Bubble Wrap 101: Protips, What It Doesnt Work With, and Solid Alternatives

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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. 

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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

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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

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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!

Don’t Have a Spring Break Vacation Planned? Do These Relaxing Things Instead

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Whether parents are ready or not, spring break is right around the corner for many families. Of course, that means the kids are out of school and itching to get their minds off all things school related.

But consider that pretty much every TV show and movie will remind you that spring break is the most amazing time to sneak away to sandy beaches, sunny skies and intense carelessness. But realistically speaking, that isn’t always the reality for many families. I mean, with work, extracurricular commitments, house chores or that extra tight budget, formal spring break plans don’t usually make the cut. Not to mention kids usually aren’t much for the nightlife.

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The Facts (and Myths) About Safely Transporting Your Flat Screen TV

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My friend Arnie does everything full-tilt. So I wasn’t surprised one bit when he said he was getting a massive new flat screen TV for the Super Bowl. I also wasn’t surprised when he asked me how to get it from the store to his house.

“Is it bad if I lay it down flat? Is all the liquid or gas or whatever inside the screen gonna get all messed up and ruin the TV?”

“Yes,” I told him. “But also, no.”

I hear this question all the time, so let’s clear this up once and for all with the facts about transporting flat screens.

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Do You Donate Your Old Appliances? You Should. Here Are the 3 Easiest Ways

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It all happened when we got new appliances for our kitchen. Never had I been more excited for a refrigerator, stove and dishwasher. The day our kitchen appliances were delivered, I eagerly ran home from work to check out my new beauties.

Then it happened. Yep, it’s official.

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How to Pack a Large Flat Screen TV (Without the Original Box)

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[Synopsis: When the customer doesn’t have the original box for their large flat screen, try this.]

Which of you has ever used a mirror carton to pack a flat screen television? Of course, a mirror pack is great for packing a flat screen.

Unless that flat screen is too big for a mirror pack. Or has a base that refuses to come off. Or if you don’t have the original packing.

Then what?

Well, please say hello to Trucker Billy.

In this YouTube video, our hero Billy uses a pillow-top mattress carton to fashion a customizable TV carton. Okay fine, this may not be heroic, but there are a few things he does that we really like.

  • He uses that pillow-top mattress carton to get the extra room he needs to be able to keep the base on the TV. This saves time and, possibly, the madness that would ensue if the base went missing.
  • He stuffs the corners of the carton with paper pads instead of packing paper. Paper pads might be a bit pricier than packing paper, but spending a few extra bucks to (potentially) save a TV that would cost several hundred if not a thousand or so to replace is, to us, a sound investment.
  • Trucker Billy also uses those paper pads in front of and behind the TV. These pads create a larger cushion than you can get with packing paper, so you don’t have to pack the whole carton (though there’s no harm in doing so).
  • And we really like hearing this beefy guy with the goatee and the UFC t-shirt repeatedly using the term ‘fluff it up’.

We cut to the good part up above. You can check out Part 1 to see how trucker Billy wraps his flat screen before he packs it into his custom carton.

We realize that some of you may not have pillow-top mattress cartons lying around. But if the need ever arises, you can first check in with that big van line agency you’ve made friends with (ahem) and snag one from them. Then cut it down to flat screen size for your impressed and (very) appreciative customer.

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