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Home Articles Protective Packaging vs. Void Fill: Which Shipping Material is Best for Your Business?

Protective Packaging vs. Void Fill: Which Shipping Material is Best for Your Business?

Updated 05/23/2023
Small business resources

Are you using the right material to ensure your products arrive intact even if they get tossed around in the back of a delivery truck? Is the void fill option you’re currently using the most lightweight and cost effective? We break down some of the most popular types of protective packaging and void fill to help you answer these questions for your business and stock up.

Need shipping labels too? Check out our selection of popular shipping label sizes.

Protective Packaging vs. Void Fill

It’s common to consider protective packaging and void fill as one in the same but they’re actually different. You can opt for one over the other depending on the intended function and the product you’re trying to protect. If your products are more fragile and there is a good amount of open space in the box, you might consider using both.

Protective packaging’s main purpose is right in its name: it protects the item from breaking, scratching or any other damage that may happen during shipping. It typically wraps around the product and holds it in tight.

Void fill serves to fill the box’s empty space to keep the product from moving around as much in transit (just make sure you use enough material to completely fill the open space in the box). It can also offer a nice presentation especially for items that are irregular in shape.

Both protective packaging and void fill serve to protect and absorb impacts that may occur during transit, however, they offer different advantages and come in many options.

Types of Protective Packaging and What They’re Best For

  • Bubble Wrap: As a child (and even as an adult!), I was more excited about opening a package or gift with bubble wrap than I was about the actual item because I couldn’t wait to pop every single bubble. But despite being entertaining, bubble wrap is one of the most durable and common protective packaging options especially for fragile products. The plastic wrap material consists of air-filled bubbles that create a cushioned layer and provide a barrier between the product and box.
  • Foam: Poly form, egg crate and even custom packaging foam (made specifically for your product) are great protective packaging options. Foam is highly durable and is available as sheets, blocks and even spray foam. Because this material is so thick, it doesn’t conform to the shape of an irregular object very easily so if that’s important to you, make sure you opt for the custom packaging option.
  • Paper: This is the lightest and typically most economical of the three options. And while bubble wrap and foam now come in options that are recyclable, they’re still not as eco-friendly as paper. Paper is a great option when sending products that are already boxed or products that are more resilient. You can have a bit more fun with this shipping material too (more color, design and branding options).

Types of Void Fill and What They’re Best For

  • Packing Peanuts: These little guys have been around since the beginning of shipping times. And believe it or not, they are essentially polystyrene (a plastic product) filled with air, making them lightweight and ideal for packages that have a great deal of space to fill (think multiple small products being sent in one big box or candles). They come in a number of shapes and different colors, which could be an added bonus if you find a color that aligns with your brand, but the colors actually indicate what they’re made of and how they should be disposed of. The biodegradable ones are often beige or off-white.
  • Air Pillows: This void fill option is the new kid on the block. These thin sheets of plastic that are pumped with air act as padded cushions for the products in between them. They’re lightweight, small, and easy to store and recycle.
  • Crumpled Paper: Another cost-effective option, especially if you’re already using paper to wrap your products. You can crumple the paper into balls or other shapes or even shred it into paper confetti.
  • Tissue Paper: While this option doesn’t offer much protection, it does take the unboxing experience to the next level with an added touch of luxury and excitement. Tissue paper can also be customized allowing you to integrate your brand into your packaging. While tissue paper is most often used for clothing companies, any company can add this touch.

While securing these materials is crucial to shipping your products, they aren’t all that’s needed. Don’t forget everything else you’ll need (sturdy boxes, tape, shipping labels, etc.) and things you might want to take it a step further (stickers, personalized notes from the owner, etc.).

Need to stock up on shipping labels? Check out our collection of popular shipping label sizes and pre-printed mailing stickers. Or, shop shipping labels by browsing the most popular label sizes on either blank rolls or in the fanfold label format.

For more resources, check out all of our small business tips.

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