you can to keep breakable items safe. It’s time to get your packages on their way.

Create a Shipment

 

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[1] The UPS Store® locations are independently owned and operated by franchisees of The UPS Store, Inc. in the USA and by its master licensee and its franchisees in Canada. Products, services, pricing and hours of operation may vary by location.

 

[2] If your package is insured through the UPS Capital® Flexible Parcel Multi-Carrier Program (the “FMC Program”) and it is damaged or lost in transit, you’ll be reimbursed in accordance with The UPS Store® center’s insurance policy issued pursuant to the FMC Program. The FMC Program is underwritten by an authorized insurance company and issued through licensed insurance producers affiliated with UPS Capital Insurance Agency, Inc., and other affiliated insurance agencies. UPS Capital Insurance Agency, Inc. and its licensed affiliates are wholly owned subsidiaries of UPS Capital Corporation. Insurance coverage is not available in all jurisdictions. Restrictions and limitations apply, subject to the applicable The UPS Store center FMC Program insurance policy.

 

theupsstore.com/guarantee-arbitration

 

[3] Available at participating locations. See center for details. Restrictions and limitations apply. Items shipped by UPS are subject to UPS Tariff/Terms and Conditions.

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