Fragile items are some of the hardest things to package properly. You can’t squash a glass vase into a box in the same way that you can a duvet (yes, that’s been done). Fragile items present a particular challenge to the organisations responsible for ensuring they arrive at their location in one piece.
The challenge is especially important to overcome when the item’s recipient is the customer. Too many breakages in this scenario can lead to expensive refunds or a breakdown in customer trust.
Packaging fragile products takes a combination of good box choice, protective packaging materials and clear markings on the final package. We’ll take a look at each aspect in more depth to give you a better sense of what is required to keep your items safe.
Choose your box wisely
The first step to keeping fragile items safe is choosing the right box. It’s important to minimise the empty space around the product whilst leaving a small amount of room in which you can add extra protection.
If your box is too large, you run the risk of your fragile items rolling around inside. It won’t take much more than a sudden jolt or two for thin glass or delicate joins to break apart. If the fragile item is snug in the box, however, any kind of collision with another surface could cause breakages and damage to the box will almost certainly damage the item inside.
The solution is to choose a box that is a little larger than the product, but not absurdly so. You can then fill out the empty space with a couple of layers of bubble wrap or some void fill, as we’ll discuss in the next section. Our box calculator is the easiest way to make bespoke boxes in whatever size you're looking for.
The other main consideration to make regarding the box is the thickness of the board. We generally recommend double wall boxes for fragile items, as the 6mm board greatly reduces the risk of punctures or damage that might affect the items within. If you choose single wall boxes, make sure the item is sufficiently protected inside.
Finally, it is possible to pack multiple fragile items in one box. For this, we recommend using cardboard dividers, which keep items separate and make it impossible for them to collide with one another when the box gets jostled. You can afford to pack multiple fragile items quite snugly, though some measure of protective packaging - usually wrap or paper - is still ideal.
Minimise empty space with protective packaging
There aren’t many situations in which you wouldn’t use some form of protective packaging to keep your fragile items safe. However, the type of packaging you use will vary depending on the product.
The go-to protective packaging material, bubble wrap is versatile and effective. One layer around small items and two or three layers around larger or very fragile items is usually enough to keep them safe.
If you’re planning on using bubble wrap, make sure you follow our box size recommendations above. You don’t want to leave so much room around the item that it’s rolling around, even if it is wrapped up. Your bubble-wrapped items should fit snugly in the box.
The main situations in which bubble wrap isn’t great are those where your items are irregular in their shape. You don’t want to risk delicate components by wrapping them too tightly.
Packaging paper comes in a variety of forms, including tissue paper, corrugated paper and filla paper. Of the three, tissue paper is close to bubble wrap in its functionality, whereas other types are closer to void fill. Tissue paper provides you with a flexible wrapping option, being much easier to mold to the shape of irregular items than bubble wrap. It is also a more decorative solution, making it a more attractive option for gifts and luxury items.
Filla paper can be scrunched and folded to fill all kinds of gaps in packaging. We wouldn’t recommend using it to wrap products, as it will provide little protection in single layers. However, when used to fill spaces in boxes it provides a cushion around your items which will reduce the risk of damage as the box moves around.
Finally, corrugated paper is another option for wrapping fragile items. It cannot fit closely around irregular products in the same way as tissue paper or even bubble wrap, but it’s perfect if you want an additional layer of protection between your fragile items and the box.
Void fill is designed to fill gaps in boxes with cushioning foam pieces. These reduce the room that an item has to move around but provide just enough give that any sharp impacts don’t cause issues for fragile contents. Foam void fill works well on its own (for less fragile items) or in conjunction with some form of wrapping (for more fragile items).
One of the concerns with void fill - polystyrene void fill in particular - is its environmental impact. For companies that want their products to be more sustainable, we sell biodegradable, starch-based packing peanuts that work in exactly the same way as polystyrene chips but dissolve into organic components when exposed to water.
The importance of plastic wraps in protective packaging cannot be understated. We sell a wide range of pallet wraps, which are instrumental in keeping items secure as they’re moved around. These wraps might not be your first choice when sending products to customers, but for moving items around your facilities or between your locations they are invaluable.
Mark your box clearly
Finally, one of the best ways to protect fragile items is to make it obvious that they’re there. The easiest ways to do this are to seal the box with ‘Fragile’ tape and to use ‘this way up’ markings on the board itself. Our box printing team is able to help you with any printed additions to any of our regular boxes, which can help you signal to anyone involved with moving your fragile products around that care is needed.
No amount of protective packaging is going to save your products if the people handling them are careless, but investing in tape or box printing will ensure that everyone knows that they should handle your boxes with care. In fact, there’s nothing wrong with using printed tape on boxes that are delivered to your customers. Though they should already treat their packages with care, it will help them to recognise the thought that you have put into ensuring that their items reach them in one piece.
For more ideas on how to package your fragile items, contact Boxtopia’s friendly team today.