8 Tips for Packing Fragile Items Like a Pro

Dawn M. Smith
Written by Dawn M. Smith
Updated January 24, 2022
A couple packing their glassware in moving boxes
Photo: Image Source / Adobe Stock

With breakables in tow, your next DIY move will require lots of bubble wrap and patience

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There’s a lot to consider when moving into a new home, especially after tallying up all those family heirlooms and precious breakables you’ve collected over the years. If thoughts of that antique bar cart or your great-grandmother’s mercury glass collection are swirling, these tips for how to pack fragile items are for you. 

Know this: packing fragile housewares requires time and attention. Give yourself a few hours (or days) to prepare and pack your belongings the right way. The more you plan, the easier it will be to get through your next move damage-free.

Prepare for a Damage-Free Move

A tapetum on top of a cardboard box
Photo: Westend61 / Getty Images

Preparation is the key to a break-free move. Here are three tips for planning your next move.

1. Hoard all the Boxes: Original, Recycled, and Borrowed

Did you save the original box for your TV or the cardboard crates that shipped your wedding china? Great! The original packing is the best way to store fragile items because they fit perfectly, and there’s little room for things to shift.

If using the original containers is not an option, then start saving those retail boxes that conveniently show up at your doorstep each week. Thick, sturdy boxes work best, but you may want to reinforce the seams with packing tape for extra support just in case. 

Keep the packing materials, too. Collect all the air pillows, paper filler, and packing peanuts you can find. You’ll use these materials to fill the empty spaces between your precious breakables later.  

If your moving box collection still comes up short, visit local retailers and inquire about their policy for sharing boxes. Search in places like:

  • Grocery stores

  • ABC or liquor stores

  • Department stores

  • Restaurants

Try to snag the bottle boxes that have built-in cardboard dividers to fit your champagne flutes and bourbon glasses.

2. Crowdsource Packing Supplies

Moving is expensive, so don’t be shy about saving money. Send a plea out into your local Buy Nothing group, scour online marketplaces, and join the Freecycle Network

Be specific in your request. “Dish packs” are hot commodities when packing fragile items because they are designed to secure kitchen and bakeware, but they’re also pricey. Fortunately, online marketplaces make it a lot easier to connect with locals who could have what you need for free.

3. Make a List of Additional Packing Items to Buy

Try as you might, there’s a good chance you’ll have to buy at least some packing supplies. If you can’t get your hands on free newspapers, head to a dollar or discount store (don’t forget to ask for free boxes while you’re there!) and stock up on tissue paper. 

When writing your packing list, be sure to include these items:

  • Bubble wrap (lots of it)

  • Newspaper or tissue paper

  • Packing tape

  • Labels or markers

  • Scissors or a box cutter

  • Cardboard dividers

Pack Like a Pro

A young man packing boxes at his house
Photo: Morsa Images / DigitalVision / Getty Images

When packing fragile items, the goal is to eliminate any extra space in your boxes that could cause objects to bump and break. Here’s how to keep your most precious items snug and secure.

4. Line the Top and Bottom of Boxes with Padding

Start with a layer of paper or bubble wrap at the bottom of each box. This extra layer of padding will reduce breaking when boxes are stacked or moved. When boxing kitchen items or dishware, use your table linens or dish towels as protectant layers—plus, that’s fewer things you have to pack later on. 

Then, add a top layer of packing material to keep your items snug and stable before sealing the box with tape.

5. Fill Hollow Items with Packing Paper

Place packing material inside vases, jars, bowls, and canisters to avoid cracking. Or, if it’s safe, you can nest individually wrapped items together to save space, such as your set of mixing bowls. 

But beware, this is not a good idea for glasses similar in size like highballs because they will get stuck without proper room to nest.

6. Wrap Every Item and Pack Tightly

Though it may seem excessive, professional moving companies wrap every single breakable item to reduce harmful vibrations and keep banging to a minimum.

Line your items in tight rows and in layers, placing the heaviest items at the bottom. Then add sheets of bubble wrap between each layer. 

Some odd-shaped items like lamp bases and home decor will need both bubble wrap and packing tape. Don’t skip the packing tape, as it adds an extra layer of insulation during accidental box drops.

When packing sharp knives, ensure that every knife is wrapped individually, unless it’s part of a knife block.

7. Give Extra Attention to Your Artwork and Other Precious Goods

If your walls are lined with framed artwork and your closets are full of precious heirlooms, you’ll want to double up on blankets or purchase extra supplies, such as packing peanuts, shrink wrapping, and custom cartons.

But only you know how valuable your possessions are and whether a DIY pack and move is the right choice. If not, it could be worth a phone call to a moving company near you to see what services and specialized boxing products they offer.

8. Tape and Label Your Boxes for an Easier Unpack

It’s easy to get carried away when filling boxes, so watch the weight. Overstuffed boxes could sag and split open. Be generous with your tape reinforcement. Use heavy-duty tape at each opening, top, and bottom. 

After the final pull, label each box with its contents so you’ll know exactly which room to deliver at your new location.

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