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Popping bubble wrap makes a satisfying sound, but the transparent, cushiony packing isn’t meant to be a relaxation tool. Rather, it’s a safe way to wrap delicate items for shipping, storage, or moving. It comes in rolls of different sizes, of course, but there are also different sizes of bubbles, known as cells. Most bubble wrap is clear, but it also comes in a variety of colors—useful when organizing for a move. Some rolls are made from recycled plastic in an effort to be a little more eco-friendly.
Size, style, and material all make a difference when it comes to protecting your stuff. You’ll want to use it properly to maximize safety, but also so you don’t waste it. With that in mind, read on to learn all you never even knew you didn’t know about bubble wrap.
American Bubble Boy
Bubble wrap can get expensive if you’re packing up your entire home for a move, so you don’t want to waste it. Picking the right size roll, with the right kind of cells, will help you pack economically without sacrificing safety. It is typically sold in rolls in sizes ranging from 100 to 300 feet long and one to two feet wide. It’s often perforated every 12 inches or so, which makes it easy to tear off the amount you need without reaching for scissors.
The cells, or pockets of air, start at ⅛ inch thick, with the largest size being ½ inch thick. Often, you’ll use 3/16-inch bubbles when packing up smaller or medium-weight items. It provides cushioning while also contouring to the shape of the object it’s protecting. Wrapping up complex items might require a little creativity. For instance, if a lamp has a glass dome, spend some extra time adding more bubble wrap to that delicate section. Or if you’re packing a sculpture with a thin or oddly shaped section, use thicker bubble wrap—or fold thinner wrap to thicken it—to add bulk to that part before wrapping up the whole thing. Reinforce the areas that need it for added protection, and then wrap the whole thing and tape down the edges.
Fresh Farm LLC
You might not think you need instructions about using bubble wrap, but believe it or not, there’s a right way and a wrong way to pack up your stuff. First, it’s important to wrap things with the bubbles facing inward. Not only does this provide cushioning, but it protects the bubbles themselves from popping. The thicker lining of plastic on the “back” of the bubble wrap is designed as a shield against snags and sharp objects. If the bubbles pop, your bubble wrap isn’t going to protect much of anything.
After the object is wrapped, line the box you’re putting it in with thick-celled bubble wrap to provide an outer layer of cushioning. Place the object in the box, and then fill all the voids with more ½-inch bubble wrap. Give the box a light shake. If you can hear things moving around, put in more packing material. But don’t overpack; you’ll waste material without adding any significant amount of protection.
One other thing to consider: When packing electronics, use anti-static bubble wrap. This type of packing material is designed to reject electric charges, adding another layer of protection to delicate CPUs, memory chips, hard drives, or whatever else you’re shipping out.
Let’s be honest, bubble wrap isn’t the most ecologically sound material in the world. It’s made of plastic that clogs up landfills for years. But sometimes it’s the best product for the job. In that case, consider using one that’s made from recycled plastic. While not a perfect solution, it’s a better way to lessen your impact on the environment.
When packing, try not to overdo it. If you’re able to limit the use of bubble wrap to only what you need, you’ll keep more of it out of landfills—and get the most bang for your buck. Another handy trick is to tape it in such a way that the bubble wrap can be reused. Don’t wrap the entire object in tape. Instead, selectively use small pieces to hold it in place. If you’re shipping an item, the person receiving it can use it again when they need to send something; if you’re moving, you’ll have extra bubble wrap later for storage and shipping.
Finally, as much as we hate to spoil anyone’s fun (and please don’t hate us for saying this), popping bubble wrap is just a waste. Without its air-filled cells, bubble wrap is nothing more than a thin sheet of plastic without much use. If you can break that habit, you’ll do your wallet—and the planet—a huge favor.