You've Been Using Bubble Wrap Wrong Your Whole Life

Bubble Wrap is a surprisingly contentious packing material. It can be Heaven or Hell dependent upon how it is used.


When to use it

As a moving material, bubble wrap offers fabulous protection. Small wonder that it is one of the most popular and effective forms of protection for packaging. Lightweight and flexible, it absorbs shock and resists scratches.

Used correctly it’s an invaluable protective covering. The impact of knocks and bumps, of minor droppage, and even of the weather to a minor extent, can be mitigated by bubble wrap, which provides a cushioned, water impermeable surround.

For light and fragile objects, bubble wrap with small or standard sized bubbles will offer the best protection. For larger items, and very fragile items, bigger bubbles offer better cushioning.

Any size can be used as fillers, to stop things rattling around and therefore knocking together.


When not to use bubble wrap

Have you ever had a plastic ring binder that, over time, took an imprint from one of the printed pages inside?  Bubble wrap is made of plastic, and therefore, whilst great protection for moves, is not ideal for long term storage.

The side of the material that causes a problem is the bubble side – the side that’s touching the goods (see below). It can, (usually over time as the plastic breaks down), stick to woods, varnish, metal, anything gilded (like picture or mirror frames), and polished surfaces. It can also cause corrosion to metal if even the tiniest bit of water gets in and can turn paint soluble and sticky.  

For particularly highly polished, glossy, varnished or painted surfaces, a layer of packing paper between the bubble wrap and the item being moved will offer an extra layer of ‘bump’ protection, and protect items from poor or degrading bubble wrap.


How to use bubble wrap

However much we love popping the bubble on bubble wrap, don’t leave them on the outside. The bubbles, contrary to common belief, need to be on the inside! Their job is to cushion. Left on the outside they catch, pop, and collect grime.

The smooth side outward also makes sealing tape effective. Apply sealing tape to the bubble side and dirt, grime and water can get under the sealing tape through the gaps. (Be sure to use a good quality tape. Poor quality tapes will peel off.)

This smooth outer layer probably won’t save you from flood water, but will at very least offer some protection from light rain, minor spills and the like, and is easily wiped.

Be sure not to trap in any water when sealing the bubble wrap. It won’t be able to escape, and can create perfect conditions for mould.


Disposing of bubble wrap

The good news is that bubble wrap can be recycled alongside other plastics like plastic bags. If it’s clean and can be reused quickly (ie it has no time to degrade), fabulous.

The even better news is that it’s best to pop all of the bubbles first. After a move, it’ll be therapeutic: you’ll have earned it!


Fun fact of the day

Did you know that the last Monday in January is Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day?


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