How to Pack and Ship Your Fine China or Glassware

Whether you are moving your heirloom china with you to a new home or sending a beautiful tea set as a gift, you will always want assurance that the items will arrive safely in one piece. Follow these steps for successful packing methods.


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    Select a box that will allow you to pack no more than 10 lbs (about 4.5 kg). In the packing industry, the right size box for china and glassware is often called a "dish pack" barrel, or dish barrel.[1]
    • It is important to keep the size compact because packing too many pieces in a single box makes the box difficult to move, and provides a temptation for movers to put a larger, heavier box at the bottom of a stack when loading into trucks, which can mean that your best china ends up sitting under too much weight.
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    Put cushion foam or packing peanuts at the bottom of the box before adding any wrapped pieces. The box must be crowded with peanuts or foam.
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    Wrap individual items in plain newsprint or bubble wrap. (Avoid printed newspaper as the ink will rub off on whatever is wrapped with it and will not wash off of items with a porous surface.) Wrap each piece separately. If you wrap more than one item per sheet of paper, be sure that no china or glass areas come into contact with other glass or china. Ensure adequate layering and excellent padding around each item - this isn't the time to skimp on wrapping materials.
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    Pack the wrapped items into the box. Arrange the wrapped items in the box, with cushion foam or scrunched-up paper placed between each piece. Ensure that the sides of the objects being packed are at least 1" (2.5cm) away from the edge of the box. Certain items require special attention:
    • For plates, place them on their edge, as they are much stronger packed that way, making certain they do not touch the bottom. Put scrunched up newspaper at the bottom of a box carrying plates, and then slide cardboard, bubble wrap, or foam between them. It is recommended to wrap each plate in a few sheets of paper to keep them well padded and to prevent them from coming into contact with each other.
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    • Wrap the lids of items such as sugar bowls, teapots, and casserole dishes separately from the main portion. If the lid is very small, gently tape it in place after wrapping both pieces so it will not be lost. Then wrap the item as a single unit.
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    • Make a set of inside spacers from cardboard to keep your glassware separated. Doing this can save them from being broken. Also, heavier glasses should be packed on the bottom, with lighter, more fragile glasses placed on top.
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    Fill in all the empty areas of the box with foam, scrunched-up paper, or packing peanuts. This will prevent the items from moving around or shifting inside the box.
    • Check for movement. If there is any movement, add more stuffing to prevent it.
    • If you are using a shipper such as FedEx or UPS, use double boxing with packing peanuts to fill empty space between the outer and inner boxes.
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    Tape or shut the lid firmly. Even if the lid has a special shutting mechanism, it pays to tape over it to prevent accidental opening during transit. Write "FRAGILE" and "THIS WAY UP" on the sides and top of the box. It is also a good idea to note the exact contents of the box, such as "glassware", or "china plates", etc.
    • Check for the potential for indentation. If the box can be compressed in any way from items placed on it, this pressure can damage the contents. If you can press the lid in, add more stuffing to stop it from being compressed.


  • Almost every large sized city has packing materials suppliers and the pricey office supply or other shipping specialists do not beat their prices. Sometimes you can find a gift shop or other retailer who receives large amounts of bubble wrap and packing peanuts who will gladly pass some on to you for nothing. Visit your local mall and ask retailers in advance.
  • If possible, select a "double wall" or "multi-layer" carton for your china and glassware packing boxes - these are the strongest and most resilient kinds for fragile items.
  • Be sure to write "Fragile" or "this side up" (with an arrow pointing up) on boxes to which these messages apply. Do it as you pack, you'll not remember everything after the fact.
  • Pet stores often receive shipments of fish in Styrofoam containers which can be used for your packing needs. Check around, ask the manager. Chances are they'll give them away.
  • When packing glassware, especially stemware and other delicate glass, wrap each piece in a couple layers of plain tissue paper as well. It will keep the items cleaner, and give an extra layer of protection to fragile items.
  • It takes LOTS of boxes, and LOTS of packing materials. Try your local liquor store for moving boxes, those boxes are sturdy, and you can hardly get enough in them to make them too heavy---unless you're packing books! Note that the U.S. Postal Service does not accept shipments packed in beer, wine, or liquor boxes, so all labeling must be thoroughly blacked out or covered, or the box must be turned inside out if you plan to ship your items via USPS.
  • If you are not comfortable trying this on your own, hire a professional service to pack and ship your items.
  • While newspaper is fine to use, it will often leave black marks, forcing you to wash all of your dishes on arrival. It will also leave your hands covered in ink smudges as you wrap. Using blank packing paper can alleviate this, if preferred.
  • When packing for a move, keep a 3 x 3 sticky-note pad handy as you pack. When an item(s) goes in the box, write it on a sticky-note. When the box is full & you've sealed it, stick the note(s) to one corner on the top of the box. Using a couple strips of 2" clear tape, secure & seal the note to the box. That way you can find things MUCH more easily once you've moved. You have to write down EVERY item as it goes in the box, and be specific---NOT "old dish" but "Grandma Bell's blue platter"---to be sure to locate things quickly.


  • Finials and handles break easily. Use plenty of padding around them. And turn cup handles towards the inside of the box.
  • Even with the most careful packing job, breakage can occur. Inquire about insurance from the shipper and estimate the replacement value of the items. Keep very good records, including photographs, for your own assurance.
  • Anywhere that china can collide with china is a potential crack or chip.
  • Make sure dishes are clean before packing them. If they sit around in storage for a while, food particles can grow into mildew and mold, or can attract pests.

Things You'll Need

  • Boxes
  • Foam cushion sheets
  • Styrofoam
  • Packing foam peanuts
  • Bubblewrap
  • Packing tape
  • Newspaper
  • Cardboard

Sources and Citations

Article Info

Categories: Moving House and Packing | Tableware