Bubble Wrap VS Packing Paper: Which is the best packing material for moving?

Solve the ultimate dilemma bubble wrap vs packing paper.More about Ethan Greenfield

When it comes to moving and packing, many people believe that skimping on packing supplies is a good trick to reduce the moving costs – after all, it’s quite easy to get moving boxes for free and you can always use newspapers and old clothes instead of professional wrapping materials.

If you want to ensure that your items arrive intact and unscathed to your new home, however, you should provide them with the best possible protection – and it cannot be done with old boxes or substitute padding materials. You need quality packing supplies that will keep your belongings safe and sound during the entire relocation process – brand new cardboard boxes, specialized moving boxes, packing paper, packing peanuts, bubble wrap, foam sheets, etc.

Packing paper and bubble wrap, in particular, are extremely important for ensuring the safety of your possessions – they protect the surfaces of your items against scratches, dust, and dirt and can prevent an object from breaking during the move. But which one is better? Which one should you use when packing for moving?

Bubble wrap vs packing paper: pros and cons

Both wrapping materials offer excellent protection to household items during a move, but each of them has its own specific benefits and drawbacks:

Advantages of bubble wrap

Bubble wrap is rightly considered one of the most practical packing materials available:

  • It offers unparalleled safety to household items during a move – the evenly distributed air-filled bubbles provide ultimate protection against shocks and vibrations during the transportation and can prevent an item from breaking if it is accidentally dropped while being hauled around or topples over or bumps against other items in the moving truck during transit. Needless to say, bubble wrap also protects the object against scratching and chipping;
  • It can snugly fit any shape, allowing you to ensure the safety of oddly-shaped items during shipment;
  • It comes in various forms (sheets, bags, envelopes) and sizes (large bubbles, small bubbles), so it is very easy and convenient to use – you can easily find a type that perfectly suits your specific needs and requirements;
  • It is very lightweight and does not add to the overall weight of your shipment (and consequently – to the final moving cost);
  • It is not as expensive as other specialized wrapping materials like foam sheets, for example;
  • It can be reused several times, helping reduce waste and protect the environment (while also helping you save money on packing materials for your next move);
  • It is fun – bursting air bubbles is not only enjoyable but is also believed to have a therapeutic effect, calming the nerves and reducing stress. What’s more, you can come up with many entertaining applications of bubble wrap after the move – create fun bubbly contraptions or make eco-friendly costumes or toys, for example. (See also: What to do with bubble wrap after you move)

Despite its numerous benefits, however, bubble wrap is bulky and not as delicate, as cheap, and as easily recyclable as packing paper.

Advantages of packing paper

There is a good reason why packing paper is the traditional material of choice for wrapping household items for moving:

  • It is soft and smooth and, therefore, very gentle to the surfaces it is wrapped around – packing paper is safe to use even for your most delicate possessions (fine artwork, china, wood finishes, etc.) as it will not harm or mar the surfaces in any way (it cannot scratch or smudge the fine surfaces and won’t leave any stains or sticky residue on them);
  • It wraps closely around the item and provides perfect protection against scratches, dust, and dirt;
  • It takes up less space than other filling and padding materials like bubble warp, towels, or pieces of clothing, helping you save space when packing for a move;
  • It allows dishes and other items that have been individually wrapped in packing paper to be easily stacked or bundled together;
  • Although paper is thin and not very strong, when crumpled it becomes extremely resilient and durable and provides excellent cushioning in a box;
  • It is environmentally friendly as paper products can be fully and easily recycled and biodegrade quickly when discarded. Besides, packing paper requires very little energy to produce;
  • It is cheap and easy to get.

As beneficial as it may be, packing paper cannot provide the heavy duty protection some household items need during a move – it is thin, tears easily, and doesn’t have the air-filled cushioning power of bubble wrap.

Good to know: Both bubble wrap and crumpled packing paper can be used to fill the voids in a moving box to immobilize the items inside and prevent them from shifting and from coming in contact with one another during transportation.

The above differences between the two protective materials make them more appropriate for cushioning certain objects and less appropriate for padding others.

Bubble wrap or packing paper: when to use which

The specific advantages of each wrapping material define its best uses when packing for moving:

What to pack with bubble wrap

You can wrap anything with bubble wrap, of course, but some items just need the air-filled material in order to survive the move in one piece:

  1. Extremely fragile items – stemmed glasses, chinaware, vases, lamps, etc. Make sure you place some bubble wrap inside the cups, bowls, and any hollow spaces in your breakables for extra support and wedge some of the air-filled material between the handle and the body of an item to prevent the handle from breaking (when applicable). Wrap the entire fragile item in a sheet of bubble wrap and secure the protective layer in place with quality packing tape;
  2. Awkwardly-shaped items – pieces of art, protruding furniture parts, toys, accessories, etc. Bubble wrap can fit any shape and provide the unwieldy piece with the protection it needs to survive the move intact and unscathed;
  3. Sensitive items – electronics and electrical devices, antiques and fine furniture, etc. Anti-static bubble wrap is your best bet when it comes to packing sensitive items for moving – it will cushion any accidental impacts, preventing potential damage to the delicate pieces, and will protect electronic products from the effect of static-induced electric charges.

Good to remember: Bubble wrap is indispensable for packing heavier and larger fragile objects as it can give them the extra cushioning they need to remain safe and sound during the moving process.

What to wrap with packing paper

Packing paper is your best option for protecting lightweight delicate items and fine surfaces:

  • Plates and dishes;
  • Pictures and mirrors;
  • Valuable books;
  • Glass tabletops, glass shelves, glass cabinet doors, and any other glass furniture parts;
  • Polished furniture pieces and fine wood finishes.

Good to remember: Sharp corners and edges, protruding metal elements, and other pointed parts can easily rip or perforate packing paper, so they should always be wrapped in bubble wrap (they are unlikely to puncture a thick layer of air-filled plastic).

One final piece of advice – to ensure maximum protection to your items during a move, use both packing paper and bubble wrap. Wrap your breakables in packing paper first, then add a protective layer or two of bubble wrap. Do not forget to place a layer of bubble wrap or crumpled paper on the bottom of a moving box for extra cushioning, fill any remaining empty spaces in the box with crumpled paper or bubble wrap, and add several sheets of packing paper or bubble wrap on top of the items in a box before shutting it close. Your cherished possessions will be as safe as they can be.

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