Pack Your Breakables, China, and Art Like a Pro

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Fine art, glassware, china, and other antiques can easily be damaged during the moving process if they aren’t properly packed and carefully handled. How do you ensure that these delicate items arrive at your new place in tip-top shape? Whether you’re packing up Grandma’s old china or even just a few wine glasses, we have a few pro tips to help keep your fragile possessions safe during the move.

1. Create an inventory

When preparing for a move, the first thing you should do is sit down and create a list of all your delicate, valuable, or meaningful possessions. Take photographs of each item, and don’t forget to document any specific details or condition issues. Should anything break or go missing during the move, this inventory list will make it easier to file a claim with your insurance company.

2. Invest in the right boxes

Not all moving boxes are created equal. Make sure you choose the right box for the right items. For dishes, plates, and glasses, choose a dish pack or a kitchen box with double-walled construction to protect and cushion breakable items. Use a mirror box to pack framed pictures, glass table tops, and mirrors. There are specialty boxes for all sorts of items – if you invest in the right box, you’re making sure your valuable items get transported correctly and arrive in one piece.


3. And the right packing materials

We recommend collecting all of these before you get started on your fragile items:

  • bubble wrap
  • tape
  • extra pieces of cardboard
  • extra pieces of paper
  • all the specialty boxes you bought for your valuables
  • packing paper
  • scissors
  • packing tape
  • markers or “FRAGILE” tape

Try to designate a table or a space of floor as your “packing area” and make sure the surface is clean. You want a level, sturdy area to guarantee your fragile items are packed well the first time.

4. Label your boxes

When your fragile items are all safely packed, make sure to label each box with your name, the contents, and a vertical arrow pointing toward the top of the item to indicate that the box should not be loaded on its side. Don’t forget that the words “FRAGILE” or “HANDLE WITH CARE” should be displayed prominently on at least two adjacent sides of each box.


Here are some tips for packing individual types of breakables or valuables:

How to Pack Glassware

Wrap glasses individually with packing paper, plain newsprint, or bubble wrap. Secure the wrapping with a small strip of Scotch tape so it stays in place. Remember, glasses and delicate stemware are best protected from damage when they’re packed in boxes that are divided into individual cells, like this one:

Photo from Moving Insider

While unpacking, you might be tempted to crowd your cabinets with as many glasses as possible, but it’s best to allow some wiggle room to let your glasses breathe. This will prevent scratches, as well as any accidental breakages.

Packing Fine China

If you’re packing different kinds of fine china or dishes, start by grouping like items together – plates with plates, bowls with bowls, cups with cups, saucers with saucers, and so on. Neatly wrap each item with tissue paper, keeping them organized by type and size. Use Scotch tape, rather than packing tape, to secure the tissue paper. Packing tape is very strong and can easily rip right through the tissue paper.


Once the pieces are wrapped with tissue paper, wrap each piece with bubble wrap, covering every exposed area. You should no longer be able to feel the china underneath the padding.

If you’re packing plates or dishes, you can stack them, but don’t forget, plates are heavy, and you shouldn’t stack more than 5 at a time. If they’re light and small like saucers or bread plates, you can stack up to 6. Use your best judgment here!

Moving Vintage Photographs

To keep those old photographs in pristine condition during the move, it’s important to protect them from light as much as possible. Prolonged exposure to sunlight can cause fading and loss of sheet integrity.

If your photographs are unframed, it’s best to store them in archival storage materials or a dark container, such as a solander box. Make sure all materials are labeled “acid free” when looking to purchase scrapbooks, photo albums, filing cabinets, and any other packing or storage materials.

Packing Fine Art

Finger oils can damage artwork by leaving smudges and oily residue, so try and handle artwork as little as possible. When handling prints or works on paper, you can greatly reduce the risks of creases, bends, or smudges by carrying the piece by the top two corners, or by supporting the work from underneath, rather than pinching it.


Make sure to only lean canvases against flat surfaces. However obvious this may be, leaning the front or back of a stretched canvas against a sharp object (no matter how small) can leave a dent that can irreparably damage the piece. If you lean a work of art against anything, make sure to lean it on the wood of its stretcher bars, so that nothing presses against the canvas.

Put a big X with masking or painter’s tape on anything under glass to help keep it from shattering during the move. And be sure when you pack frames into frame boxes, there is extra cardboard or bubble wrap between the glass front and the outer box.

Both you and your movers will be glad you put in the extra effort up front to pack your breakables and valuables securely.

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