Packing your fragile dishes and china is often the one packing task that most families are less than confident about the undertaking. Packing your clothes, toiletries, and toys are no problem. Even packing electronics can be done safely with a little extra padding. But we can’t help but realize that dishes are the single most likely category of items to break in a move. Especially when you don’t know how to pack them.

Which is exactly why we’re here today, to help you master your dish-packing skills and make sure that the boxes you pack will arrive safely at the new place, ready to host dinners and dinner parties with pristinely un-cracked porcelain. Whether you are preserving normal everyday dinnerware or your family’s fine china, these techniques will help you along the way.

Dish Packing Supplies List

Start by gathering all the supplies you’ll need. Packing dishes should be done in “small” moving boxes, as dishes are heavy and you don’t want to stack too many on top of each other. You will also need a large stack of packing paper. Dish-pack and glass-pack cardboard grids can help keep your dishes upright and prevent them from impacting each other or tumbling, and a small stack of towels is useful for additional box padding.

  • “Small” Moving Boxes
  • Dish-Pack and Glass-Pack Grids (Optional)
  • Sheets of Packing Paper
  • Towels (Optional)
  • Packing Tape
  • Neon Fragile Labels or Bold Markers

1) Pad the Bottom & Sides of Each Box

Start each dish box by padding the bottom and sides. If you have towels, lay one towel across the bottom with the ends sticking out either side, then lay a second towel across the bottom facing the other direction to cover all internal sides. You’ll fold the ends in to pad the top.

If you aren’t using towels, then pad your boxes with a few layers of packing paper to start with.

2) One Packing Paper Per Dish

Plan to use one entire square of packing paper per dish that you pack. This may seem excessive at first, but remember that the extra crumpled packing paper is the padding that will keep your dishes safe.

3) Pack Plates Vertically in Bundles or Dish-Pack Grids

To pack your plates, set a plate down in the center of a square of packing paper. Fold the ends in and press the paper into the center of the plate. Then wrap the corners around the back to create a second layer of padding. Use a piece of tape to secure or crumple the excess into the center of the plate.

If you are using dish-pack grids, place each plate into its own slot vertically. Plates must be packed vertically or they are at a much greater risk of breaking.

If you are not using a dish-pack, then wrap four plates separately and then bundle them in a new piece of packing paper into a set of four. Nestled together, they will not rattle and they are already padded from each other. Then set the plates vertically into your box.

4) Pack Bowls by Wrapping Like Plates, then Stuffing and Stacking

Bowls should be wrapped much like plates. Set each bowl in the center of a piece of packing paper, then crumple the packing paper into the center of the bowl as you fold the corners in. You can then nestle same-size bowls together and package them in a set to help prevent rattling and keep them safe. Place your pack of bowls in the box on their side, mimicking the style of the plates.

Of are using a dish pack, place bowls into sections one at a time on their sides.

5) Wrap Glasses Diagonally, Stuff, and Pack

Drinking glasses, cups, and mugs are all packed in the same way. Start by laying your glass in the corner of a square of packing paper, then roll inward all the way across. Tape the trailing corner, then stuff the remaining paper into the center of the glass.

For mugs and other glasses with handles, crumple a little of the first corner into the handle space for extra padding.

If you are using a glass pack grid, place each glass into a separate grid space to keep them safe from each other.

If you are not using a glass pack grid, place each glass individually into the box, making sure it nestles into other padded items. Similarly shaped glasses that nest can be nested, but be sure there is plenty of padding in each cup.

6) Stuff Your Stemware, then Crumple Paper Around the Stem

When packing delicate stemware, a special technique is needed. Start by stuffing the center goblet with crumpled paper, starting at one corner. Then wrap the outside of the goblet with the excess paper and finally twist the tail of the paper thickly around the stem and base so that the stem appears as thick as the goblet section.

Stemware is the most important to place in glass-pack grids. If you do not have glass pack grids, pack your stemware very carefully in a separate box from other glasses. Use extra padding and set your stemware goblet-to-base for added safety.

7) Double-Box for Extra-Fragiles like Stemware and Fine China

For boxes that contain your fine china or delicate stemware, you may want to use the double-boxing method for a special extra layer of padding. Take a medium box and line the bottom with towels or crumpled paper. Then set your highly fragile box inside, in the center. Now line the open space between the inner box and the outer box with more crumpled paper (or spare towels and t-shirts) to create an extra safe layer to protect your most fragile dishes.

8) “FRAGILE, This Side Up!”

Finally, it’s time to close up your boxes and label them. Fold in your towel ends to provide top-of-box padding or crumple another layer or two of paper on top. Then close up the flaps and tape very securely.

Your final task is to very clearly label each one of your fragile boxes as “FRAGILE” with messages or arrows indicating the top side of the box. We recommend using neon-colored tape or FRAGILE labels that your movers will recognize immediately and take care. Without special tape, use very clear lettering with your markers. Neon-colored paint markers can help with this important labeling task as well.

Unpack and Pat Yourself on the Back

When it comes time to unpack, inspect each of your dishes carefully as you unwrap them. If all or most made it completely undamaged inside your careful paper wrappings, this is cause for a little celebration. Pat yourself on the back or put your dishes to use hosting your victory move-in-day dinner.