How to Pack a Box

Frustrated by getting too many packages with the sound of glass tinkling around inside? Tired of receiving a heartfelt three-piece gift that comes to you in thirty pieces? Hoping and praying that the carefully chosen gift for someone you love will reach them intact? As we enter the Christmas season, let’s remember how to pack a box.

By Nancy Harris

Last week I received three boxes in a row with damaged merchandise. Not only is this frustrating and wasteful, it is completely unnecessary. My mailman who delivered the first box, which had been inserted into a plastic bag, thought that it had been thrown. Honestly, that shouldn’t matter. The problem was in the packing.

The first box I received last week had a two-quart bottle of floor cleaner, and three other small items. The box was soaking wet and when I opened it the floor cleaner was about halfway full. The lid was slightly off and the foil seal inside the lid was broken. Everything was covered in floor cleaner. There was no packing material in the box. My mailman said the inside of his truck smelled very nice (it has an almond scent). I’m guessing that whoever packed the box thought that since nothing was breakable, he could just throw it all in and send it on its way. If he had stuffed the box with those air pillows (Amazon uses AIRplus), it would have arrived intact.

The second box was a bottle of replacement floor cleaner in a smaller box with two individual air pillows, but not enough to make the box tight. It was also leaking, and the box was wet. The loss/damage wasn’t nearly as extensive as the first bottle, but the problem was exactly the same, the bottle just wasn’t able to shift around quite as much.

The third box I received was a yogurt machine which included seven small glass jars. Two of the jars were broken to shards. This was a “used like-new” purchase. Whoever had repacked the machine had put the glass jars inside with two pieces of paper towel. Clearly not sufficient.

After moving thirteen times in our first 27.5 years of marriage and sending and receiving many boxes in the mail, I think I have a pretty good idea of how to keep things from damage. The key to protecting whatever might be in the box is to make sure there is NO MOVEMENT in the box. I can suggest some other guidelines about packing, but the most important is to make sure the stuff in the box doesn’t shift, AT ALL, after the box is sealed.

The weight of the items is not the problem. I once received two small fairly lightweight Christmas mugs from Germany that arrived in pieces since each was only wrapped in a single loose piece of newspaper. There was a lot of movement in the box and I honestly felt heartbroken when I opened it.

Movers use paper, and I have never had a single plate or bowl broken in all my moves. They don’t use tons of paper between each dish, but a sheet or two, but they do pack the dead space with LOTS of paper wadded up tightly. When they are done with the box, you can pick it up and shake it and there is no discernable movement inside the box. This concept is critical.

In general, the packing material isn’t terribly important, but it must be tight. Paper, bubblewrap, air pillows, or even quilts or old pieces of cloth will work. For a while many companies packed with Styrofoam peanuts. Packages arrived intact but the peanuts were deemed bad for the environment. So, packers switched to the strings of air pillows or just tossed in a few sheets of paper in the name of packing material.

If you are packing multiple things, put the heaviest on the bottom of the box. Try to put some packing material in the bottom of the box and have at least an inch or two around the perimeter. For multiple items, put a layer of something between each item. Ideally, wrap each individual item in a sheet of paper, bubblewrap, or a piece of cloth/blanket.

Don’t make any box too heavy. This is important. If the box it too heavy, it is more likely to end up being dropped or treated poorly. I once mailed many boxes of books, and had one go missing. It was the biggest box I sent and I think it ended up damaged in the process.

Proper packing

  1. Make sure the box is big enough for the item or items being packed.
  2. Do not pack any individual box heavier than about fifty pounds.
  3. Wrap each item in something (paper, bubbblewrap, cloth).
  4. Place a layer of packing on the bottom of the box.
  5. Insert item or items.
  6. Stuff the box full of packing material.
  7. Close the box and give a shake to make sure nothing inside is moving around.
  8. Tape it up and send it on its way.

Pack those boxes tightly, happy shipping, and Merry Christmas!

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