Shipping Fragile Items 101: How to ship fragile items

Ngoc Lee
Shipping Fragile Items 101: How to ship fragile items
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Shipping fragile items requires special care and attention to prevent damage during handling, transportation, or storage. Fragile items can include a wide range of products, such as glassware, ceramics, electronics, artwork, and musical instruments. Properly shipping these items is crucial for ecommerce businesses to maintain customer satisfaction, minimize return rates, and promote their reputation. Ensuring the right packaging materials, techniques, and labeling are used are key factors in ensuring that delicate goods arrive at their destination intact and in perfect condition.

What are fragile items?

Fragile items refer to objects or products that are delicate, easily breakable, or susceptible to damage during handling, transportation, or storage. These items can vary widely in nature and include, but are not limited to:

  • Glassware
  • Ceramics
  • Electronics
  • Books
  • Artwork
  • Antiques
  • Jewelry
  • Musical Instruments
  • Perishable Goods
  • Plants
  • Fragile Fabrics
  • Bendable Materials
  • Medical Supplies
  • Dangerous Goods

In essence, fragile items encompass anything that requires special care and attention to prevent damage, breakage, or deformation. Handling fragile items involves using appropriate packaging materials, employing gentle handling techniques, and selecting reliable shipping methods to ensure they reach their destination intact.

👉 Read More: What is Cross-border Shipping? A Complete Guide for eCommerce Businesses

Examples of fragile items
Examples of fragile items

Why ecommerce businesses need to be careful when fulfilling fragile items

Ecommerce businesses must be exceptionally cautious when fulfilling fragile items due to several critical reasons:

  • Customer Satisfaction: Any damage during shipping can lead to dissatisfaction, negative reviews, loss of trust, and harm to the brand's reputation. Ensuring fragile items arrive intact is crucial for maintaining high customer satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Risk of Damage: Mishandling or inadequate packaging can result in breakage or deterioration, making items unusable or unsellable. This poses a financial risk as businesses may incur costs for returns, replacements, or refunds.
  • Higher Return Rates: Fragile items are more likely to be returned due to shipping damage. High return rates increase operational costs and disrupt inventory management. Processing returns and restocking inventory impacts profitability and operational efficiency.
  • Reputation Management: Negative experiences with fragile items can escalate into public relations issues. Complaints about damaged shipments can spread quickly online, tarnishing the brand's reputation and deterring potential customers. Maintaining a positive brand image requires preventing damage to fragile items and addressing any issues promptly.
  • Legal Obligations: Ecommerce businesses must comply with consumer protection regulations for shipping fragile items. Failure to meet these obligations can result in fines, penalties, or lawsuits. By taking precautions and implementing best practices, businesses can minimize legal risks and ensure compliance.
Shipping fragile items the right way can increase customer satisfaction
Shipping fragile items the right way can increase customer satisfaction

Overall, the careful fulfillment of fragile items is essential for ecommerce businesses to protect their reputation, minimize financial risks, and maintain high levels of customer satisfaction. By prioritizing proper packaging, handling, and shipping procedures, ecommerce businesses can safeguard fragile items and enhance the overall shopping experience for their customers.

A simple guide on how to pack fragile shipment

The process of packing fragile goods for shipment can be complicated. Below, EFEX’s experts have consolidated the most crucial knowledge and steps you need to best protect your delicate items.

Choose suitable packaging materials

External packaging

The outer packaging materials for fragile items play a vital role in protecting them from damage during transit. Here are some commonly used outer packaging materials:

External Packaging TypeUse CaseExample

Cardboard Boxes

(double-walled, heavy-duty, etc.)

Widely applicable to diverse goods.
Cardboard Boxes

Corrugated Boxes

(boxes with boxes a fluted inner layer sandwiched between two flat layers)

Electronics, delicate machinery, glassware, artwork…
Corrugated Boxes

Padded Envelopes

(with built-in padding made from bubble wrap or foam)

For smaller fragile items such as jewelry or electronic components, etc.
Padded Envelopes
Wooden CratesFor exceptionally fragile or valuable items, such as artwork, antiques, or collectibles.
Wooden Crates

Plastic Containers

(or bins with secure lids)

Electronics, pharmaceuticals, food, sensitive equipment…
Plastic Containers

Internal packaging

Inner packaging materials for fragile items are designed to provide cushioning and protection against shocks, vibrations, and compression during transit. Here are some commonly used inner packaging materials:

Internal Packaging TypeUse CaseExample

Bubble Wrap

(plastic sheets with air-filled bubbles)

Ideal for wrapping delicate items such as glassware, ceramics, electronics, and small appliances.
Bubble Wrap

Foam Padding 

(polyethylene foam or foam peanuts)

Suitable for fragile items with irregular shapes or delicate surfaces, such as artwork, sculptures, electronics, and furniture.
Foam Padding

Packing Paper 

(butcher paper or kraft paper)

Dishes, glassware, porcelain figurines, framed artwork, etc.
Packing Paper

Air Pillows 

(inflatable plastic cushions)

Provide additional cushioning for fragile items such as electronics, small appliances, and delicate decor items.
Air Pillows 

Custom Inserts 

(styrofoam inserts or blocks that can be custom-cut to fit the shape of the fragile item)

Fragile items with unique shapes or delicate components, such as electronics, musical instruments, and scientific equipment.

It is also good for smaller bottles of perfumes, essential oils, etc.

Custom Inserts


(cardboard partitions or foam inserts)

Glassware sets, dishware, collectibles…

Corner Protectors

(typically made from cardboard or foam)

Particularly useful for items with sharp corners or vulnerable edges, such as framed artwork, mirrors, and furniture.
Corner Protectors


Apply proper packing techniques

Cover all the empty space

Ensure that there are no empty spaces within the packaging box by filling them with additional cushioning materials. This prevents items from shifting or moving around during transit, reducing the risk of breakage.

Pay special attention to fragile areas of items, such as corners, edges, or delicate components. Add extra layers of cushioning or padding to these areas to provide additional protection against impacts.

Leave a 6-cm distance

Place items in the center of the box, ensuring they are at least 6 cm away from outer walls and corners. This spacing helps protect items and should be considered when selecting the box size.

Leave a 6-cm distance
Leave a 6-cm distance

Wrap items individually and insert dividers

Begin by wrapping each fragile item individually using protective materials such as bubble wrap, packing paper, or foam padding. This prevents items from coming into direct contact with each other, reducing the risk of damage from rubbing or impact.

Wrap items individually
Wrap items individually

For shipments containing multiple fragile items, consider using dividers or separators within the packaging box to create individual compartments. This helps to keep items separated and immobilized during transit, minimizing the risk of breakage.

Using dividers within the packaging box
Using dividers within the packaging box

Choose a robust packing technique

For delicate items, the box-in-box method is highly recommended. Opt for a secondary outer box that is 14 cm larger than the inner box to ensure additional protection. Double-walled cardboard boxes or corrugated boxes provide superior durability and safety during shipping. If you need to use a single-walled box, ensure it is sufficiently sturdy to bear the weight of its contents. Position the inner box at the center of the outer box, and fill any leftover space with cushioning materials.

Choose a robust packing technique
Choose a robust packing technique

Add special handling labels

Clearly label the package as containing fragile items using easily recognizable fragile stickers or labels. This alerts handlers to exercise caution when handling the package and helps prevent mishandling during transit. It should be noted that any special handling label must be applied by the shipper prior to courier collection.

  • With the “fragile” item sticker or label, the couriers will know that the package must be carefully handled. Applying the label to the top of the package is recommended for easy reference.
  • A “handle with care” label is widely used for delicate items that have high risks of breaking. 
  • Additionally, using a “keep dry” label is common when shipping fragile items, especially perishable goods and electronics.
Add special handling labels
Add special handling labels

Shipping fragile items by product type

Below are generalized guidelines curated by EFEX for shipping various fragile items. It is noteworthy that these guidelines are strictly for reference; the actual process can be quite complicated, and additional precautions are often needed for each specific case. 

Shipping fragile food

ExamplesSuggested Packing GuidelinesLabeling
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Baked goods
  • Dairy products

Food in general:

  • Use bubble wrap, foam inserts, or air pillows for cushioning.
  • Pack individual items separately to prevent them from crushing each other.
  • Place the wrapped items in sturdy containers.
  • Use packing peanuts or paper to fill any voids in the container, preventing movement.

Perishable Items:

  • For perishable items, include gel packs, dry ice, or insulated containers to maintain the required temperature.
  • Fragile
  • Perishable
  • This Side Up
Example of a perishable good package
Example of a perishable good package

Shipping plants and musical instruments

ExamplesSuggested Packing GuidelinesLabeling
  • Plants: Succulents, orchids, bonsai trees
  • Musical Instruments: Violins, guitars, flutes, and other delicate instruments


  • Ensure that plants are adequately watered before shipping. Use moist paper towels around the roots.
  • Secure the plant with stakes or ties. 
  • Wrap the pot in plastic to contain soil and moisture.
  • Use breathable materials for airflow
  • Place the protected plant in a sturdy box covered with cushioning material.

Musical Instruments:

  • Always ship instruments in their hard cases.
  • Add extra padding inside the case around the instrument to prevent movement.
  • Remove and pack detachable parts separately.
  • Place the hard case in a larger shipping box with additional padding around it.
  • Fragile
  • Live Plant (for plants)
  • Handle with Care
Securing the fragile instrument prevents it from moving inside the box
Securing the fragile instrument prevents it from moving inside the box

Shipping bendable items

ExamplesSuggested Packing GuidelinesLabeling
  • Posters and artwork
  • Thin metal sheets
  • Fabric rolls

Posters and Artwork:

  • Roll posters and artwork and place them in sturdy mailing tubes.
  • For framed pieces, use flat boxes with protective corners and cover the artwork with glassine paper.

Thin Metal Sheets:

  • Place metal sheets in rigid envelopes or flat boxes to prevent bending.
  • Use layers of cardboard or foam boards on both sides for additional protection.

Fabric Rolls:

  • Roll the fabric tightly and secure it with bands or ties.
  • Wrap in plastic to protect it from moisture and dirt.
  • Do Not Bend
  • Fragile
  • Top Load Only
Hard cases help protect bendable items
Hard cases help protect bendable items

Shipping Fragile Items with EFEX: The Ultimate Solution

Other Expert Tips from EFEX on Packing Fragile Items

  • Avoid Overloading Your Box: Limit each box to 6–9 fragile items, with each item weighing 5 pounds (2.3 kg) or less. Ensure the weight difference between items is no more than 2 pounds (1 kg) to maintain an even load. Wrap each item in at least three layers of bubble wrap, and use corrugated cardboard dividers for extra protection.
  • Pack Heavier Items Separately: Fragile items weighing over 5 pounds (2.3 kg) but less than 10 pounds (4.5 kg) should be boxed individually. Wrap these items in at least three layers of bubble wrap before packing. Items over 10 pounds (4.5 kg) should be double-boxed: place the bubble-wrapped item in a smaller box filled with packing peanuts, then place that box into a larger one also filled with packing peanuts.
  • Secure the Top: Close the top flaps of the box to compress the packing materials, and secure the seams with packing tape. Place labels on top of the box, avoiding the taped seams.
  • Consider Specialized Shipping Companies: Consider seeking the consultation or services of companies that specialize in shipping fragile items for extra care and expertise for these shipments.
Don’t overlook the tips to properly pack your fragile goods
Don’t overlook the tips to properly pack your fragile goods

Why choose EFEX’s Fragile Item Handling Solutions?

At EFEX, we understand the details involved in shipping fragile goods and offer specialized support to safeguard your items throughout their journey. Businesses should choose EFEX’s Fragile Item Handling Solutions for their proven track record and notable strengths:

  • Market Strength in Vietnam: EFEX is a leading player in the Vietnamese logistics market, providing reliable services for shipments from Vietnam to destinations worldwide (220 countries and territories). 
  • Extensive Partner Network: With a diverse network of partners, including major logistics service providers such as DHL, FedEx, Vietnam Post, GHTK, Viettel Post, etc., and several social e-commerce platforms and marketplaces, EFEX ensures logistical reach and efficiency.
  • Commitment to Service Quality: EFEX strives to achieve excellent service by committing to timely shipments, “right package - right destination” delivery, real-time tracking, and cargo safeguarding.
  • Expertise in Fragile Items: Specializing in the safe handling of fragile items, EFEX employs proven techniques and materials to minimize damage risks. Customers can also rest assured with the explicit compensating policies of EFEX for fragile item shipments.
  • High Customer Satisfaction: With a satisfaction rate of 97%, EFEX demonstrates a strong commitment to customer care and service quality by taking a human-centric approach in all operations. 

👉 Read More: How to international shipping from Vietnam with cheapest cost?

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Shipping fragile items correctly is essential for maintaining high customer satisfaction and reducing financial risks for ecommerce businesses. By using appropriate packaging materials, implementing effective packing techniques, and clearly labeling shipments, you can ensure that delicate items are well-protected during transit. Investing in proper shipping practices not only protects the items but also enhances the overall customer experience, fostering trust and loyalty in your brand. If you are running your ecommerce business and struggling with the complexity of shipping fragile items, EFEX’s experts are here to help!

Ngoc LeeNgoc Lee is an Content Creator Manager at EFEX. She wields her long-term expertise in Logistics and Supply Chain, harnessing her top-notch writing and research skills to bring incredibly valuable content. Whether you're a small startup or a well-established enterprise, Ngoc Lee is here to equip you with the essential knowledge of e-commerce, fulfillment, and all things business-related.