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Types of Protective Packaging for Shipping


Materials are shipped out on a daily basis. Their parcels and packages are the containers that carry them from here to there, but they should not be mistaken for protective packaging. Protective packaging is designed purposely to shield mailed items from any physical harm and damage. In transport, packages are subject to dropping, rough handling and movement from vehicles, making them prone to damage.

But damage doesn’t have to be tolerated, and there are various types of protective packaging that can help including: packing peanuts, padded divider sets, bubble bags, packing foam and packing paper. Learn the differences between all these packing products and how and when to use each one.

What Are the Different Types of Protective Packaging?

Packing Peanuts

Packing peanuts are also called foam peanuts, and although a foam-based product, these Styrofoam®pieces belong to a category of their own. Packing peanuts resemble the shape of a peanut within its shell but are close to unshelled peanuts in size. Here’s a little bit more about this type of protective packaging:

  • Packing peanuts are included with items in bunches.
  • They serve as a filler to protect fragile items.
  • They make use of empty space and closely surround the items they protect.
  • They are commonly included in cardboard boxes.
  • They create a cushioning effect.
  • They can be used for holding nails in place, as well as other unique applications.

Padded Divider Sets

Padded divider sets are padded compartmentalized boxes used to organize shipped items. They feature an all-over padded surface on their bodies and include padded covers for extra protection.

Although these types of packaging come in various sizes, here are some helpful things to remember about them:

  • They are best suited for holding smaller objects.
  • They can offer optimal protection when mailing out a collection of items.
  • They are divided by little walls, or three-dimensional compartments.
  • Padded divider sets help ship two incompatible things in one package.
  • Rather than spend money on two packages, these allow you include the two opposing things into a single divider set.

Bubble Bags

Bubble bags, also called bubble wrap bags, are a type of packaging composed of bubble wrap. While bubble wrap can take many forms, bubble bags are the most prominent one. These are bag-like formations constructed of continuous, little air-filled sacs that cushion items wrapped in it. Here are some other things to keep in mind about bubble bags:

  • They are also available in roll form for wrapping items.
  • The folder-shaped ones include an adhesive strip to make mailing easy.
  • They offer the dual benefit of protection and packaging.
  • It takes great amounts of energy and pressure to pop enough bubbles to render a mailed item unsafe.

Packaging Foam

Packaging foam is the largest protective packaging category. It includes a wide variety of products that can be shaped and cut into whichever form is best suited for a particular item. When items are encased in packaging foam, they are better protected from accidents. Unlike packing peanuts, packaging foam tends to be denser and is much larger in size. Here are some good things to know:

  • There is no definitive shape for packaging foam.
  • Popular types include sheets, sponge rolls, foam rolls and egg crates.
  • Packaging foam is more diverse in its makeup, so there is rarely one standard material.
  • It can be wrapped individually to one’s preference along with a particular item.
  • This protective packaging category is measured by firmness.
  • It can be customized for the level of protection needed in a particular product.

Packing Paper

Packing paper is a specialized paper used as a protective packaging method. It is far more dense and sturdy than average paper used for writing, and it can take the form of butcher paper, kraft paper and other kinds. It is typically available as rolls. Here’s some more information on packing paper:

  • Kraft and butcher paper are two subtypes.
  • It was originally created for storing meat and fish.
  • It currently is used to protect a variety of packaged goods.
  • Packing paper should be accompanied by tape or some kind of adhesive to keep it in place.
  • In the case of silverware and china, it should be wrapped generously to prevent any damages.
  • When using large volumes, adhesives become more optional.

Choosing the Right Protective Packaging

Packing Peanuts Padded Divider Sets Bubble Bags Packaging Foam Packing Paper

Made of

Polystyrene foam or biodegradable content like corn starch

Polystyrene foam or plastic


Polyurethane or polyethylene

Best for

Electronics, glass, metals and easily breakable items

Jewelry, watches, beads and small food pouches

Small jewelry, books, stationary and documents

Dishes, fine china, hard drives, cameras, lenses, microphones, heavy industrial machine parts and music recording devices

Dishes, glass, art supplies and small items

Protect Your Property

In moving and shipping supplies, protective packaging is a must. There is no universal type of packaging that can be used across the product spectrum, and the five main types cover most applications. But using the right protective packaging is crucial, and can mean the difference between a safe and intact shipment and a destroyed one.




Boxes & Shipping

Shipping Boxes

Standard Shipping Boxes

Envelopes & Mailers

Envelopes & Mailers

Protective Packaging

Protective Packaging

Packaging Tape

Packaging Tape

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.