How to safely package: liquids

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Sending any item in the post or with a courier is always an act of trust. You hear so many tales of parcels arriving battered and falling apart, that it’s hardly surprising that so many courier companies have such bad reputations. Of course, it’s never as bad as the stories you hear, or the ones you read about on review sites – most people only review couriers when something goes wrong.

Nevertheless, those worries are understandable and they increase dramatically when you need to send something breakable. And as for when that breakable thing contains liquids…

The first thing that has to be said is that no liquid or bottle packaging system can be guaranteed to be successful 100% of the time. But follow the advice in this blog and you’ll have the best possible chance of getting your product to your customer in one piece.

The outer box
Quite simply, the outer carton needs to be strong enough so that under normal conditions it won’t crush or cave in. Single wall boxes tend to have a weight guide of about 10 kilos, while double wall boxes can usually hold up to about 30kg. As well as allowing the box to hold more weight, that extra layer of board gives real strength to the whole carton, reducing the risk of the box being crushed significantly, so it’s something worth giving serious consideration to.

Naturally, if you’re mailing a single bottle, you’ll need to balance the extra cost of a double wall box against the price of your product, but if you can afford the small amount more, it will definitely give you extra peace of mind.

Internal protection
Adding some kind of soft, cushioning protection around your bottle is essential. It is possible to buy postal boxes with a specially shaped pulp moulding, but you can do just as well with a good bit of bubble wrap. You’ll be best using the version with the large bubbles, otherwise just wrap the normal kind round maybe three or four times. Another good idea is wrapping some corrugated paper around the bottle.

When you’re sending multiple bottles in one parcel, you’ll naturally want to make sure they’re not going to rattle against each other. Wrapping them all individually in bubble wrap or corrugated paper is one solution, but that’s going to bulk up the contents quite considerably. Cardboard dividers put a layer of corrugated cardboard around each bottle to hold it steady and reduce the risk of them bumping together and breaking every time the parcel is moved.

Most suppliers will be able to sell you boxes and dividers separately, so that you have to insert them yourself ready for dispatch. If you’re sending out large volumes, however, and speed is of the essence, you can also get bottle boxes with a crash lock base and the dividers already glued in – so that when you unfold the flat packed carton, it automatically takes shape with dividers in place, all ready to be packed immediately.

‘Fragile’ or ‘Glass: Handle With Care’ shipping labels may be like a red rag to the occasional courier bull, but for the vast majority of the time, it’s a low cost and obvious way of drawing attention to the fact that your parcel needs to be treated even more gently than usual.

Should the worst happen…
As stated earlier in this blog, accidents and disasters will occasionally happen. If a parcel containing liquid does get broken, one natural consequence is that there is a very good chance that lots of other people’s parcels will also suffer. That counts double when you’re shipping liquids which could cause real damage if spilt – things like bleach, acid or inflammable liquids.

There is a range of specialised packaging approved by the UN which has been designed to deal with the transport of hazardous goods, and included in this is a special kind of loose fill called ‘vermiculite’. Not only does it provide protection to any contents, it is also capable of absorbing up to four times its own weight in liquid, so that in the event of a breakage, most of the liquid is soaked up before any further damage is done.

Like any packaging problem, finding the right means of safely sending liquids to a customer needs the right combination of planning, common sense and advice from packaging professionals. Every year sees more and more specialised solutions developed to help internet retailers with the increasing variety of products now sold online, so it can be worthwhile spending time carefully examining your options to find the right solutions with the best deals.

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Rick Stanford

Rick has been a salesman in the packaging supplies business for more than thirty years. Now semi-retired, he divides his time between tending his allotment in north Devon, getting depressed at the continuing travails of his home-town football club Macclesfield Town, and sharing his considerable experience and knowledge with the readers of the Davpack blog. Davpack

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