Fragile Shipping 101: How to Ship Fragile Items

Posted by Benjamin Meskin on Mar 22, 2018 10:23:42 AM
Benjamin Meskin


Breaking, cracking, and total destruction are some of our worst nightmares when it comes to shipping a package.  Here are some tips and tricks to protect fragile goods in the packaging and shipping process alike!

Fragile items are essentially any type of goods that are highly susceptible to damage, and require special packaging and handling when moved or shipped.

This includes:

  • Glassware, including food containers and wine bottles
  • China or ceramic goods
  • Musical instruments
  • Antiques and collectibles, including paintings and old furniture
  • Laboratory materials and devices


Checklist for Shipping Fragile Items 

Follow these steps when preparing your fragile items for shipment.


1. Pack Your Fragile Goods For Shipping

The first detail to consider when contemplating how to ship fragile items through either your company or from your household comes down to the packaging.

The safety of your parcels doesn’t begin with your shipping carrier, it begins with you. Packing fragile or delicate items before you entrust them to a third-party requires care, consideration, and time: doing it in a rush is a surefire way to disaster.

Many claims can be denied for insufficient packaging.  Policies are typically worded something like: "packages must be packed professionally and well enough to withstand the normal rigors of transit."

To protect your packages sufficiently, you’ll need:

  • Packing boxes
  • Bubble wrap, tissue paper, packing peanuts, and/or newspaper
  • Packing Tape; use reinforced tape for heavier goods
  • Permanent Markers and Packing Labels


2. Measure Your Box For Shipping

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The most vital step in packing fragile items is choosing the right box.

  • Too large, and your goods will have room to roll or move around and eventually, break.
  • Too small, you could cause your tightly packed goods to crack - literally - under the pressure.
  • Too flimsy, your box could get squished during transit.


So, how do you find a middle ground?

  • First, you need to measure a box for shipping where your item has enough wiggle room which can be filled with cushioning. Ideally, you can allow for a minimum of 2 inches of empty space around the item.
  • Weigh your item. If it’s too heavy, you’ll want to consider using double-walled or triple-walled boxes, which have higher load-bearing capabilities. This is especially useful when you know your boxes are likely to be stacked during transport.
  • If you’re shipping multiple bottles or glass items, you might also consider using cardboard partitions or dividers to provide an additional layer of protection and prevent your items from knocking into each other.
  • Never, ever, pack your items in previously used boxes: boxes strength and durability gradually wane with usage and are more likely to get squished during transit.

Now, we get to packing:


3. Take Inventory and Note Existing Damages

Before you pack any glassware or ceramic, take a careful inventory of any nicks, defects or cracks that are already present on the item. Document them by photographing them or listing them down.

In doing so, you’ll be able to account for and prove any new damages caused during handling, when you need to make insurance claims.


4. Wrap the Items in Bubble Wrap

  • Wrap the item carefully in bubble wrap. If your item has an irregular shape - when shipping a wine glass, for instance - then wrap individual parts of it in bubble wrap, if you must.
  • Double wrap the whole item with an extra layer of bubble wrap to provide extra cushioning.If you have multiple glass items - like crockery or bottles - then wrap each individual item. 
  • Don’t wrap your items too tight, however - the aim is to just cushion your goods. If you wrap too tight, it can cause stress fractures or cracks, defeating the whole purpose.

5. How to Pack Fragile Items and Add More Cushioning 

  • Line up to 2 inches of the bottom of the box with tissue paper, newspaper or bubble wrap to begin packing your fragile item for shipping.
  • Place your item in the middle of the box. If you have multiple items, then, use cardboard dividers, and place each item in one slot.
  • Next, fill the surrounding space - sides and top - with more padding. Depending on your preferences, you can use more bubble wrap, packing peanuts, packing tissue or even newspapers. You want to stuff in enough so that your bubble-wrapped item is secure in its place.


6. Taping Things Up 

  • Close the box flaps - and before you reach for your tape - give your box a test wiggle/shake, and if you think your box might need a little more stuffing, go for it. Better safe than sorry.
  • Tape the flaps shut using your packing tape. For extra security, you can also tape the seams of the boxes shut, as well.
  • For heavier goods, use reinforced tape, instead of standard packing tape for protection.

7. Double Box Glassware and Ceramic Goods

  • Depending on the fragility of your items, you can double box your items: placing your primary box in another box with additional cushioning.
  • Choose a box that is about 1-2 inches wider and taller on all sides than your inner box.
  • After placing your inner box inside the large box, stuff the surrounding space with packing peanuts or other cushioning material.


8. Add a Warning Label to Your Box 

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  • If your boxes already have the necessary labels on the outside - then you should be good to go. Otherwise, label your box with the necessary labels. Use a permanent marker and use notices like “Fragile”, “Handle with Care”, and “This Side Up” to tell shipping handlers exactly what to do.

  • Always slap the address labels on the TOP of the boxes. Try using address labels that stand out against the color of your boxes. Don’t use a white label on a white box, for instance.

This is an optional, yet useful step, especially if you’re shipping antiques or used fragile goods.


Sign Up For Order Tracking

Once your fragile items have been shipped out, the next main consideration is tracking the progress of your shipments to its final destination. One of the key aspects is finding a company that gives you a detailed run-down of your shipment’s status: when it leaves your warehouse or store, the intermediate transit details, the final delivery status, and most importantly, tracks any exceptions or failures that occurred during delivery.

Furthermore, if you have been using multiple shipping carriers for domestic or international shipping, for instance, you’ll need to be able to track them efficiently. You can go about this in two ways:

  • Track each individual provider in their respective order tracking systems. This can become increasingly inefficient if there is more than one package or carrier handling your shipping.
  • Use a unified dashboard under an automated insurance system, which consolidates all your order tracking information in one place by integrating with most shipping carriers. Using these systems, you can generate alerts for specific exceptions or conditions, which can, in turn, allow you to take the necessary action regarding your shipments.


Consider Shipping Insurance

Knowing how to ship fragile items is important: there are no two ways about it. This means you’re shifting the responsibility of safe and intact delivery of fragile, and most likely, expensive goods on to your shipping carrier.

Unfortunately, even with the best shipping providers, there are a number of situations that can arise during the shipping process including damages rendered while packaging, handling or during transport, and parcel misplacements, losses, or thefts.

Furthermore, in the case of international shipping, there’s the added risk of uncertainty and possible lack of organization in the destination country’s shipping practices and standards. In most cases, private shipping companies sub-contract the final delivery steps to the country’s local shipping carriers, which can be risky and difficult to track.

Therefore, when it comes to fragile shipping, you should definitely opt for shipping insurance: a service that provides reimbursement for damaged, lost or stolen packages. Most shipping carriers and the postal service offer shipping insurance to their customers; however, not all of them provide the best options when it comes to prices, coverage, reliability, and ease in filing claims. Find shipping insurance that fits your needs. 


Using a third-party insurance system can provide you with fuller coverage at lower costs for insuring packages with high value and risk. Further to the point, certain automated insurance systems come with a full suite of features that are aimed at streamlining and easing the processes of package tracking, filing insurance claims, and tracking their statuses until they are successfully closed.


These systems also integrate seamlessly with major shipping providers, which makes it easier to populate most of the pertinent information and documentation required while filing insurance claims.

Cabrella Shipping Insurance can save you up to 90% in rates as opposed to other carriers. Click the button below to see how much you could save with Cabrella! 

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