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Guide to Protective Packaging and Void Fill

6/4/21
Grainger Editorial Staff

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Protective packaging and void fill can help make the shipping process safer and can help reduce damage to contents caused by falls, shifting and impacts. However, protective packaging and void fill serve specific purposes. Deciding between protective packaging, void fill or a combination of both depends on what you are shipping, how you ship it and other special shipping requirements. Choosing the right packaging and void fill can lead to fewer damaged items and happier customers.

Protective Packaging and Void Fill: What's the Difference?

Protective packaging is designed to take the impact of a fall or crush and keep products from breaking. It cushions products with multiple layers of bubble wrap or foam. Protective packaging is not designed to prevent shifting or fill voids in packages. Specialized protective packaging can also offer temperature, humidity, static and corrosion resistance for items with specific transit requirements, such as metals or electronics.

Void fill fits into gaps between a box and its contents, preventing shifting during transit. Void fill is usually made of paper, but can also consist of packing peanuts or air pillows. Void fill is not designed to protect items in transit, and should not be used to protect fragile items from damage. Fragile items should be wrapped in protective packaging before void fill is used.

How to Choose Between Protective Packaging and Void Fill 

According to Engineering 360, key characteristics can help you choose what type of protective packaging or void fill to use:

Size and Shape Objects that fit squarely in a box or mailer may not need any void fill, but can still benefit from protective packaging. However, objects with unusual shapes or room between the box and its contents may need both protective packaging and void fill to close gaps. Custom foam packaging such as instant foam can also reduce the need for void fill by exactly filling around and fully cushioning an item.

Number of Items One larger package may need just bubble wrap and packing peanuts. Multiple items can benefit from purpose-built packaging such as padded dividers that securely keep items separate in transit. Void fill may not be ideal when shipping several small items at once, as it can make it harder to find items in a box on arrival. 

Fragile Contents Because void fill is not designed to protect fragile items in transit, protective packaging may also be needed to prevent damage. Protective packaging can help reduce damage depending on the type and amount of packaging used. Combined with void fill, protective packaging can help absorb shifts and falls.

Shipping Method and Distance Items delivered directly to customers may need limited protective packaging or paper void fill to limit shifting and damage during shipping. However, items shipped long distances may need additional packaging to protect the contents from normal bumps and falls in trucks, planes and ships. Across longer distances, more protective packaging and more secure void fill can help prevent serious damage.

Temperature or Humidity Sensitivity Items that require transit at specific temperatures or without significant humidity variation need protective packaging that is designed to maintain conditions. Temperature-controlled packaging can keep products at a specific temperature range for a certain amount of time during shipping. Humidity-controlled packaging can prevent moisture intrusion or release during transition for products that require a specific humidity, such as food or medicines. Void fill is not designed to provide temperature or humidity resistance. 

Static Damage Some electronics cannot be exposed to static electricity in transit, which can damage or destroy components. Anti-static packaging helps eliminate static electricity before it can damage your products. Anti-static void fill can also be used to reduce static buildup in transit, and can be used with anti-static packaging to further reduce the risk of static shock.

Corrosion prevention. Metal materials can corrode in transit when exposed to water, air or other chemicals. Corrosion-inhibiting packaging can wrap products and prevent corrosion. Void fill is not designed to prevent metal corrosion.

Get more KnowHow on how to choose the right kind of protective packaging.

The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.

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