How to pack fragile items for moving
Taking extra care with your most precious belongings
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Whether you’re going the DIY route or hiring movers, moving is a multistep process that comes with various types of stresses — starting with packing. To make this step and the actual transport run as smoothly as possible, it’s important to take extra care to protect your breakable valuables.
From using appropriate-size boxes and packing materials to practicing the proper taping methods, knowing how to pack and move fragile items is a skill that’s likely to come in handy several times throughout your life.
- Boxes aren’t one-size-fits-all, so be thoughtful about what you use.
- Instead of buying packing materials, try using towels and rags you’re already moving.
- Completely pack — but don’t overstuff — your boxes to prevent items from shifting.
- Move fragile items separately from other boxes so they get the care they deserve.
Materials for packing fragile items
Having the right packing materials on hand is crucial to ensuring the safety of your fragile belongings. This simplifies the process and helps protect your items during transit.
- Assortment of boxes: While it may seem like bigger is better, that’s not always the case with fragile items. Get an assortment of shapes, sizes and weights of moving boxes so you have options when packing.
- Markers or room stickers: Purchase either room labels or get a large permanent marker so you can label what’s in a box and where it goes in the house. Consider two colors: one for fragile and one for regular items.
- Tape: Expect to use one roll for every 20 or so boxes (this moving supply calculator can help you calculate the supplies you need).
- Tools: Keep tools like Allen wrenches, screwdrivers and box cutters close by so you can take apart any furniture for safer travels. Use small plastic baggies to store any loose pieces or hardware.
- Towels, rags or extra bedding: If you want to use what you already have for packing materials, gather your extra linens beforehand. These can be used in place of packing paper, bubble wrap and furniture covers, depending on the shape, size and material.
» MORE: Where to find moving boxes
Additional packing materials
If you have the budget for them, specialized packing materials can make the job much more stress-free.
- Dish and glass packing kits: These kits help make packing your kitchen much easier. That said, if you don’t want to spend the money on them (about $12 per pack), you can find other materials (newspapers, etc.) that will work just as well.
- Bubble wrap: Bubble wrap helps protect easily breakable or easily scratched items like electronics. It’s better for bigger items that require more heavy-duty protection.
- Packing paper: Packing paper should be used for smaller, more delicate items that require more attention to detail, like fine china. It’s also more environmentally friendly than bubble wrap, so you can use it without feeling guilty.
- Furniture covers: For added protection against damage, furniture covers are a good choice. If you have antiques or plan on storing your furniture for a bit, these covers can prevent dust, damage and fading.
- Packing peanuts: Packing peanuts were traditionally used for loose items that would otherwise slide around inside a box. But they’re bad for the environment, and there are other materials on this list that can do the job instead.
» DO IT RIGHT: How to pack dishes for moving
7 steps to packing fragile items
Mariusz Baran, the owner of We Clear Everything, a house clearance company based in London, has ample experience packing and moving all types of items. He told us picking the right materials is a bit of a science — and it involves some trial and error.
He also recommends taking extra steps to protect your valuable items — like inventory management and insurance — outside of packing.
“Keeping a detailed inventory with photographs ensures that everything is accounted for and in its original condition,” Baran said. “Valuation coverage or specific insurance for high-value or irreplaceable items is always recommended.”
So make sure to pack your things carefully, but also consider insuring them if they’re high in value.
1. Gather supplies
Before you start the packing process, gather all your supplies. Waiting until the last minute can be the difference between safe, secure packing and a haphazard mess.
Take the time to assess your belongings and your needs to see what supplies might come in handy. Once you have a good idea, scour marketplaces like Facebook or Craigslist for free moving supplies. You can purchase what you can’t find free at moving supply or home improvement stores.
» MORE TIPS: How to pack for a move
2. Sort and declutter
To make unpacking and organizing easier, sort and declutter your belongings before you pack. Take the time to categorize your things by room before putting them into boxes. By sorting your items by room, you can better see exactly what you have (and what you don’t) and stay decluttered. Get rid of anything you don’t want or need at your new home, including duplicates and mismatched or damaged items.
You can either sell, donate or throw away what you don’t want. Here are a few tips for how to designate which option is right:
- Sell anything with a decent value and worth your time and effort to list and manage. In some cases, this can be more effort than it’s worth.
- Donate anything that still has life left in it. You can drop it off at a local donation center or offer it to those in need, like refugees or unhoused neighbors.
- Throw away anything that’s broken, ripped, falling apart or of no value. If you have to ask yourself if someone would want the item, the answer might be no.
3. Choose the right boxes
According to Baran, choosing the right packing box is crucial. He recommends opting for double-walled corrugated boxes with an ECT (Edge Crush Test) rating of at least 44 to ensure the right amount of strength. In some cases, you may want to consider custom crating to fit an item perfectly or purchasing dish packs or wardrobe boxes designed for specific items.
But it’s not just the material you need to consider, Baran said. The size also matters.
“I always recommend the 2-inch rule, leaving at least 2 inches of space on all sides of the item for cushioning materials,” Baran said. “This prevents overpacking and underpacking, which can lead to damage during transport.”
And make sure to tape all the edges of the box flaps on the bottom before you start packing. For boxes carrying heavier items, tape the inside as well.
4. Wrap items individually
“When it comes to packing and moving fragile items, the process is far more nuanced than simply wrapping them in bubble wrap,” Baran explained. He emphasized that each item needs to be treated with respect to its unique needs. Electronics shouldn’t be wrapped the same way as artwork, for example.
“For electronics or items that may be affected by static electricity, we use anti-static bubble wrap,” Baran said. “Corner protectors are also essential tools in our packing process, especially for framed artwork or mirrors, as they protect the most vulnerable parts of these items.”
Types of packing materials and how they’re used
|Material||What’s it for||How to use|
|Bubble wrap||Large, oddly-shaped items, like lamps and electronics||Wrap around the item and use tape to keep it in place|
|Packing paper||Small, delicate items, like china and figurines||Crinkle and wrap around the item|
|Corner protectors||Sharp corners on fragile items, like art||Simply press on to all corners of the item|
|Plastic wrap or honeycomb wrap||Items that may leak or shift around, like bottles||Wrap around the item at least twice so it clings to itself|
5. Layer and arrange in boxes
While you may think it’s better to have less inside a moving box, that’s often not the case. The best thing you can do is fill a box completely without overdoing it, Baran said. This will help prevent movement and shifting during transportation.
Stack and layer items within a box to fill the entire space, starting with the heaviest items on the bottom. Place packing paper or extra fabric like towels and dish rags at the bottom of the box and between fragile items to keep them from bumping into one another.
If there are open areas on the sides of items, stuff packing paper or fabric there to keep them from moving.
6. Seal and label boxes
Hold the cardboard flaps as close together as possible to close your box. Start your piece of packing tape about halfway over the side of the box, taping over the flaps. Extend the piece again about halfway over the side of the box to seal.
Do this two or three times depending on the size of the box and how much is needed. If the box requires extra support, follow the “H” method: Tape the shorter, vertical sides of the box as well as the long horizontal flaps.
Once taped shut, label the box with a marker or your moving stickers so you know where it goes once inside the house. Write “FRAGILE” in large letters on the top and sides of the box so it’s visible from all angles.
To make unpacking easier, consider also writing what’s in the box.
» ONCE YOU MOVE: How to unpack after moving
7. Pack boxes carefully into the truck
“Loading and transportation are equally important in ensuring the safety of fragile items,” Baran said. “Strategic positioning within the moving vehicle is key, with heavier items placed at the bottom and lighter, more fragile items on top.”
» MORE: How to pack a moving truck
Use load bars or straps within your moving truck to secure items and prevent shifting during transport. Consider a climate-controlled moving truck or storage unit for added safety if you have sensitive items like antiques or fine art.
Can I use regular newspaper to pack fragile items?
You can absolutely use regular newspaper for your fragile items, but double up. Newspaper isn’t as padded as traditional packing paper, so you’ll want a bit extra to get the same level of protection. This is a great way to save money on packing supplies if you already have newspapers lying around.
How do I pack delicate items with irregular shapes, like vases or sculptures?
The best way to protect oddly shaped items is to find a type of packaging that fits it best, like an oversize or irregular-shaped box. If you can’t find a box that fits it, use rolled corrugated boxes instead.
For extra protection, add double the amount of bubble wrap or packing paper you think you need to fill in any extra gaps in your box. And don’t forget to write “fragile” on the box.
Should I disassemble fragile furniture pieces before packing?
The safest way to transport fragile furniture is to take it apart before packing. Wrap each piece in packing paper or bubble wrap, labeling what it is and how it should be reassembled.
While this may seem like a lot of added work, the extra layer of protection will help prevent any damage during transportation.
Is it better to pack fragile items separately or with other belongings?
When mixed in with other boxes, it’s easy to get caught up in the moving process and forget to check what’s in the box and whether you need to be extra careful with it.
You should keep fragile items separate from all other types of belongings so you can treat the boxes with the care they deserve.
How can I ensure fragile items are handled properly during the moving process?
The only thing you can do during the actual moving process is label the box as fragile and hope others adhere to your request. Moving fragile items separately from regular items is also a great way to make sure those moving your things know that what’s inside is fragile and should be treated with care.
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