Bubble Wrap 101: Protips, What It Doesn’t Work With, and Solid Alternatives

Author:

Publish Date:

Last Modified Date:

Category: How To Pack

Tags: Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

For keeping your most valuable, most expensive stuff protected when you move, it may seem like there’s nothing better than bubble wrap. But we’ll let you in on a little secret. 

Movers very rarely – if ever – use the stuff.

Not because it doesn’t work. It does. But the pros know, all those little bubbles add up to some bulky and relatively expensive bit of cushioning. Packing paper, used correctly, will serve most any packing purpose and save you both space and money.

Still, you may be more comfortable enveloping your flat screen TV, your electronics, your stemware and your china in bubble wrap. That’s totally understandable. So if you decide to go this route, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Using Bubble Wrap: 5 Quick Tips

  1. Put a layer of packing paper between your TV and that bubble wrap. Plastic can leave marks on your screen, particularly in extreme temperatures. This goes for anything you wrap in bubbles. For items with sharp edges or corners, some extra paper can help keep those sharp areas from poking right through the plastic.
  2. Wrap your items with the bubbles facing inward for better protection against exterior pressure and accidental impact. The flat side is easier to write on (in case you want to be able to identify each item quickly) and will hold the tape in place much more effectively.
  3. Don’t bank on one layer of bubble wrap. Two layers of small bubble sheeting might be enough for a piece of stemware, though this would be in addition to packing them with plenty of packing paper and, for extra peace of mind, individual cells inside your cardboard box. If you are using the stuff with the bigger bubbles for heavier items like a large framed mirror or your CPU, one layer may suffice – but again, only in addition to some crumpled packing paper for extra cushioning on all sides.
  4. Keep that bubble wrap firmly in place by taping not just along the edges, but all the way around the item. You splurged on that bubble wrap, don’t start skimping on the tape!
  5. Have a pair of scissors on hand when you are unpacking. It would be a real bummer to break something – or drop and break something – while trying to tear that bubble wrap off using only your hands. 

You might love our:

Moving Cost Calculator

If the quote from your movers felt expensive …
Make sure it lines up with the costs reported by other Americans.

What to Pack in Bubble Wrap

bubble wrap

Valuable items. Fragile items. Heavy and hard-to-replace items. If you’re staring at something and you can’t decide whether to bubble wrap it, err on the side of caution and wrap it.

Specifically, you’ll want to consider bubble wrap for:

  • Large picture frames and mirrors
  • Flat screen TVs
  • Glass tabletops and shelving
  • Electronics and computers
  • Stemware and fine china
  • Fragile decorative items

Remember, bubble wrap alone will not do the trick. Even surrounded by two or three layers of air pockets, the things on this list will still need to be packed firmly in cardboard cartons with enough crumpled packing paper on all sides to keep them from shifting and bouncing in transit while keeping them safe from exterior impact.

After the bubble wrapping is done, use the right kind of box.

There’s no point in being safe if you use the wrong box for your stuff. Finish the job right by packing each bubble-wrapped item properly, surrounded by plenty of crumpled packing paper. Moving boxes come in specific shapes and sizes for your items, use accordingly.

bubble wrap

Mirror Cartons

Picture frames, mirrors, glass shelves and flat-screen TVs go in mirror cartons – sets of two, if not four pieces that you can use to form a custom-sized box.

Double-Walled Dish Pack Cartons

bubble wrap

containerstore.com

Electronics and computer components are best protected when packed in double-walled dish pack cartons, the same boxes we use for dishes, plates and glasses. And yes! This includes your china and stemware. Fragile decorative items like statuettes and ceramics can still be packed in medium (3 cubic foot) boxes, provided they are cushioned well and the boxes are clearly marked to minimize the chances of someone putting a box of books on top.

Cardboard Cells

A note about stemware: Nothing gets broken more often than this stuff. Wrapping each piece well is crucial, but so is packing it all correctly into your dish pack as the items on the bottom will have to support the weight of everything else in there.

bubble wrap

cactuscontainers.com

The best thing to do is get your hands on some of those cardboard cells, which not only keep your wine glasses from knocking against each other but offer an appreciable amount of vertical support, keeping all the weight of those glasses off the ones at the bottom of the box.

If you can’t find any cardboard cells, don’t despair! A thick layer of crumpled packing paper on the bottom of your dish pack and another layer of crumpled paper on top of each successive tier of firmly-packed stemware is what the pros use to keep everything safe. If you aren’t comfortable with that, line your entire dish pack with bubble wrap and put a couple of sheets in between your tiers of glasses. This isn’t the most cost-efficient way to pack your stemware, but it beats a box full of expensive shards of glass.

Alternatives

If not bubble wrap, then what? As stated earlier, packing paper is the standard. However, towels, crumpled newspaper, or virtually anything form-fitting, sturdy and that’s plenty soft can often do the trick for cheaper. Sound too simple? It really is. As long as you pad your items in a balanced way, it doesn’t need to be as expensive as bubble wrap. Just as long as “this one, extra towel” isn’t the only thing keeping your priceless vase safe. Check the moving supplies section at your local hardware store for bubble wrap alternatives.

A Note on Packing Peanuts

bubble wrapYou may like the idea of those Styrofoam nuggets, but in general, they are bulky, costly, and non-biodegradable. The eco-friendly alternative cornstarch peanuts are even more expensive and don’t make for a very satisfying snack, no matter how hungry you are at the end of your move. Plus, they end up getting scattered all over the floor and clinging to your clothes. In short, use (and eat) them if you like, but I don’t recommend them.


Admit it. It’s hard to resist popping those plastic bubbles once you’re done with that bubble wrap. But think for a moment how easy it is to pop them – and how much all the boxes you are packing must weigh.

Keep this in mind when you are packing up all those valuable, expensive, fragile items. On its own, a sheet of bubble wrap can’t adequately protect your stuff. You’re going to need plenty of packing paper (or towels or clothes) in a pinch. Pack those items firmly in the center of your box, protected on all sides.

And really, save yourself a headache (and maybe the stomachache) and stay away from those peanuts!

How to Pack Stemware Safely, With or Without Dividers

Author:

Publish Date:

Last Modified Date:

Category: Pro Packing Guides

Tags: Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I remember the first time I had to pack a china cabinet full of stemware. Wine glasses. Champagne flutes. Crystal crafted and etched so delicately it might as well have come straight out of a fairytale castle.

My hands shook as I wrapped each piece. My stomach churned as I watched my buddy load that dish pack onto the truck, underneath a stack of other boxes.

20 years later I still have nightmares about it.

I’ve dealt with plenty of stemware since then, and while I wonder now and again whether anything I’ve packed has gotten damaged in transit, I’ve learned enough from people who have been around longer than me to know how to minimize the chances. Below is a summary of what those people taught me.

Packing With Dividers

While dividers can add stability to the carton and protection to the contents, the fundamentals of packing still apply.

Make it tight. Density still matters, even inside those cells.

Create cushions of packing paper between layers.

Be generous when padding the bottom and the top of your dish pack.

In addition, there are things that require extra attention.

Image by: Done Right Moving

No matter what you are putting at the bottom of your dish pack, lining the bottom of the carton with nothing but crumpled paper isn’t the best way to go. Have you ever watched a child jump into one of those massive tubs full of plastic balls? That child doesn’t land on top, they sink down, pushing all those plastic balls to the sides. All that stuff you pack in your dish pack will do the same thing unless you cover that (thick, tight) layer of crumpled up paper with several sheets of crumpled-then-uncrumpled paper. (Imagine laying a tarp across the top of that tub full of plastic balls.) 

This goes a long way in keeping those crumpled up paper balls in place under the weight of all that kitchenware. This will also prevent your dividers from sinking and potentially exposing the stemware those dividers are supposed to be protecting.

Be aware that dividers aren’t always the perfect height for the stemware you are packing. If your wine glasses are a bit short, add extra paper beneath and on top to fill out the space in each cell. Are those champagne flutes too tall? Don’t leave them sticking out of the top! Make a double layer of dividers, pad those glasses above and below, and, to use that extra space wisely, fill the remaining space in each cell with smaller glasses (that are also well-protected).

No one in the history of packing has ever had the exact amount of stemware needed to perfectly fill the number of cells in the dividers they are using. Since the customer has requested you use those dividers for all, not most, of their stemware, don’t skimp or cheat at the end and pack those last few crystal wine glasses loose among the coffee mugs and tea cups. Fill that last divider level with those remaining pieces of stemware plus whatever other items will fit in those cells. And if you find you have more dividers than you need? Use the leftover pieces to create a sort of cardboard roof over your top divider level so you can pack and fill the remaining space in your dish pack with confidence.

Packing Without Dividers 

This was the case that first time I had to pack stemware. And while it is absolutely possible to pack a bunch of fine, fragile wine glasses safely without dividers, it takes a lot of care – and plenty of paper!

The biggest concern in wrapping stemware is that most fragile part: the stem. The thing is, all the paper in the world won’t guarantee the survival of that stem if the pressure is too great. Still, that’s the first part we want to protect.

The longer the stem, the more critical it becomes to wrap that stem in paper. We do this mainly to create a more cylindrical item we can then wrap completely. Cylindrical bundles allow for a tighter, denser pack. The more empty space there is around the stems of those wrapped glasses, the greater the chance those glasses will shift and generate uneven pressure inside the carton.

I see and hear all the time how important it is to stuff the inside of your wine glasses with paper. To be honest, I don’t get it. If there’s enough lateral (sideways) pressure being exerted on the outside of a glass to break it, crumpled paper cannot offer nearly enough strength to counter that pressure. What the paper CAN do is add a degree of protection against vertical pressure. As with packing glass lampshades, stuffing each glass with enough paper so that paper extends beyond the rim of the glasses means extra cushioning between layers. 

Speaking of layers, as we mentioned earlier, a stable layer of paper at the bottom of the carton is critical for the overall protection of the contents. When packing stemware without dividers, we want to make sure the cushioning on top of and below each layer of wrapped stemware is thick and stable. Lay some wrinkled paper across your layer, add a layer of crumpled paper balls, then cover with more flattened paper before packing your next layer of glasses. Without the strength of those vertical dividers we need to make sure our dish pack is jammed with paper not just between layers but between and around all those glasses – which we should be packing upside down, by the way! And of course, a dense, thick layer of paper on top is a must.

One final point about packing stemware: the use (or not) of bubble wrap. As with stuffing paper inside your wine glasses, I’ve seen plenty of tips involving wrapping stemware with bubble wrap. Personally I’ve never used it on any type of glassware. Ever. Nor have I ever done an unpack and seen it used. Does this mean you can’t use it? Of course not. It just might not be your most practical option. If you do use it, be aware that some people will strongly advise against wrapping a glass in plastic without wrapping it in paper first. One reason is the possibility of the plastic leaving marks that are hard to get rid of. Another is the tendency of plastic to stick to glass, increasing the likelihood of pressure and thus damage.

In simple terms, use it at your own risk.

To sum up, if you use dividers when packing stemware, make sure they are level in the carton and that the cells are filled tightly. And make sure those stems aren’t going to end up sticking out the top. If you aren’t using dividers, use common sense. That is, use plenty of paper! Make your carton super cushioned and super stable.

And pack those stemware items upside down.

How I Pack a Dishpack

Author:

Publish Date:

Last Modified Date:

Category: Pro Packing Guides

Tags: Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

[Synopsis: Dishpacks are often our heaviest cartons. Make sure they’re protected from the bottom.]

A well-packed dishpack starts at the bottom, with a layer of paper to cushion and protect those pounds of plates, dishes and bowls.

2016septnl2-copySome movers will fold a dozen or so sheets of packing paper to create their thick layer of padding.

Others will ball up these dozens or more sheets of paper and create a sea of crumpled newsprint at the bottom of the box.

2016sepnl1I’d never been completely comfortable with either of these strategies. Folded packing paper, no matter how many sheets, never seemed cushiony enough to me. I always envision that sea of crumpled paper parting under the weight of all those dishes, which would then end up sinking to an unpadded box bottom.

But what else was there to do? It had to be one or the other, right?

Then one day it hit me.

So now I do both.

Ever since that “Eureka” moment, I start my dishpacks by putting down a layer of several folded sheets of packing paper, adding a dense layer of crumpled paper, then topping that off with a layer of more folded sheets of paper. The crumpled paper layer in the middle gives plenty of cushioning, while the layers of folded paper help keep that middle layer in place.

There’s more than one way to cushion a dishpack. This just happens to be my favorite because it provides the most amount of support, which in turn, has helped me keep claims down to a minimum.

Packing an Oil Painting: Slick Tips

Author:

Publish Date:

Last Modified Date:

Category: Pro Packing Guides

Tags: Tags: , , , , , , , ,

[Synopsis: Packing higher-end art calls for special materials and top-notch techniques.]

We come across large picture frames and mirrors often enough to know how to pack them. Wrap them in newsprint – or better yet, large sheets of kraft paper or that brown paper the big guys always have on hand. Grab a mirror carton or custom-size a box and pack the corners with packing paper and tape it up well.

Nothing to it, right?

But the day may come (if it hasn’t already) when we come face to face with an oil painting. We may use the same brown paper process and come away unscathed, but there are a few tips and tricks we can employ to keep that piece of art in prime shape, maybe even impressing our customer in the process.

Our Weapons of Choice

For the specialized packing we are about to attack upon we’ll need a few things we might not normally have on hand:

  • Bubble wrap
  • A mini roll of plastic wrap (on a handy-dandy dispenser)
  • A locking tape measure
  • Some large sheets of foam board
  • A knife to cut them to size

For that ultimate professional touch, we’ll arm ourselves with a couple of new weapons, namely artist tape and a type of water-resistant, grease-resistant paper called Glassine. And, as the guys in the following two videos prove, the ability to wield a tape gun can really come in handy.

Food For Thought: Video #1

In this first videoour host tackles his oil painting pack job by using foam board and a mini roll of shrink wrap to make what he calls a painting sandwich. Pretty slick, ay? (Start at the 2:35 mark. It goes to about 3:50.)

Note: Our painting sandwich maker uses peanuts for protection – and makes a decent mess of things. We suggest sticking with packing paper.

Mega-Supplies: Video #2

The host of our second video is a real stickler for protection. But so are his customers. First, he breaks out his Glassine at about the 1:23 mark. To keep it in place he uses artist tape rather than packing tape or even masking tape. Watch from the 1:43 mark to hear the (probably obvious) reasons why.

Done with the Glassine, he turns to his massive stash of bubble wrap, keeping the flat side against the surface of the painting. And he uses PLENTY of the stuff, in two different bubble sizes! We may not need to go nearly as crazy – unless our customers want us to. Ask them ahead of time.

For glass frameworks of art, our hero puts strips of artist tape right on the glass, to prevent damage to the art should the glass crack or break in transit.

Finally, at about 14:50 he talks about putting cardboard corners on before the bubble wrap. He also ensures the safety of the piece by placing a piece of cardboard over the front/glass side.

Note: He does admit that not all of us will have mountains of the stuff on hand, and suggests at the 6:25 mark using sheets of Styrofoam. Again, this is an option – but so is our packing paper.

Wrapping Up

We may or may not encounter a customer with fine artwork. But they do exist, and what if those people are looking for someone who knows how to handle their oil paintings or other expensive paintings? If you have that skill on your list of offered services, you may just get the call over someone else.

×

I'm Moving

Moving? Thinking about moving? Whether your move is off in the distance or you already have one foot out the door, you'll learn about everything you should expect through our useful how-to's, cool articles and much more. It's all specially curated for you in our "I'm Moving" section.
Explore
×

I'm a Mover

For rookies or veterans alike, our "I'm a Mover" section is filled with extensive industry news, crucial protips and in-depth guides written by industry professionals. Sharing our decade of moving knowledge is just one way we help keep our professional movers at the top of their game.
Explore