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How to Pack China and Other Fragile Items

a young girl cuts paper with scissors to wrap porcelain dishes
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They say nothing beats the stress of moving, and figuring out how to transport fragile items like china and crystal to your new home without damaging them is among the most nerve-wracking parts. But there are a few tips and tricks you can use when deciding how to pack china (that professional movers use every day!). With the right preparation and materials, you’ll find that packing china, mugs, glassware, and other fragile items is a breeze.

How to pack your china and glassware in 4 simple steps

  1. Line a box with shock-absorbent material, such as bubble wrap.
  2. Wrap each item individually in packing paper, then group similar items together and wrap them in an additional layer of packing material.
  3. Alternate layers of wrapped items with additional shock-absorbent material.
  4. Tape the box securely shut and label it with the contents.

Step 1: Line a box with shock-absorbent material, such as bubble wrap.

Before packing any china or fragile items, you’ll need to first set up your box. Medium-sized moving boxes are the perfect size for packing fragile items efficiently. Close one side of the box with at least three pieces of clear packing tape to prevent the bottom from falling out. Then, line the bottom of the box with a thick cushioning material, like bubble wrap or a few dishtowels.  

Note: Try not to use a recycled box to pack your breakables. Instead, use a new box that’s crisp and sturdy. Recycled boxes might not be up to the task of protecting valuable items, and could easily break.

What you’ll need for this step:

Step 2: Wrap each item individually in packing paper, then group similar items together and wrap them in an additional layer of packing material.

Use packing paper to wrap each item individually by rolling it and tucking the excess paper into any crevices. Use a small piece of clear tape to hold the paper securely in place. When packing similar items (such as sets of plates or bowls), stack the individually wrapped pieces on top of one another and wrap them with more packing material. You can use packing paper for this purpose, but we recommend cushioning foam wrap for even better protection. Use another small piece of tape to hold everything together.

What you’ll need for this step:

Step 3: Alternate layers of wrapped items with additional shock-absorbent material.

Begin placing wrapped items in the bottom of the box. Once you have a layer of wrapped china and glassware, put down an additional generous layer of cushioning material before adding more items. You can use crinkle paper, packing peanuts, and cushioning air pillows – or some combination of the above – for these supportive, shock-absorbing layers. 

What you’ll need for this step:

Step 4: Tape the box securely shut and label it with the contents.

Once you’ve filled a box with layers of wrapped pieces and insulation, place more bubble wrap on top and tape the box shut with sturdy packing tape. Finally, make sure you label each box clearly with its contents before it makes its way to the truck.

Don’t forget to write “FRAGILE” in big block letters on top of the box, so that a mover doesn’t inadvertently mishandle your valuables. Moving box labels with color codes for each room can help you stay more organized and expedite the unpacking process. 

What you’ll need for this step:

Packing pro tips

 Packing plates and bowls

  • Pro-tip #1: Stack matching sets of individual wrapped plates and bowls on top of one another, then wrap them together with a thicker material, like packing foam.
  • Pro-tip #2: Place flatter items like plates at the bottom of the box, saving the top for fragile and oddly-shaped items such as china and glassware. 

Packing wine glasses

  • Pro-tip #1: Wrap wine glasses by rolling them individually in packing paper, then tucking any excess paper into the bowl of the glass.
  • Pro-tip #2: Fill the bowl of each wine glass with additional packing material if necessary.

Packing mugs

  • Pro-tip #1: Like wine glasses, mugs should first be wrapped in packing paper with excess tucked into the inner part of the mug.
  • Pro-tip #2: Don’t be afraid to protect mug handles with small pieces of bubble wrap before wrapping them in packing paper. 

Packing unusually shaped objects (like figurines and statues)

  • Pro-tip #1: For particularly fragile unusually shaped objects, stick to thicker packing materials like foam instead of packing paper. Thicker materials will better conform to the object, cushioning it when it’s jostled.
  • Pro-tip #2: Place larger items in moving boxes first, then fill the space around them with smaller items. Just make sure to leave enough room for an extra layer of padding on all sides.

The bottom line

Figuring out how to pack china for a move is like putting a very fragile puzzle together. As a general rule, you should always start with sturdier items at the bottom and carefully place more fragile and unusually shaped items toward the top, increasing the amount of packing materials as you go. With careful packing and gentle handling of boxes, your fragile items will make it to your new home without a scratch.

Frequently asked questions

How do I pack crystal without breaking it?

Learning how to pack fragile items like crystal involves carefully wrapping items individually and filling bowls and crevices with extra packing materials. Label any boxes that contain crystal as fragile so that they can be handled carefully and placed towards the top of the truck.

What do I need to pack china?

When deciding how to pack china, you’ll need a few essential supplies like packing paper, tape, foam wrap, and additional packing materials (such as foam peanuts or bubble wrap).

How do I label boxes that contain fragile items?

Moving boxes that contain fragile items should be marked with the contents, the room the box is intended for, and a clear warning that items inside are breakable. Moving box labels can help movers quickly identify boxes and handle them appropriately.

What size boxes should I use to pack china and crystal?

Medium-sized moving boxes are ideal for packing fragile items such as china and crystal. These boxes are large enough to pack items effectively, but not so big that you’ll risk breakage within the box.

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