How to package fragile items for shipping

How to package fragile items for shipping

Jun 1st 2020

Shipping fragile items? You have a few options to consider, depending on the item itself. Remember that "fragile" can mean a lot of different things. For some, it means that the item is breakable and heavy. For others, it is that the item is delicate with small pieces that can bend or come off. For others it may be that they are transporting a liquid and they want to ensure it doesn't spill in any way. 

To answer the age-old question of “how to package fragile items for shipping, we put together some packaging strategies for different item types. While the following tips for shipping fragile items address the majority of breakable shipments we have seen, feel free to contact us at [email protected] for more guidance if you’re facing a unique packaging challenge.

Shipping Fragile Items- Option 1: Box with Eco-Friendly Void Fill

Good for: Breakable bottles, candles, especially bulky items. A great solution when each of your shipments is varied and you need a single packaging solution to work with a variety of shipments. 

Shipping fragile items

If you’re wondering how to package fragile items, this is the most versatile and straightforward shipping strategy! Create a custom shipping box that is 10-25% larger than the items you are packaging. The heavier and more fragile your items are, the more excess space you'll need.

Then utilize Flexi-Hex Air SleevesGreenWrap or 100% Recycled Packaging Paper to wrap your items and put the cushioned, wrapped goods into the shipping box. Alternatively, line your box with Packaging Paper, Corrugated Bubble or Ornament Shred. Place your goods into the lined box and then add the same void fill on top. Be sure the contents of your box are snug and won't move when you seal the box up. 

Check out our Definitive Guide to Protective Packaging and Void Fill and Alternatives to Bubble Wrap for more inspiration here.

Option 2: Box with Custom Inserts (and Some Void Fill)

Good for: Smaller bottles (such as Boston Rounds), perfumes, essential oils

How to package fragile items

Custom inserts are a great option when shipping fragile items and presentation is critical for you. It’s also a great option if you have a lot of consistency in what you ship, such as bottles of essential oil or jars of jelly.

Please note that in most cases, custom inserts are not enough to fully protect fragile items. We often will recommend a layer of void fill above and below your inserts, such as corrugated bubble, corrugated pads or ornament shred. When shipping fragile things, you can’t be too careful in ensuring your customers have a good unboxing experience.

Option 3: Padded or Bubble Mailer

Good for: Lightweight and thin, delicate items such as jewelry, small essential oil or perfume bottles 

How to ship delicate items

If you are shipping something thin and lightweight that is delicate and somewhat fragile, a 100% recycled padded mailer or a recycled bubble mailer can do the trick beautifully and without the cost and operational headache of a shipping box. 

Small vials of perfume, 1 oz bottles of essential oils, and lightweight jewelry can travel very well in a cushioned, protective mailer like this.

Option 4: Tab Locking Rigid Mailer

Good for: Art prints

How to send fragile items

Art prints aren't technically "fragile" but you do not want them to be bent in transit. If you are shipping art prints and want to make sure they stay flat and protected, we recommend Extra Thick Tab Locking Rigid Mailers that are too thick and strong for anyone to bend or crush, even if they wanted to!

These mailers require a layer of tape to seal them, because the paperboard is too thick and rigid for self seals to work effectively on it.

FAQ: Should You Use "Fragile" or "Do Not Bend" Stickers?

While these stickers don't necessarily hurt, they only go so far in helping your package get special treatment while it's being handled by carriers. Often, your package is handled through highly automated equipment, meaning that no one is actually reading and responding to these stickers. Additionally, workers move through boxes so rapidly that it is highly likely they will miss any "fragile" labeling as they work to load and unload your package as quickly as possible. UPS does advise that if you are going to use a Fragile sticker or write "FRAGILE" on your package, use new packaging (rather than reused packaging).     

Ultimately, carriers emphasize that any labeling should be done as a secondary step. The first and most important step is for you to package and protect your goods properly, such that they are safe whether or not carriers know its contents are fragile.  

Here is direct input from a UPS representative on this topic: The most important aspect of any shipment, but certainly those that contain fragile items, is how they are packed – not necessarily how they are labeled. Our package handling methods focus on “hand to surface” handling, meaning that a package should not leave an employee’s hands until it is on a surface. And that handling method and our training that teaches it is the same for a package labeled “fragile “ as it is for one that is not. What is key for any shipment, again, is how it is packed. Consumers can go to and get tips on packing or they can have a UPS Store employee pack it for them. If the consumer pays to have the package packed by the UPS Store and the customer also pays for excess value coverage, it is covered 100% in case of damage. There are myriad tips depending on the type of item – liquid, glass, computer, etc. To give you an idea – all computers must be shipped in the original manufacturer’s carton with the original Styrofoam inserts in order for it to be considered “proper packaging.” Liquids and other items may require a “box within a box” packaging, and so on. So regardless of outer labeling, the more important focus should be on appropriate packaging.

Final Tip for Shipping Fragile Items: Test Your Packaging

As you are developing your fragile item packaging strategy, we recommend two important testing steps.

First, your own "drop test." Package up your product the way you intend to ship it and then treat it without a care in the world. Drop it from the top of a table. Throw it in the air and let it crash. Place a heavy box or two on top of it. Then open it up and see how your contents fared.

Second, ship a few packages to people you trust, who can take and send you photos of the package and its contents after shipment. 

Yes, these steps do take time and resources. However, when shipping fragile items, this type of testing is important so you can trust that your customers' experience, all the way from unboxing to product use, will be a great one. 

Here is a video of our team testing the efficacy of a custom insert design to ensure it would in fact adequately protect the package's contents.