Filling The Void: In Boxes

Posted by Marty Boyer on

Ask any business owner in the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky region that ships on a regular basis and they will likely tell you the same thing: Using proper void fill is critical to your packages reaching their final destination safely and securely. Properly packing a box should be a fairly simple practice, right? Yes – but what should be easy in theory can get lost in practice.


Simply put, void fill is any material used to cushion or pad an item shipped inside of a box or tube. By adding the material, you are literally filling in the void of empty space inside that would allow the item to jostle around, causing damage – or worse. (Ever thought about what the idiom “fill the void” means? Void fill does exactly that in your package.)

Knowing what it is versus which type is right for your packaging, however, are not exactly the same thing. In fact, for something that might seem like an afterthought, there are plenty of types of void fill one can use in packaging.

Void fill types include:

  • Packing peanuts – Thumb-sized foam pieces that resemble Cheetos (without leaving residue all over your fingers). On the positive side, packing peanuts are lightweight and available in biodegradable materials. On the negative side, packing peanuts can move around if not enough used; and if you are prone to issues of static cling, can be a tad messy if you are using Styrofoam vs biodegradable. Lastly, packing peanuts can take up significant storage space when not in use, which can make them come at a higher purchase cost as well.
  • Packing paper – Often sold in easy to use, pull and tear boxes, this is heavy-duty, often recycled brown paper. This is good for absorbing shocks and protecting sensitive products with the added bonus of being more environmentally friendly but does not provide as much support as other options like packing peanuts.
  • Tissue paper – Thinner than standard packing paper, tissue paper adds the least amount of protection. It essentially serves as a way to add a touch of fashion or luxury to items. That pair of earrings might look nice wrapped in beautiful gold foil, but it’s not going to prevent them from potentially getting damaged in transit.
  • Air pillows/air cushions – Ever ordered an item and found small bags of air inside the box along with your item? Those are called air pillows. Air pillows are light and can take up significant amounts of space filling large spaces in a package. If you have a small box or if the air cushion is larger than the void you need to fill, an air pillow may not be your best choice – especially if you are worried about the pillow busting/deflating in transit.
  • Foam cushions – Exactly as described, foam cushions are essentially foam sheets or insert padding (available in waffle patterns or solid pieces resembling memory foam mattress toppers). Foam cushioning comes in a variety of sizes and can be cut to fit your packaging. They are light but can add up weight-wise when multiple pieces are used. Foam may also require more work than one may be willing to put forth with irregular or oddly-sized packaged items.
  • Bubble wrap – A void fill classic, bubble wrap basically consists of sheets of little air pockets (think of them as sheets of mini air cushions) that can be wrapped around your items to be shipped. Bubble wrap is available in a variety of thicknesses and can take up more space than one might think … On the bright side, it does give the person receiving the package the opportunity to enjoy the soothing sensation of popping the bubbles!
  • Block and brace – Best used for high end presentation and/or shipping heavy items, blocking is the practice of preventing an item from moving laterally with bracing to prevent it from moving vertically. Thanks to Hexacomb® paper-based honeycomb packing, this can be an effective way to ensure products survive their journey to your customers versus using molded pulp or heavier materials like wood or metal.
  • Internal insert – While it can come in various forms, the most common type of internal insert is one made of cardboard. Internal insert is used to keep items from moving around and improve presentation. (These are the dividers you often find inside packaged items like cell phones, headphones, bobbleheads and more.  Additionally, you often will find a corrugated pad at the top of boxes to prevent slicing open items when opening the carton sealing tape with a sharp item/instrument.


As one can see, there are many ways to fill the void in your boxes. Picking the material that is best for you, however, depends on several factors, such as (1) The shape of your product; (2) Its weight; (3) Its fragility and, sometimes most importantly, (4) How the packaged item looks when your customer opens the box.

As our previous post mentioned, knowing the dimensions of the items you are shipping and the packaging you’re planning to use can help a lot when it comes to knowing what will work best for you and your company. Fragile items might do better with a foam cushioning or bubble wrap. Sending an oddly shaped item with sharp angles or unique curves? Shipping peanuts are probably going to prevent damage better than packing paper.

Our suggestion? Experiment and field test in-house before sending your package out to a customer. You never get a second chance to make a first impression as they say and how you pack your box and how your product arrives both play a role in the opinion customers form about your company.

Still not sure which void fill option is right for you?  An expert from 3D Corrugated would be happy to talk with you about boxes, packaging or void fill to determine the best packaging options to meet the needs of your business and customers alike. Learn more about how we can help you meet your corrugated box and packaging needs today by emailing or give us a call at (513) 241-8126.



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