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How to Pack Dishes and China

Mastering the Art of Packing: A Comprehensive Guide to Packing Dishes and China

Relocating to a new home involves numerous challenges, but few tasks are as daunting as ensuring the safe transport of fragile items like dishes and china. These pieces are not merely functional; they often carry significant emotional and financial value, representing cherished memories, family heritage, or costly investments. Understanding this, it becomes essential to approach the packing process with the utmost care and precision.

The primary goal when packing dishes and china is to prevent any breakages or damage during the moving process. This requires not only diligence but also a strategic approach that involves using the right materials and methods tailored specifically for fragile items. Many people underestimate the level of detail and preparation needed for effectively packing delicate items, which can unfortunately lead to costly damages.

This guide aims to equip you with comprehensive knowledge and practical tips on how to pack your dishes and china like a professional. From selecting the best packing materials to employing expert techniques, you will learn how to secure your fragile belongings against the bumps and jolts of transit. By following these meticulously crafted steps, you can ensure that your dishes and china arrive at your new home in the same condition as they left—pristine and intact.

Supplies You Will Need

The right packing materials are crucial for ensuring the safe transport of your dishes and china. Here is a detailed list of essential and optional supplies you will need along with explanations on how each item contributes to the safety and security of your fragile belongings.

Essential Packing Materials:

  • Boxes: Choosing the correct type of boxes is fundamental. Opt for heavy-duty, double-walled boxes that offer increased strength and durability. Specialty dish pack boxes, specifically designed for transporting dishes and glassware, are particularly recommended due to their thicker walls that provide better protection against external shocks.
  • Packing Paper: Ample amounts of clean, ink-free packing paper are vital for wrapping each piece of china and dishware. This type of paper provides a soft layer that prevents scratches and helps absorb shock during movement. Avoid using newspapers, as the ink can smudge and stain your dishes.
  • Bubble Wrap: For an additional layer of protection, bubble wrap is indispensable. It cushions items effectively, protecting them from impacts and vibrations. Each piece of china or glassware should be first wrapped in packing paper, then in bubble wrap for optimal protection.
  • Packing Tape: High-quality packing tape is necessary to securely seal and reinforce boxes. Ensure the tape is wide and strong enough to hold the box’s seams and prevent them from bursting under weight or during lifting.
  • Permanent Marker: Clearly labeling each packed box is essential for handling during the move and for unpacking. Use a permanent marker to write “FRAGILE” and “THIS SIDE UP” on each box to alert handlers about the delicate contents.

Optional but Helpful:

  • Foam Pouches: Foam pouches are excellent for quickly and safely encasing plates, bowls, and similar items. They provide an added layer of protection and can significantly speed up the packing process.
  • Cell Dividers: These inserts fit into boxes to create individual compartments for cups, mugs, and smaller dishes, minimizing movement and contact between items. They are particularly useful for keeping organized and preventing items from clinking against each other.
  • Furniture Pads or Blankets: While not traditional packing materials for dishes, furniture pads or moving blankets can be used to wrap around boxes or as extra padding in the moving truck. They help shield the boxes from external pressures and reduce the risk of shifting during transport.

Additional Considerations:

  • Labeling Supplies: Consider using colored labels or stickers in addition to written labels to quickly identify the contents and handling instructions.
  • Tape Dispenser: A good quality tape gun can make the sealing process faster and more efficient.
  • Scale: To avoid overpacking, use a scale to check the weight of packed boxes, ensuring they are manageable and not too heavy.

By assembling these supplies in advance, you ensure that every dish and piece of china is given the best possible protection during your move. Proper materials make for a smoother packing experience and significantly lower the risk of damage, providing peace of mind as you transition to your new home.

Step-by-Step Packing Instructions

Ensuring the safety of your dishes and china involves a meticulous packing process. Follow these expanded, detailed steps to properly secure your fragile items for the move.

Step 1: Prepare the Packing Station

Setting up an efficient and organized packing station is the first critical step in ensuring that your dishes and china are packed safely. Here’s how to optimize your space and materials for this delicate task:

Select the Right Location

Choose a large, stable surface such as your dining room table or a spacious countertop. These areas provide ample space and a comfortable height for packing without the need to stoop or stretch, reducing the risk of accidents or discomfort during the packing process.

Protect Your Surface

Before you begin, lay down a protective covering over your chosen packing surface. A soft blanket, thick towels, or even a quilt can be used. This layer serves two purposes: it protects your table or countertop from scratches and provides a cushioned area to set down fragile items like china and glass plates.

Organize Your Materials

Arrange all your packing supplies within easy reach to streamline the process. Here’s a suggested setup:

Packing Paper: Stack several piles of packing paper on one side of your table. This keeps the paper handy for wrapping items quickly.

Bubble Wrap: Roll out a section of bubble wrap on the other side for easy access. Keep the roll nearby to pull and cut additional lengths as needed.

Boxes: Set up a few flattened boxes near your station but keep them out of the way until you’re ready to assemble them. This helps to keep the area uncluttered.

Tape and Scissors: Place a tape dispenser and a pair of scissors in a central location between your paper and bubble wrap. If you’re using a tape gun, make sure it is loaded and ready to go.

Permanent Marker: Have a permanent marker at hand to label items as soon as they’re packed. This practice prevents confusion and helps in organizing the boxes for loading and unloading.

Clear the Clutter
Remove any non-essential items from your packing area to prevent distractions and mishaps. A clear space allows you to move freely and reduces the chances of knocking over already packed items.

Ensure that your packing station is well-lit. Adequate lighting is crucial for seeing what you are doing and avoiding mistakes like improperly wrapped items or poorly sealed boxes.

By preparing your packing station with attention to detail and organization, you set the stage for a smooth and efficient packing process. This preparation not only safeguards your dishes and china but also makes the packing experience more pleasant and less stressful.

Step 2: Line the Boxes

Properly preparing your boxes is crucial for ensuring the maximum protection of your dishes and china during the move. Here is a detailed guide on how to effectively line your boxes:

Choose the Right Box
Start by selecting sturdy, high-quality boxes. For the best protection, choose double-walled boxes specifically designed for packing dishes (often referred to as dish barrels or dish packs). These boxes offer enhanced structural integrity and cushioning that standard boxes do not.

Create a Cushioned Base

  • Crumpled Packing Paper: Begin by crumpling packing paper into loose balls. These should not be too tightly packed; the air trapped within the crumpled paper acts as a cushion. Place a thick layer of this crumpled paper at the bottom of each box to create a soft, shock-absorbing layer.
  • Additional Cushioning: For extra protection, add a layer of bubble wrap over the crumpled paper. This is particularly useful if you are packing very delicate or antique china. The bubble wrap should cover the entire base and slightly up the sides of the box.

Line the Sides for Extra Security

  • Side Padding: After preparing the base, line the sides of the box. Take large sheets of packing paper and fold them into thick, wide strips. Press these strips along the inside walls of the box, creating a protective barrier that helps absorb impacts from the sides. This is especially important as dishes and china can shift side-to-side if the box is handled roughly.
  • Secure the Padding: Use small pieces of packing tape to secure the paper padding to the sides of the box if necessary. This prevents the padding from slipping or bunching up when items are inserted.

Assess the Box’s Readiness

  • Final Check: Once the bottom and sides are lined, give the box a gentle shake to ensure that the cushioning does not shift easily. The padding should feel snug and secure, forming a continuous protective layer without gaps.
  • Adjustments: If there are any gaps or the padding seems insufficient, add more crumpled paper or additional strips along the sides until the interior feels adequately secure.

By meticulously lining your boxes, you create a protective cocoon for your dishes and china, greatly minimizing the risk of damage during transport. This step, while seemingly simple, is fundamental in the packing process and should be done with great care to ensure your valuable items are protected throughout their journey.

Step 3: Wrap Plates and Bowls

When it comes to fragile items like plates and bowls, meticulous wrapping is essential. Here’s a detailed approach to ensure they are thoroughly protected:

Preparing the Plates

  • Start with the Largest Plates: Begin with your largest, heaviest plates. They will form the base layer in the box and are typically more durable. Place one plate on a stack of several sheets of packing paper. It’s advisable to use about three to four sheets per plate to ensure adequate protection.
  • Wrap Each Plate Individually: Pull the corner of the packing paper up over the plate and hold it against the middle. Take the opposite corner and bring it over, creating a double layer over the plate. Repeat with the remaining corners, ensuring the plate is completely enclosed in paper. Secure the paper with a small piece of tape so that it doesn’t unravel.
  • Stack and Bundle: Once a plate is wrapped, place it aside on your soft-covered packing station and wrap the next one. After you have three to four plates individually wrapped, stack them together. Wrap the entire stack again with a couple more sheets of packing paper for added security. Finally, wrap the stacked bundle with bubble wrap for an extra layer of protection and use tape to keep the bubble wrap in place.

Handling Bowls

  • Nest Smaller Bowls in Larger Ones: With bowls, you can utilize nesting to save space and add protection. Place a smaller bowl inside a slightly larger one. Each bowl should be individually wrapped with packing paper before nesting to prevent scratches.
  • Wrap Nested Bowls: Once you have a nested set of 2-3 bowls, wrap them together in additional packing paper. Like with plates, finalize their protection by adding a layer of bubble wrap, securing it with tape. This method not only conserves space but also provides multiple layers of cushioning between each piece.

Vertical Placement in the Box

  • Place Vertically: When placing plates and bowls in the box, always position them on their edges vertically, not stacked flat. This arrangement helps distribute pressure more evenly across the surface of each item, significantly reducing the risk of breakage.
  • Use Dividers: If possible, use cardboard dividers in the box to create separate slots for each plate and bowl bundle. These dividers help maintain the vertical position and prevent the items from shifting and rubbing against each other during transit.
  • Add Padding Between Layers: If you have more than one layer of plates or bowls in a box, ensure each layer is separated by a thick layer of crumpled packing paper or a flat layer of cardboard cut to fit the box. This acts as a cushion absorbing any impacts that might travel through the box.

Secure Placement Within the Box

  • Fill Empty Spaces: Any gaps or spaces within the box should be filled with crumpled packing paper or additional bubble wrap. This prevents the contents from moving around when the box is shifted and provides an additional buffer against external impacts.
  • Do the Shake Test: Once you’ve filled the box, give it a gentle shake to ensure there is no movement. The contents should feel snug and immobile; if you hear clinking or shifting, open the box and add more padding.

By carefully wrapping and placing your plates and bowls using these detailed steps, you significantly enhance their protection, ensuring they remain intact throughout the move.

Step 4: Packing Cups and Mugs

Cups and mugs, with their protruding handles and often delicate materials, require special attention to prevent breakage during the move. Here’s how to pack these items securely:

Handle Wrapping

  • Start with the Handles: Begin by wrapping the handles of each cup or mug. Cut small pieces of bubble wrap, wrap them tightly around the handle, and secure with tape. This step is crucial as the handles are the most vulnerable part of cups and mugs.

Full Item Wrapping

  • Wrap the Entire Cup or Mug: Once the handle is secured, place the cup or mug on a sheet of packing paper. Roll the paper around the item, tucking in the edges as you roll to ensure complete coverage. For extra protection, after the first layer of packing paper, add a second layer of bubble wrap around the entire cup or mug and secure with tape. This double layer of protection guards against impacts and vibrations during transit.

Use of Dividers

  • Placement in Box: If you have cell dividers, use them to place each wrapped cup or mug into its own compartment. This minimizes movement and prevents the items from hitting each other during transport.
  • Without Dividers: If you don’t have cell dividers, place cups and mugs in a single layer at the bottom of the box. Ensure that each item is snug but not overly tight. Fill any gaps between the cups and mugs with crumpled packing paper or additional bubble wrap. This keeps the items stable and prevents shifting.

Creating a Secure Environment in the Box

  • Layer of Soft Padding: Before placing any cups or mugs, add a layer of crumpled packing paper or a folded towel at the bottom of the box for extra cushioning.
  • Arrangement: Place the heaviest mugs and cups at the bottom of the box, moving to the lighter ones as you build up. Each layer should be completed with a flat layer of crumpled packing paper to separate it from the next.
  • Top Off with Padding: Once all cups and mugs are placed and secured, fill the top of the box with additional crumpled packing paper. This prevents any movement and adds another layer of shock absorption.

Final Preparations Before Sealing

  • Shake Test: After the box is packed, give it a gentle shake to see if there’s any movement. If you hear clinking or feel movement, open the box and adjust by adding more padding until everything feels snug.
  • Label Appropriately: Clearly label these boxes as “FRAGILE – CUPS/MUGS” and indicate which side should face up. This informs movers or helpers about the delicate nature of the box’s contents and ensures correct positioning during the move.

By taking the time to pack your cups and mugs carefully, using sufficient protective materials, and ensuring they are securely placed in the box, you can drastically reduce the risk of damage. This careful preparation means your favorite coffee mugs and delicate tea cups will arrive safely at your new destination, ready for their next use.

Step 5: Secure the Contents

Securing the contents of your box is a crucial step to ensure that your dishes and china remain stable and protected from shifts and impacts during the move. Here’s how to thoroughly secure each layer within the boxes:

Add Intermediate Layers

  • Layering: After you have placed a layer of wrapped items (like plates or bowls) in the box, add a protective layer of crumpled packing paper or bubble wrap on top. This acts as a cushion and prevents the items from shifting vertically.
  • Filling Gaps: Ensure that any gaps between the items and the box walls are filled with additional crumpled paper or small bubble wrap. The goal is to immobilize the items completely, preventing any movement that could cause friction or impact damage.

Top Off the Box

  • Cushion the Top: Once the box is nearly full, leave enough room to add a final, generous layer of crumpled packing paper or bubble wrap on top. This top layer should slightly compress when the box is closed, creating a firm pad that keeps everything tightly packed.
  • Avoid Overfilling: While it’s important to prevent movement, avoid overfilling the box, which can cause it to bulge and weaken structurally. The lid should close comfortably without needing to be forced.

Conduct the Shake Test

  • Testing for Movement: Before sealing the box, conduct a gentle shake test. Carefully lift the box and give it a mild shake to check for any shifting or rattling sounds. If you detect movement, open the box and add more padding until everything is snug.
  • Visual Check: Look inside the box to ensure that no items are touching the sides directly or seem like they could easily shift towards the edges if the box is jostled.

Additional Padding Techniques

  • Edge Padding: For extra security, especially for boxes containing particularly valuable or delicate items, consider lining the edges of the box interior with additional bubble wrap strips. This extra step buffers the contents against side impacts.
  • Divider Sheets: If you’re packing multiple layers of items, use sheets of cardboard or foam board as dividers between layers. These dividers help distribute pressure evenly and add structural integrity to the stack of items inside the box.

Use Specialty Materials When Needed

  • Custom Solutions: For unusually shaped or extra fragile items, consider using specialty packing materials like foam enclosures or custom-fitted box inserts. These materials can be molded to fit around your items, providing superior protection by immobilizing the items completely.

Finalize the Packing

  • Double-Check Tightness: After the shake test and additional adjustments, give your box one last check for any possible movement. Make sure each layer is tightly packed with no free space.
  • Document Contents: On the top of the box, list the contents and their layout within the box using a permanent marker. This information can be useful during unpacking, especially if you need to find specific items quickly without having to unpack everything.

By meticulously securing the contents within each box, you greatly reduce the risk of damage during the moving process. This careful approach ensures that your dishes and china arrive in perfect condition, ready to be placed in their new home.

Step 6: Seal and Label the Boxes

Securing and labeling your boxes correctly is a crucial step in the packing process, ensuring the safe transport and easy identification of your fragile items. Follow these detailed instructions to properly seal and label your boxes of dishes and china:

Sealing the Boxes

  • Tape the Bottom Seam: Begin by reinforcing the bottom of the box, even if it’s new. Apply a strip of packing tape across the central seam where the flaps meet. Then, add two additional strips of tape on either side of the central strip, approximately half the width of the tape apart. This technique, known as the ‘H-tape method,’ ensures the bottom will hold the weight and prevent the contents from falling out.
  • Side Support: For extra security, tape along the edges where the sides of the box meet the bottom. This provides additional structural integrity and is especially important for heavy items like plates and china.
  • Pack the Box: After placing all items inside and adding sufficient cushioning material, close the top flaps of the box.
  • Seal the Top Seam: Repeat the H-tape method on the top seam of the box. First, seal the central seam where the top flaps meet, followed by additional tape strips on either side. Make sure the tape adheres well to the box without any gaps.
  • Edge Reinforcement: Apply tape to the edges where the box’s top meets the sides, mirroring the bottom reinforcement. This will help maintain the box’s shape and protect against impacts during the move.

Labeling the Boxes

Label Content and Fragility:

  • Use a permanent marker to write “FRAGILE” in bold, large letters on at least two opposite sides of the box and the top. This warns handlers to treat the box with extra care.
    Beneath “FRAGILE,” indicate the contents of the box, such as “Plates,” “Glassware,” or “China.” This not only helps with handling but also assists in prioritizing the unpacking process.
    Directional Instructions:
  • Clearly mark “THIS SIDE UP” on all sides of the box to ensure that the boxes are not tipped over or handled roughly.
    Adding arrows pointing upwards can further draw attention to the need for careful handling.

Destination Room:

  • Write the destination room, like “Kitchen” or “Dining Room,” on the top and at least one side of the box. This facilitates efficient sorting and placement in your new home, ensuring boxes are moved directly to their intended locations.

Handling Instructions:

  • If specific handling instructions are needed, such as “Keep Away from Heat” or “Do Not Stack,” make these clear on the box. Such instructions are particularly important if storage conditions could affect the items inside.

Personal Identification:

  • If moving with multiple households or into a storage facility, include your last name or a unique identifier on each box. This helps in distinguishing your boxes from others and prevents loss or misplacement.

Final Check:

  • Walk around each box to ensure all labels are visible and the tape is secure without any loose ends. Double-check that no part of the box feels loose or bulging.

By meticulously sealing and labeling each box, you not only ensure the physical protection of your dishes and china during the move but also facilitate a smoother and more organized unpacking process. Proper labeling acts as a clear guide for movers and helps you quickly find and prioritize boxes when setting up your new home.

Step 7: Final Check Before Moving

The last step before moving your dishes and china involves a thorough final check to ensure everything is set for a safe transition. This is a critical phase where you verify the security of your packed items and prepare them for loading onto the moving vehicle.

Inspect All Boxes

  • Check Box Integrity: Examine each box for any signs of damage or weakness, especially along the seams and at the bottom. Boxes should be sturdy without any bulging sides or sagging bottoms. If a box doesn’t feel secure, reinforce it with additional tape or transfer the contents to a new box.
  • Weight Distribution: Ensure each box is not too heavy to lift comfortably. Overpacked boxes are prone to tearing and are more challenging to move safely. A good rule of thumb is that if a box feels too heavy to you, it’s likely too heavy. Redistribute items if necessary to manage the weight.

Test Box Seals and Cushioning

  • Shake Test: Gently shake each box to listen for any movement inside. The contents should not shift when moved; if you hear clinking or items shifting, open the box and add more cushioning materials until everything is snug.
  • Seal Check: Confirm that all seals and tape applications are secure. It’s crucial to reinforce the box’s top and bottom flaps with high-quality packing tape to prevent them from opening under strain.

Label for Visibility

  • Visibility of Labels: Double-check that all labels are clear and visible. Labels should be marked on multiple sides of the box, ensuring they can be seen regardless of how the box is carried or loaded.
  • Instructions for Handlers: Make sure each box is labeled with “FRAGILE,” “HANDLE WITH CARE,” and “THIS SIDE UP” to inform movers of the need for careful handling. Adding room destinations (e.g., “Kitchen,” “Dining Room”) helps in placing the boxes in the correct area of your new home for easier unpacking.

Strategize Box Placement for Transport

  • Strategic Loading: Plan how you will load the boxes into the moving vehicle. Place fragile items last, ensuring they are not crushed under heavier boxes. Ideally, fragile boxes should be surrounded by softer items such as bedding, cushions, or clothing, which can act as additional buffers against shocks and vibrations during transport.
  • Secure Placement: Once in the vehicle, make sure that each box is secure and will not move or topple over. Use straps, bungee cords, or additional cushioning materials to stabilize the boxes if necessary.

Final Walk-Through

  • Room Check: Do a final walk-through in each room to ensure no items have been overlooked.
  • Document Contents: Consider taking photos of the packed boxes in their labeled condition. This documentation can be helpful if you need to file an insurance claim for any damages during the move.

Prepare for Unpacking

  • Organize Essential Items: Pack a separate box or bag with essentials you’ll need immediately upon arrival at your new home, like snacks, disposable plates, and utensils, and keep it easily accessible.
  • Plan for Unpacking: If possible, arrange to have help for unpacking the fragile items. It’s a good idea to unpack these items first to quickly clear space and reduce the risk of accidental damage.

By meticulously following these steps for the final check before moving, you significantly enhance the protection of your dishes and china, ensuring they arrive at your destination in perfect condition. This careful preparation not only protects your belongings but also provides peace of mind during the stress of moving.


Packing dishes and china for a move is no small feat. It demands attention, precision, and a thoughtful approach to safeguard these fragile items. By following the detailed guide provided, you’ve taken significant steps to ensure that each piece arrives at its destination in the same condition it left. This process is not just about moving physical items from one place to another; it’s about preserving memories and maintaining the integrity of your cherished belongings.

As you conclude the packing process, remember that the techniques and materials you’ve chosen are crucial to the success of your efforts. High-quality packing materials and thorough wrapping methods form the foundation of effective packing. However, the real test comes during handling and transport. It is vital to communicate clearly with anyone who may be handling your boxes—whether that’s professional movers or helpful friends and family. Ensure they understand the importance of the boxes marked ‘Fragile’ and the need to handle them with extra care.

Moreover, consider the unpacking process as an extension of packing. Approach it with the same care and consideration to avoid any last-minute damages. Unpack each box slowly and methodically, removing items one at a time and checking for any signs of stress or damage. If moving day leaves you tired, it’s okay to wait a day before tackling the fragile items. Rushing through the unpacking can sometimes negate all the careful packing done previously.

Lastly, keep a record of your packing techniques and materials used for future reference. Each move offers a unique opportunity to refine your approach, and your experiences can provide valuable insights for better results next time. Whether you move frequently or seldom, mastering the art of packing fragile items is a valuable skill that ensures peace of mind during what can often be a stressful time.

By investing in the right supplies, following a detailed packing protocol, and handling the boxes correctly, you protect more than just your belongings. You preserve a part of your home’s soul, ensuring that your new space feels as familiar and welcoming as the one you left. With these thoughtful practices in place, you can look forward to setting up your cherished dishes and china in your new home, continuing the stories and memories they hold.

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