Updated On

June 2, 2023

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    Your big move is upon you, and you’re getting ready to pack up your belongings and take the plunge. So, what kind of packaging materials are the best for keeping your belongings safe? 

    Many of us consider what kind of packaging materials to use when moving our belongings, but we may be misusing them, which can lead to more broken belongings. Few things are more frustrating than opening a box with your favorite dishes and finding several pieces smashed. To help you avoid this, we’ve put together the following list of the seven best packaging materials and how to use them. 

    7 of the Best Packaging Materials

    Packing Paper

    When to Use Packing Paper

    Packing paper, also known as wrapping paper, is one of the most popular packaging materials for novices and experts alike. It’s easy to use, affordable, and a more eco-friendly option because it’s biodegradable. 

    Some people also use newspapers in place of packing paper when they are packing their belongings. However, you’ll want to keep in mind that newspaper is thinner than packing paper and can bleed ink onto your belongings. You don’t want your nice white dishes to have dark ink marks from the newspaper. 

    Pros & Cons


    • Eco-friendly, biodegradable
    • Can pack almost anything
    • Cost-effective
    • Ideal for fragile items


    • You need to use a lot of it for the best protection
    • Won’t protect items from breakage if your box is roughly tossed around

    How to Use Packing Paper

    • Use a generous amount of packing paper to wrap your fragile items securely. 
    • Create tight balls of packing paper and use them to fill in the remaining spaces in your boxes so your items don’t bounce around. The less your items can move around, the less likely they will be to break during the move. 
    • Stack plates upright and side by side, like you would organize a record collection. 
    • Add cushion between every plate and bowl, such as clothing, bubble wrap, or packing peanuts for extra protection. 
    • Use packing tape to keep the packing paper tightly wrapped around your items. 

    Trash Bags

    When to Use Trash Bags for Packing

    Trash bags can be a quick packaging solution for collecting and packing items that don’t need to be delicately packed. 

    Consider using trash bags for items like clothes, linens, and towels. These linen-filled trash bags make for great cushions in boxes or when you’re packing up a moving pod or truck. We have a guide to help you choose affordable moving pods and truck rentals. We also recommend placing any liquids, like shampoos, alcohol, vinegar, or body wash, in trash bags or Ziploc bags to prevent them from spilling and ruining other items during your move. 

    When you reach your new home, they can easily be reused as trash bags for the kitchen or for cleaning up debris. 

    Pros & Cons


    • Quick way to pack up soft belongings
    • Protects your other items from liquid spills
    • Reusable


    • An expensive option, especially if you choose heavy-duty contractor bags
    • Won’t protect fragile items

    How to Use Trash Bags for Packing

    • Collect items that don’t need to be packed carefully. 
    • Sort items into liquid, linen, and other categories. 
    • You should place liquid items together to protect your other items from spills.
    • Pack linens inside the bags together to create padded trash bags that you can use to pack and secure more fragile boxes for your move. 
    • Choose heavy-duty contractor trash bags because they have the biggest capacity and are more durable.
    • Place items inside trash bags and tie them tightly before placing them in a moving truck or moving pod. 
    • Reuse trash bags upon arrival for collecting trash. 


    When to Use Clothing for Packing

    Clothing is an excellent packaging material that you can use during your move. Not only will you kill two birds with one stone by packing your clothing and other items together, but you’ll save money by not needing to purchase additional packaging materials. 

    Clothing is an affordable and eco-friendly packaging material that we strongly recommend using. However, you should skip using thin or delicate clothing to pack your belongings because the move could ruin your clothing. Stick with thick sweaters, hoodies, sweatpants, and other clothing items that can hold up during the move. 

    The biggest downside to using clothing to pack items is that you’ll need more boxes because clothing takes up more space than other packing materials. 

    Pros & Cons


    • Free packing material
    • Packs your clothes and other items simultaneously
    • Easy to pack with


    • May damage clothing
    • Takes up more space than packing paper or bubble wrap

    How to Use Clothing for Packing

    • Pad the interior of your boxes with thick clothing items. 
    • Place fragile items in the middle of your sweatshirts or hoodies or inside the pant leg of thick pants. 
    • Wrap the clothing around the item to thoroughly pad it, then wrap it in another piece of clothing before placing it inside the box. 
    • Only use thick, durable clothing items for packing with clothing to avoid ruining your clothes. 

    Bubble Wrap 

    When to Use Bubble Wrap for Packing

    Bubble wrap is excellent for wrapping fragile items, such as dishes, mirrors, and pictures. However, you must combine it with other packing materials, such as packing peanuts or packing paper, which will fill in the gaps and remaining spaces in your boxes. If you only use bubble wrap, you’re liable to have items shift when you’re moving, resulting in breakage. 

    Unfortunately, bubble wrap is not a sustainable packing material because it’s hard to save and reuse. Another downside is that it can be very expensive, so we recommend saving bubble wrap for your most fragile items. If you have a few months before your move, consider keeping bubble wrap and other packing supplies from any online shopping you do.  

    Pros & Cons


    • Pads inside of cardboard boxes well
    • Protects fragile items well, especially in combination with packing peanuts or other packaging materials
    • Fills up empty space in boxes


    • More expensive
    • Can’t be used on its own

    How to Use Bubble Wrap for Packing

    Bubble wrap usually comes in rolls and will vary with small to large bubbles. Most of the time, bubble wrap is serrated every 12 inches so that you can tear it quickly. We recommend small bubble wrap for your fragile items. 

    • Wrap items with the bubble side facing inwards for optimal protection during your move. 
    • Choose bigger bubbles when wrapping large and heavy items, such as electronics, vases, or sculptures.
    • Stack dishes on their edges, and never flat.
    • Fill in the remaining spaces in your boxes with packing paper or packing peanuts to prevent your items from being jostled around. 
    • Consider reinforcing the inside of the moving boxes with bubble wrap or styrofoam for containers holding your most fragile items. 
    • Use packing time to secure the bubble wrap tightly around your item. 

    Shredded Paper 

    When to Use Shredded Paper for Packing

    Shredded paper, also called crinkle paper, is easy to pack with and a mostly eco-friendly packing choice. One of the most significant benefits of shredded paper is that it’s lightweight, so it will add very little weight to your boxes when you’re packing your items. We particularly like using shredded paper between heavy items to make the box more manageable to move. 

    Shredded paper comes in many sizes and colors. If you have time before moving, consider saving any shredded paper you may receive in packages. You can also make your own shredded paper by tearing up old newspapers, papers, and magazines. 

    Pros & Cons


    • Affordable option
    • Recyclable
    • Easy to use
    • Doesn’t make your boxes heavier


    • You’ll need to use another material, like bubble wrap or packing paper, to wrap fragile items

    How to Use Shredded Paper for Packing

    • Create a shredded paper lining along the box’s walls to insulate the box. 
    • Place shredded paper between each item, especially fragile items, to prevent them from rubbing up against each other. 
    • Fill your boxes up completely with shredded paper so that there are no gaps or pockets left. 

    Packing Peanuts

    When to Use Packing Peanuts for Packing

    Packing peanuts are undoubtedly the most frustrating packaging material when you are unboxing your belongings later on. However, they are unmatched with their ability to fill in every nook and cranny, protecting your valuables from harm during the moving process. 

    In addition to this, they protect items from humidity because they will absorb most of the moisture. This feature makes them great for packing electronics and metal items, which are at a higher risk of damage in humid weather. Other heavier items, like auto parts or easily scratched kitchenware, can benefit from packing peanuts’ volume and size.

    Pros & Cons


    • Protects items from humidity
    • Fills all nooks and crannies in packing boxes
    • Comes in many sizes and shapes


    • Can’t be used alone
    • Breaks easily
    • Not eco-friendly

    How to Use Packing Peanuts for Packing

    • Start by assessing how many bags of packing peanuts you’ll need to fill your moving boxes. Choose boxes that are larger than what you are packing, then purchase your packing peanuts based on the size of your boxes. 
    • Choose a different packing material, such as clothing or bubble wrap, to wrap your belongings. 
    • Fill the box with a layer of packing peanuts, place the item in the box, then fill around the item. 
    • Place all wrapped items in the moving box, and fill in the remaining space with packing peanuts. 

    Plastic Stretch Wrap

    When to Use Plastic Stretch Wrap for Packing

    Plastic stretch wrap is similar to Saran wrap but comes in various widths and thicknesses so that you can quickly wrap your furniture or more oversized items. 

    We recommend using plastic wrap to tightly wrap pallets or furniture with drawers, such as your nightstand or dresser. While plastic stretch wrap is best known for covering furniture with drawers, you can use it for packing almost anything. It’s also helpful for securing organizers and trays, like cutlery trays, makeup trays, and utensil trays, so you don’t have to remove everything in the tray for your move. 

    If you use plastic stretch wrap to wrap small breakable items, make sure that you use it alongside other packaging materials, like packing peanuts. Don’t place items loosely in a box with only plastic wrap to protect them. Otherwise, you’ll end up with broken items. 

    Pros & Cons


    • Great for wrapping large items like furniture
    • Saves you time because you don’t need to take everything out of your drawers or trays 
    • Quick and easy to use
    • Versatile


    • Needs to be used with other packaging options, like packing peanuts, if you’re using it for smaller items
    • May need to remove items from drawers if the furniture is too heavy to move

    How to Use Plastic Stretch Wrap for Packing

    • Stretch wrap can be used for many things, but it’s ideal for wrapping furniture with drawers so that the drawers don’t open during your move. Tightly wrap furniture with several layers of plastic wrap to secure it. 
    • Secure plastic stretch wrap with packing tape once it’s wrapped around your furniture or items. 
    • Don’t remove items from drawers if you’re using plastic wrap unless the furniture will be too heavy to move with full drawers. 
    • Wrap cutlery trays or other organizers with plastic wrap to secure loose items in trays. 
    • Use plastic wrap to tether multiple long loose items, like mops, brooms, or poles together. 
    • You can use plastic wrap in place of bubble wrap for wrapping fragile items. Use several layers of plastic stretch wrap to keep these items unbroken. 
    • Wrap soft furniture, like chairs and couches, in plastic wrap to keep the edges from being dinged up. 

    Final Thoughts

    With the suitable packaging materials and know-how, you can neatly pack your belongings up and rest easy knowing that they are properly secured and will arrive unbroken to your new home. 

    Before you pack your belongings, take a quick inventory of your items. Create a list with everything you’re moving to double-check that everything makes it to your new home. Then begin collecting boxes and moving containers before choosing what packaging materials you’ll need for which items. Consider your budget for the move. If you are on a tight budget, avoid expensive packing materials, like bubble wrap, or use it sparingly for delicate items. Use items you have on hand, like thick clothing or blankets, to pad your boxes and wrap your belongings. 

    If you have some time before your move, stockpile packaging materials from online shopping or Amazon orders. Consider asking your local UPS or FedEx if they have any boxes or packaging materials they’re getting rid of. 

    Editorial Contributors
    Lora Novak

    Lora Novak

    Senior Editor

    Lora Novak meticulously proofreads and edits all commercial content for Today’s Homeowner to guarantee that it contains the most up-to-date information. Lora brings over 12 years of writing, editing, and digital marketing expertise. She’s worked on thousands of articles related to heating, air conditioning, ventilation, roofing, plumbing, lawn/garden, pest control, insurance, and other general homeownership topics.

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    Andrew Dunn

    Senior Editor

    Andrew Dunn is a veteran journalist with more than 15 years of experience reporting and editing for local and national publications, including The Charlotte Observer and Business North Carolina magazine. His work has been recognized numerous times by the N.C. Press Association and the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. He is also a former general contractor with experience with cabinetry, finish carpentry and general home improvement and repair. Andrew earned a degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as well as a certificate in business journalism. He lives in Charlotte, N.C.

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