How to Package So Your Shipment Arrives Safely

March 6, 2009 General

The shipping environment is notorious for rough handling. Carriers are designed for speed and efficiency, not careful handling. Packages must be able to travel through numerous conveyor systems, withstand a 30 foot drop, and still be intact. Cardboard boxes should never be reused, as wear occurs each time the box is shipped, so it loses its integrity and may damage the contents. Corrugated boxes come in different thickness — single wall, double wall, triple wall etc. Use a double wall box if your item is very fragile or heavy; this will protect the contents in transit.

All items should be wrapped and packed separately from one another in bubble wrap, paper, cloth, or foam sheets. Always pack items so there is no movement in the container, floating them in packing peanuts or similar loose fill. Newspaper is not a substitute for styrofoam peanuts – it compresses, allowing items to shift and bear weight against each other. Fragile or delicate items such as artwork, glassware, dishes or electronics should be double-boxed, with 2 inches of packing material between the item and the box walls.

Bear in mind when shipping via air or ocean, the dimensions of your shipment may determine the costs to ship it. It’s best not to mix breakables with nonbreakables, but if you have no choice, always put the heavy items at the bottom, and put sufficient packing between items. Rattles or movement means there is too much space, and your item needs more packing.

Always provide a shipping label on the outside of your package with the person’s name, address, and a contact number to insure proper delivery. It is also a good idea to provide a “ship-from”
label to let the person know who is shipping to them. If you are sending multiple packages to one address, label each box in a series, (1 of 14 etc.) to insure all packages arrive together on time. Listing a phone number is very important; in the unfortunate event one of your packages is misplaced, the receiver can be contacted.

Use a good strong tape to seal boxes. Scotch tape, masking tape and duct tape don’t have enough bonding strength. We recommend packaging tape 2-4 ml thick. If your shipment is fragile, mark it Fragile! and remove any old labels or stickers that do not relate to this shipment. Also, don’t use liquor, wine or beer boxes for shipping, or boxes labeled “ORM-D (meaning contents are hazardous) – it’s illegal to ship these items without special permits, and even if there’s no liquor or hazardous material in the box, it’ll be returned. Never mark what the internal contents are on the outside of your package. This also applies to using – or reusing – boxes identifying the contents, such as computer boxes or boxes with the manufacturer’s name or logo on it. It’s an open invitation to thieves that something valuable is inside.