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How to Choose the Best Packing Materials for Your Move

How to Choose the Best Packing Materials for Your Move

For many people preparing to move, the thought of packing can be overwhelming. It’s an unavoidable part of moving and can be a source of major stress.

Packing is time-intensive and disruptive to your normal everyday life. It’s something we want to delay to the last minute and then hurry and get it done.

With some forethought however, the packing process can be streamlined and simplified. The key to easing the burden is making a plan and buying the right packing supplies.

In this post, we’ll dive into the details of different types of packing materials. You’ll learn about specialty boxes and how to save money by choosing the most-efficient box sizes. We explain how to use wraps and fillers and leave you more empowered to conquer the packing process.

Moving Boxes

Packing starts with moving boxes. Moving boxes are the containers your items are transported and stored in. Packing materials are used to wrap, organize, and protect the items placed in the boxes. 

Moving boxes are made of corrugated cardboard. They’re intuitive to assemble and designed to stack and store easily. While standard moving boxes are most common, a wide variety of specialty moving boxes are also available. 

Standard moving boxes are square or rectangular and have no frills. They’re a simple cardboard box with a top, bottom, and four sides.

Specialty moving boxes however, come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and materials. They’re designed for a specific packing scenario and usually cost more than standard boxes. 

For example, TV boxes are specifically designed to store and protect flat panel TVs. They’re made of heavy-duty cardboard and come with foam padding and inserts to protect the TV’s corners and screen. 

They have handles for easy carrying and feature a side-loading design that makes it possible to place the TV in the box without having to lift it. TV boxes are ideal if you're packing your TV yourself without help.

A TV box with convenient features
A TV box with carrying handles and foam inserts for protection. (Credit: Home Depot)

Below is a table of other types of specialty moving boxes, how they are used, and the benefits they offer.

Suggested Use
Key Benefits
Wardrobe boxes
Hanging and storing coats and long dresses.
Enable clothing to be moved without folding and wrinkling. Go straight from the closet to the box.
Dish-pak boxes
Stack and rack bowls, plates, and glassware.
Foam wrapping and fillers designed to protect your most fragile items during transport.
Storage file boxes
Store legal and letter-size file folders.
Lift off lids provide convenient and easy access. Double-corrugated walls for added protection.
Wine boxes
Pack and ship one or multiple wine bottles.
Nestable trays for efficient packing. Molded fiber avoids breakage during shipping.

How to choose moving boxes that are the right size?

Standard moving boxes come in many sizes. It’s a good idea to know which sizes are best for your move for a variety of reasons.

The first reason is protection from breakage. An ideal-sized moving box is one that is large enough to fit your items, but not so large that there’s a lot of empty space around them.

Too much empty space will cause your items to shift, jostle around, and possibly break. To avoid this, fill the box with fillers like packing paper or peanuts. The more space you have to fill, the more filler you’ll need which will drive up your moving costs.

A moving box that is too large
A moving box with too much space around the packed item. (Credit: StockX)
A moving box that is the right size
A moving box with just enough space for packing materials. (Credit: StockX)

Another reason choosing moving boxes that are the right size is a good idea is cost. The larger the box the more it will cost. You can save money by buying boxes that are just the right size for your goods. Use the table below to help choose the box sizes most appropriate for your packing needs.

Approx. Dimensions
Suggested Use
16 x 12 x 12"
Books, candles, tools, small pictures
18 x 18 x 16"
Kitchen items, toys, light clothing
18 x 18 x 24"
Lamp shades, jackets, towels, linens
Extra Large
22 x 22 x 22"
Pillows, blankets, bedding, bulky items

Stretch Wrap

Stretch wrap is one of the most versatile packing materials available. It has many purposes and can be used to protect wooden and glass surfaces, hold moving blankets in place, and wrap pallet loads.

Stretch wrap is widely by professional movers to to protect furniture from damage caused by items rubbing against each during transit. Movers will apply it directly on the surface of your furniture and create a protective barrier that can be counted on to stay in place.

Stretch wrap is a thin plastic film tightly wound into a roll. The roll is attached to a handle where it can unwind as you walk around your furniture. It sticks to itself similar to Saran wrap so no tape is necessary to keep it in place.

Bubble Wrap

Bubble wrap is ideal for packing antiques, glassware, dishes, mirrors, pictures, and other fragile items. 

It can also be used to line and pad the bottoms of your moving boxes. You can also use bubble wrap to cover the corners and legs of tables, chairs, bookshelves to avoid scratches.

Bubble wrap can also be used as a box filler to keep items inside from shifting or getting damaged in transit. To keep your items protected, always wrap items with the bubble side facing the item and the flat side of the wrap facing out. 

If you’re concerned about using extra plastic, there are eco-friendly options available. Enviro-Bubble by U-Haul is 100% recyclable, and biodegradable GreenWrap is a 100% paper-based, recyclable alternative to bubble wrap. 

Packing with Greenwrap (Credit: Mexim)
Packing with Greenwrap (Credit: Mexim)

Packing Paper

Packing paper is a recyclable newsprint-weight paper specifically used to pack fragile items.

Packing paper is soft, smooth, and won’t scratch the surface of the wrapped item. It’s less expensive and more space-efficient than bubble wrap, so you’ll be able to pack more into every box at a lower cost. 

Like bubble wrap, packing paper can be used to pack glassware, dishes, and framed pictures. Use it as a filler to fill in the empty spaces in your moving boxes. 

Packing Peanuts

Packing peanuts are a lightweight solution to fill up boxes and ensure their contents are well-protected.

Because of its small, lightweight construction packing peanuts can be a better solution than paper or bubble wrap for filling empty space in boxes. 

In addition to being lightweight, packing peanuts are absorbent, so they’re ideal for protecting metal and electronics from humidity. 

Make a Packing Plan

Before you get started, make a quick inventory of each room you’ll be packing, and the materials you think you’ll need. 

Decide if there are household supplies that you can re-purpose, and make sure that you’ve got them set aside with your boxes and packing tape before you begin. 

Then you’ll only need to shop for the specialty packing materials you need and won’t be stuck with half a roll of bubble wrap you didn’t need. With a little planning and the right packing materials, your next move may be your easiest move yet.