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How to pack fragile items and ship them on Pirate Ship
How to pack fragile items and ship them on Pirate Ship

How to best protect your packages when shipping breakable items with USPS or UPS

Updated over a week ago

Shipping with USPS

USPS discontinued its "Special Handling" service on July 10th, 2022, but you can still ship your fragile packages through Pirate Ship 🎉

When shipping delicate items, USPS suggests packaging your items as carefully as possible, and to consider purchasing insurance coverage. All Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express postage you buy on Pirate Ship comes with $100 of built-in insurance, but you can always purchase extra insurance when creating your labels!

Shipping with UPS

Like USPS, UPS doesn't offer any special handling services for fragile shipments. So, the best option is simply to write "Fragile" on the box or to apply some kind of fragile stickers on the sides of your package.

Can I just write the word "Fragile" on my package?

While you can certainly leave a note on your package indicating it should be handled with care, USPS and UPS technically aren't required to follow any handwritten instructions 🙈

The best option is to mark your box as "Fragile," or to apply some sort of sticker that lets USPS and UPS workers know to handle the package with care (but again, they technically aren't required to follow those instructions).

To best protect yourself, we recommend purchasing insurance for fragile packages. That way, you're covered for your full declared value if any of your items break or take damage during transit. Learn more about your options for insurance here.

How to pack fragile items in line with USPS & UPS standards

If you don't pack your fragile items up to USPS or UPS standards, you run the risk of a denied insurance claim if your items break due to insufficient packaging.

Here's what we recommend for packing fragile items:

Start with a new box

New boxes are more able to withstand the pressures of shipping, handling, and all the potential bumps along the way. So, if you can, we suggest using a brand-new, corrugated cardboard box that isn't too large for the item you're sending.

In general, your box size should only be big enough to allow about 1-2 inches of space around the item. You should then fill in that extra space with packing material to protect your item 👍

Protect your item with packing material

Once you’ve got your box, it's up to you to use the right types of packing material to protect your item from breaking during transit. Some examples of these materials are packing peanuts, bubble wrap, foam sheets, and air pillows.

Below are some steps to follow once you have your box and packing material:

  • Line the bottom of the box with plenty of cushioning, such as foam sheets or peanuts

  • Wrap each item you're sending in a few layers of bubble wrap or foam sheets, and tape it together tightly. If you're sending glass, dishes, or artwork, we suggest foam using foam sheets and bubble wrap to be safe 😎

  • Place any larger items on the bottom of the box, add some layers of sheets or peanuts on top of it, and add any smaller items on top of that. When you're done, add in some extra sheets and peanuts on top of everything before you close the box

  • Seal the box with heavy-duty packing tape, and don't be afraid to use a couple of layers. If one side of the package needs to face upwards, mark the side of your box with an arrow pointing in the correct direction. That will let USPS and UPS workers know how to treat your package 👌

Follow the UPS guidelines for packing fragile items

No matter which carrier you're shipping with, the UPS Packaging Advisor provides a good guide to follow when packing your fragile items. The UPS website says:

Each item should be surrounded by at least two inches of sheeting and placed two inches away from the box walls. This prevents product-against-product damage and protects the contents from shock and vibration, which can pass from the outside of the box to the contents. Use enough sheeting to ensure that the contents cannot move when you shake the box.

So, make sure to wrap your items with at least two inches (2") of large bubble wrap and fill up the empty space inside your box with foam sheets or packing peanuts.

Purchase shipping insurance

As we said before, buying shipping insurance is the best way to fully protect yourself in the event that your fragile items break during transit. That said, take extra care to pack your items with plenty of packing material, and follow along with the UPS guidelines above to test whether you packaged it up properly. If you don't, then any insurance claim you submit may be denied.

Have any questions? Use the blue chat button to get in touch with our Support Crew 😃

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