Whether you’re shipping to a customer or sending a gift to a friend, secure packaging is crucial in maintaining parcel integrity. Imagine the world of disappointment awaiting the recipient when he discovers these inside his package:

 

A broken cup received through the mail

Additionally, this kind of incident may trigger a purchase return, get your customer ruining your reputation on social media or both.

As your packaging experts, enKo Products cares about your customers’ unboxing experience. In this blog, we shall explore some packaging tips or effective methods that small business owners can use to ship various items securely.

 

What are the Factors to Consider When Packaging for Shipment?

 

If you’re dispatching multiple items daily, you must package them in a way that lets you optimize your resources. Below are some of the elements you need to consider when packing items.

 

The Contents

 

Are you sending perishables? If your parcel is stable, how pricey is it? Is it fragile? Does it have sharp edges? Is it deformable or rigid? Does it need special handling? These factors are just some of the most important ones determining your packing material’s type and size.

For example, some items made of fabric, like sport shirts and nylon underwear, can be sent in plastic shipping pouches. On the other hand, brand new shoes need to be boxed so as not to lose their shape before they reach the buyer.

 

Cost vs. Security

 

Every sender is concerned about keeping the shipment costs low. However, they will fail to make a profit if, by going cheap with their packaging, transport leads to product damage. As UPS would put it, part of the unboxing experience is receiving a parcel intact. Even if nearly every shopper wants free shipping, many of them frown upon seeing cheap packing materials, more so damaged merchandise, when unwrapping a purchase.

It pays to be cost-effective, but don’t sacrifice product integrity for it.

 

Packages on a conveyor belt

Fillers

 

Boxed items need fillers, and different types have their unique purposes. In our experience, using them in combination is better than sticking to only one when securing a package.

The kinds that are most recommended are the following:

  • Newsprint paper

For first-time shippers, newsprint paper may seem too weak to secure a package, but that is hardly the case. Newsprint paper is an inexpensive and versatile packing material that can cushion various fragile items and act as filler. It is normally used for kitchen and dining ware, preventing breakage and metal compression during transport.

When used in packaging consumables, colored newsprint paper can serve a decorative purpose, enhancing the unboxing experience.

As a filler, newsprint can be simply crumpled or formed into thick rolls. Rolls are less prone to compression than crumpled paper, so they are typically used to fill entire layers. Meanwhile, crumpled paper is used for padding individual items and the spaces in between.

If you’re using old newspaper or magazine pages instead of plain newsprint paper, you run the risk of getting unsightly ink on your products. They can protect the contents but possibly harm your brand. 

 

Newsprint paper for packing
  • Foam

Packing foam is essentially air entrapped in a solid material. It comes in different shapes, sizes and compressibility levels. Although it can be more expensive than paper, it is lighter in weight, has better cushioning properties and can be used for insulation. Styrofoam, foam sheets, packing peanuts and pool noodles are some of the most common kinds of foam used in packaging.

Styrofoam is polystyrene foam trademarked for its synthetic process. Compared to other types, it is more versatile, is less compressible and offers superior insulation. It is used in various industries, and in shipping, it can be an insulator, cushion, suspender or the primary packaging itself. Regardless of its many applications, Styrofoam is not considered environment-friendly, so more sustainable alternatives have been developed in recent decades.

Foam sheets are more flexible than Styrofoam and assume various forms. For example, enKo Products offers them as precut sheets, pouches and continuous rolls. They can be used as fillers, insulators, or cushions, and they are easy to mold around parceled items. Unlike Styrofoam, foam sheets can be made of biodegradable materials.

Packing peanuts are small bits of foam so shaped that they interlock when pressed together, preventing further compression. They are used as loose package fillers and cushions. They can be made of Styrofoam or biodegradable materials like starch. 

Pool noodles are cylindrical foam materials that can be used as fillers, insulators and cushions. They can be trimmed to smaller sizes or rolled around parceled items. Pool noodles are usually made of polyethylene, but other substances have also been used for their production.

 

Foam and bubble wrap for packaging

 

  • Bubble wrap

Bubble wrap is plastic with uniformly sized circular air pockets all over its surface. It is more useful for cushioning than for insulation or large-space filling. Bubble wrap can be cut into various shapes and sizes to package items snugly. It is usually made of polyethylene, so it is non-toxic and recyclable.

Compared to newsprint, bubble wrap is more expensive but easier to use. They have different properties, and so they are used for padding different product types.

  • Airbags

Airbags are sealed air pouches that serve as cushions or large-volume fillers. They are less often used as they are less flexible than the other filler types mentioned above.

Additionally, deflating an airbag leads to more waste. They are typically made of polyethylene, just like bubble wrap.

 

Plastic airbag

 

Package fillers keep parceled items from moving inside their containers and absorb shock during transport. They keep shipped products intact, and so they must be chosen with care and used generously. However, overfilling packages is not recommended, as it may also lead to box or product damage.

 

DIM Weight

 

We previously talked about DIM weight in our blog How Shipping Smarter Can Help Small Businesses. It is otherwise known as “dimensional weight” or “volumetric weight” and is the basis for determining the cost of shipping light but bulky parcels.

DIM weight is calculated using shipping factors that vary with each carrier, destination, service type, etc. Generally, however, it is determined like so:

  • Get the package’s volume by multiplying its length by its width and height.
  • Divide it by the shipping factor. For international parcels measured in inches, DHL, FedEx and UPS use 139, whereas USPS uses 166. The result is the DIM weight expressed in pounds.

Shipping costs will be charged based on the DIM weight if it exceeds the actual weight. Therefore, you’ll be able to save more if you pack efficiently. 

 

Boxes

 

Shipping boxes are used when preserving the product’s shape is crucial to its presentation. As part of the unboxing experience, the product is ideally placed in the center of the closed container, with the remaining space occupied by fillers.

Another tip, it is important to consider the following when choosing a shipping box:

  • Dimensions

Your box size will depend on your product’s size and whether or not you need to double-box it.

When using a single box, FedEx recommends that the box exceeds the content’s dimensions by 3 inches on all sides.

When using the box-in-box packing method, the inner box must be bigger by 2 inches on all sides compared to the product. The outer box must be bigger by 3 inches on all sides than the inner box.

 

A double-boxed fragile item

 

  • Free vs. paid

It is okay to use free shipping materials if your budget is tight. However, as we explained in our blog Free Shipping Supplies—Are They Too Good to Be True?, one of the disadvantages of using free shipping supplies is that they are not optimized for shipping fragile items.

Buying your own shipping boxes lets you choose the ones with the right thickness. Since they lack the carrier’s logo, they also allow you to promote your own brand and improve your chances of securing repeat business.

  • Old vs. new

It is okay to use an old box if you have a slim budget and you’re shipping non-fragile items. Shipping boxes, being the secondary or tertiary packaging, do not have to be as neat-looking as the primary packaging.

However, old boxes are less sturdy than new ones. Keep in mind that you risk losing profit and tarnishing your reputation whenever you use them.

 

Unused brown boxes

 

Padded Envelopes and Plastic Mailers

 

Padded envelopes are thickened by extra paper, foam or bubble wrap. They are used for mailing documents that may need special protection during transport, like books, collectible stickers, photos, coupons, etc. Some types of inexpensive jewelry may also be sent using padded envelopes. Postage costs are computed based on weight and envelope size.

Plastic mailers and pouches are cost-effective packing materials for media, small product samples and foldable items. The plastic keeps the contents protected from getting wet. It can also be colored for customization. These packing materials can be bubble-wrapped inside for added protection. You can use them to ship CDs, cosmetic samples, clothes, etc. As in padded envelopes, postage is charged based on weight and container size.

These materials are all recyclable. Unlike boxes, however, it is best not to reuse them for shipping as they will not look as clean and professional-looking as fresh ones.

 

An attractive bubble mailer

 

Labels

 

In the blog How Startups Can Create Professional-Looking Shipping Labels, we explained that a shipping sticker should be placed in a conspicuous area of the package. It should not be bent around corners or edges so it can remain scannable at all times.

When securing a shipping package, aside from sticking a shipping label outside, an unpeeled tag must also be placed inside. This allows your carrier to identify its destination in case the packing material gets damaged during transport. A duplicate label is easy to make when you’re printing postage online.

As for other types of tags, such as fragile stickers, special handling stickers, glass warning stickers, etc., you can use them whenever warranted. Put one on all prominent sides to make it easy for the carrier’s employees to see them. These tags are vital when making damage claims. However, check with your carrier first if they charge extra for their use, or for special handling in general.

 

A fragile sticker

 

Sealing Materials

 

The three kinds of tape that are most widely recommended for packaging items are pressure-sensitive plastic tape, water-activated reinforced tape and 60-lb-grade water-activated paper tape. They must be 2 inches wide. Apply the tape across the seams and flaps at the top and bottom of the box, forming the letter H on both sides.

 

A box being sealed with pressure-activated plastic tape

 

Once you’ve sealed the box, you can then attach your postage label, and it’s ready for shipment. Do not wrap the box with paper, as this can be easily torn away during transport, taking your labels with it.

If you’re sending pallets, labels will be needed for the entire pallet and the individual boxes. The sticky tags they use are more detailed than the standard shipping label and may include product specs, batch number, batch size, etc. Pallets are stretch-wrapped and shipped as freight.

So these are the various considerations when choosing the right packing materials. Let’s now examine how they can be used for securing shipments.

 

What Secure Packing Methods Can You Recommend?

 

Cost-effectiveness is crucial when considering the various packaging methods. Again, think of your product’s dimensions, its destination and if it needs special handling. There are generally three approaches to packaging:

 

No Boxes are Needed

 

Small, lightweight, flat, non-fragile or relatively inexpensive items can be shipped in padded envelopes and poly mailers. We’ve mentioned some examples of products that can be shipped this way in the previous section. Consider these packing materials for cost-effectiveness.

 

Single-Boxing Will Suffice

 

A single box can be used for shipping bulky, non-fragile items and lightweight, fragile ones. Examples are collectible action figures, cosmetics and mugs. We have outlined below the proper way of securely packing items using just one box.

  • Measure the item to be shipped and make sure that the box you use is 3 inches thicker on all sides. Tape the bottom from outside in an H-pattern.
  • Put a 3-inch layer of filler inside the bottom of the box. Packing peanuts and rolled or crumpled newsprint paper is acceptable.
  • Wrap your product in 2-3 layers of bubble wrap or big sheets of newsprint paper. Avoid wrapping too tightly, so you have some shock-absorbing air pockets between the product and the cushion. After wrapping, center it on top of the bottom filler, then add more until the box is filled to the brim.
  • You can put several products in one box. Just make sure that each one is cushioned with enough bubble wrap or newsprint paper and that there is ample room on the sides of the box. Put the items side by side on top of the bottom cushion. Fill the gaps with more padding material, then add more until the box is brimming.
  • Tape the box top in an H pattern and label.

You’ll know that your package is stable if your product’s edges cannot be felt outside the box and if you can barely appreciate motion when shaking the package.

 

A single box that is taped in an H pattern

 

Double-Boxing is Required

 

The box-in-box technique is used for shipping heavy, fragile items, such as big vases. It is just an extension of the single-box method.

  • The inner box is packed using the single-box method, as explained above. The side spaces inside it should be 2 inches thick. You can put your logo and some embellishments on the inner box to enhance the customers’ unboxing experience.
  • For the outer box, the side spaces are 3 inches thick. Tape its bottom in an H-pattern, flip it and make a 3-inch filler bed. Normally, packing peanuts are used for outer filler. Newsprint paper can be used, but they compress more easily under very heavy items. 
  • Center the inner box on top of the filler bed. Fill the box to the brim, tape and label.

Again, you can check if your package is secure by feeling the outer box surface and shaking it. If the products’ edges cannot be felt and if you cannot sense movement while shaking, your package is stable and ready to go.

These are the basics of secure packaging. In the next portion, we will see how they are used for shipping different items.

 

How Do You Package Various Items for Shipping?

 

Here are our tips for packaging different products before transport.

 

Stable Items

 

  • Non-fragile items, some deformity is allowed

These include foldable fabric products like shirts, handkerchiefs, pouches, etc. Printed media like books and magazines belong here too. Poly mailers may be used for foldable fabric, whereas padded envelopes will suffice for printed media.

Consider boxing when sending several of these items in one package. Each one should be padded or wrapped to prevent sticking, snagging or smearing.

  • Non-fragile items, deformity is not allowed
    • Shoes and bags

These items have to arrive at their destination looking like they do on online or brochure pictures.

If the products still have their original boxes, keep them as they are good for branding and protection. Stuff the products with newsprint paper. Wrap the buckles, heels and other sharp edges with bubble wrap, plastic or newsprint paper. Put a layer of filler at the bottom of the original box before placing the items inside. Fill the gaps with newsprint paper, close the lid and seal with peelable tape. Put it in a second box, with newsprint paper as outer filler.

If you’re not using boxes to ship the products, e. g. for light, flat shoes, you can use a bubble mailer for packaging. Again, stuff the products with newsprint paper and wrap sharp edges before placing them inside the mailer.

 

A pair of shoes and their original box
    • Small and lightweight collectible items

Flat, non-fragile collectible items can be sent in padded envelopes or bubble mailers. Examples are pens, stamps and comic books. Bigger items like plastic toys can be shipped single-boxed or double-boxed, depending on whether they still have their original boxes.

 

    • Toys

Keep their original boxes as much as possible, for branding and protection. If you still have their original boxes, leave them untouched and send them in a second box.

If you don’t have the original boxes, single-boxing each toy will suffice. If a toy has multiple parts, use a bubble-wrap or foam pouch to wrap similar items together. Place all wrapped parts inside the appropriate box, ensuring that all sides and gaps are sufficiently cushioned. Seal and label.

 

    • Kitchenware and dining ware

If these items are still in their original boxes, leave them as is and just make sure that the parts are adequately padded or spaced from each other. Send in a second box.

If you don’t have the original boxes, you can use a single box or double box, depending on how heavy, sharp or fragile each item is.

For metallic wares, roll 1-2 big sheets of newsprint paper around the handles and sharp edges. Pans and pots can be stacked on top of one another so long as they have a few layers of newsprint paper in between. Stuff them with filler inside, as they can be deformed during transport. As many as 5 pots or pans can be stacked before wrapping them together in 1-2 more layers of newsprint paper.

Once wrapped, place these items on their side, in the middle of the filler bed, instead of lying flat on it. Add more filler before closing the box. Single boxing is enough if the items weigh no more than a few pounds.

 

Designer cutlery and tea set
  • Fragile items

 

    • Pottery and glass

For plates, bowls, and saucers, you can stack 5 items at a time, with each one wrapped in 1-2 sheets of bubble wrap or newsprint paper. Every stack of 5 must be wrapped again in 1-2 sheets of paper before placing it at the center and top of the filler bed. Stand them on their side rather than laying them flat. 

Cylindrical glasses must be stuffed with filler inside before wrapping in 1-2 layers of bubble wrap or newsprint paper.

For stemmed glasses, the stem or handle must be protected with one big sheet of newsprint paper. Stuff the inside as well before padding the entire glass with 1-2 sheets of bubble wrap or newsprint paper.

Stand the glasses up individually at the top and center of the filler bed. Pad gaps generously. 

For framed artwork, put masking tape across the glass frame, forming a diagonal crisscross pattern, before boxing.

Single- or double-boxing can be used, depending on the total weight of the contents. Thick, new boxes are better than old ones. Consider double-boxing if the total weight is heavier than 5 lbs. Attach fragile stickers on all prominent sides of the box. 

 

A woman packing a vase for shipment
    • Musical instruments

Musical instruments normally have their own cases, which have foam inside. If there is still some gap remaining when the case is closed, i. e. between the instrument and the lid, you can fill it with bubble wrap to restrict internal movement.

If you’re sending a stringed instrument, loosen the strings a little before putting the entire item in the case.

The original case can serve as the interior box in a box-in-box configuration.

 

    • Undeveloped film

An unprocessed film is lightweight, but its cartridge is breakable. A single box will do, sufficiently padding each film. Use your carrier’s special stickers as these films can be damaged by heat and x-ray.

 

    • Automotive parts

Ask your carrier for special shipment arrangements for automotive parts. Generally, the packaging principles are the same as for any breakable or deformable item. Pad sharp edges with newsprint paper, shrink wrap or stretch wrap. Put additional cushion, like bubble wrap, before placing inside a box partly packed with filler. Single-boxing will suffice for light items, but heavier ones will require double-boxing.

 

    • Electronics and other appliances

Consider the DIM weight calculations when packing electronic gadgets. Is the device okay to send disassembled so you can pack efficiently? Or should you send it already put together, which may require a big box?

If you’re allowed to send the machine disassembled, cushion individual parts liberally before putting them in the box. The boxing method to use will depend on the appliance’s weight.

If you can only send the product in its assembled form, the packaging instructions are the same. Pad sharp edges and thin handles, cushion the entire appliance and put it inside a box with enough filler. Double-box depending on size and weight.

Also, don’t forget that electronic products require anti-static bubble wrap for added protection.

 

A couple unboxing a camera

Perishable Items

 

Perishable items include food, flowers, plants, clinical samples and biological substances. Coordinate closely with your carrier if you transport such items as they may be subject to various carriage regulations. Generally, refrigerants, insulation or both are your main concerns when shipping perishable items. Your logistics provider will advise you on their specific shipping requirements for these.

 

Unstable, hazardous Items

 

These include batteries, chemicals, explosives, biohazardous substances, etc. Like perishable items, they require close coordination with your carrier as they are also subject to safety and transport regulations.

 

Freight

 

When transporting palletized goods, ensure each box’s stability upon movement as it can encounter turbulence at any time. Most logistics providers would prefer that palletized boxes are strapped, stretch-wrapped or both. Freight forwarders may restrict the use of certain materials in securing pallets, such as corrugated pallets, screws, glue, etc.

Refer to our blog, Stretch Wrap 101: An Easily Digestible Buying Guide for Startups, to know more about stretch-wrapping pallets.

 

Palletized boxes inside a truck

Conclusion

We have just given you a quick rundown of how various retail items are packaged for shipping. Learning the skill may seem formidable at first, but it will earn you lots of loyal buyers once you’ve mastered it. Packaging securely is important to business as it can enhance one’s purchasing experience with your brand. We hope that these packaging tips will be of enormous value to you.


Ship Your Packages Securely Using enKo Products!

At enKo Products, we help US small businesses secure their shipments. We provide the following inexpensive yet nifty packaging materials: 

Order from enKo Products now and watch your sales rapidly grow!

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