Choosing the Best Dunnage for eCommerce

Any eCommerce business owner will tell you just how costly damaged packages can be to their bottom line. It’s estimated that replacing a product damaged during delivery can cost up to 17 times more than the original shipping cost. Combine that with the fact that up to 1 in 10 packages arrive damaged and you have an issue that could potentially sink a business if it’s not given the proper attention.  Tha’s why we’re going to discuss the importance of choosing the proper dunnage.

Fortunately, this problem can be mitigated by simply using the proper dunnage for your packaging. Dunnage is a simple and generally affordable packaging solution that comes in a variety of forms so that you can provide your products with the exact type of shipping protection they need. But how exactly do you choose the best dunnage for your packages? Read on to find out. 

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What is Dunnage?

The name may be unfamiliar, but you’ve undoubtedly encountered dunnage before. It’s the padding material used for the protection of shipped goods. This includes packing peanuts, bubble wrap, air pillows, recycled paper, foam, wood beams, custom-made boxes, and even steel for more valuable items. 

Why Choosing the Right Dunnage is Important 

The whole purpose of dunnage is to protect your packages while they are in transit. Ensuring that you protect against damages, spills, and leaks will ultimately reduce your operating costs. However, you can’t just use any packing supplies. You’re going to need to choose the proper packing support based on what you’re shipping.

Some items are more delicate than others and therefore need more shock absorption. Some are more valuable than others and therefore require a greater investment in better, but more expensive, padding. 

Then there are some unique products that require unique protection, which you can get through custom packaging. It’s important for all companies, but particularly small businesses, to guard against losses incurred by damaged packages. Proper dunnage is the best way to do that. 

Common Types of Dunnage for Shipping

Now, you know why it’s important, but how do you know which dunnage to choose? Below are the most common types of dunnage available, along with the pros and cons of each. This should help you to get a better idea of what will help to protect your products in the most effective and cost-efficient way. 

Kraft Paper

Kraft paper is a type of shredded and crinkled recycled paper. You’ll often find this stuffed in your shipments. It’s among the most commonly used types of dunnage because it’s effective, affordable, eco-friendly, and can be used more than once. The biggest drawback is that it can be messy and that it can’t protect heavier items.   

Bubble Wrap

Bubble wrap is also one of the most popular protective gear for shipping. It’s often used to protect glass and other particularly fragile items. The drawback is that it is not eco-friendly. Once the bubbles are popped, it cannot be reused. 

Air Pillows 

Air pillows are a convenient way to make an oversized box work for shipping by padding out the extra space so the item won’t slide around and become damaged. Their light-weight can also help to reduce shipping costs. The drawback is that they are pricier and less eco-friendly than paper, which can also be used to fill space. 


Foam is often used within the packaging of the product itself, rather than in the shipping package. You’ll often find foam protection in the packaging of electronics and other delicate items. Foam is strong and provides great protection, but it is not eco-friendly. 

Packing Peanuts

As one of the most familiar forms of package protection, packing peanuts have been used to fill out boxes in shipping for many years. They’re an effective and inexpensive way to protect packages that are not particularly fragile. Unless you go for the pricier, eco-friendly ones, however, they are a detriment to the environment and require a lot of storage space. 

Corrugated Paper

Corrugated paper is one of the most versatile forms of dunnage. It’s eco-friendly, able to manage a range of different weights and can help to defend against moisture damage. Drawbacks include higher prices and more weight added to shipping costs.   


When your products are of a certain value, they need a higher level of shipping protection. Using plastic dunnage is a more expensive route to take, but it can ultimately save you far more than it costs by defending against expensive damage to high-value items. 

Dunnage Racks

Warehoused items need protection, too. That’s why many businesses use dunnage racks to help keep their inventory in order and to protect it from damage. Dunnage racks are shelves that are often made of aluminum, polyethylene, and sometimes steel. They can be used to protect bulkier items and keep perishables off of the warehouse floor. Dunnage racks become essential to keeping things clean and organized as a business grows. 

Factors to Consider When Choosing Dunnage

When you’re deciding which type of dunnage will be best suited for your business, there are a few factors that you need to consider. Those factors include weight, cost, and custom needs. Below, we’ll take a more detailed look at the ways that these factors will affect your decision. 

Dunnage Weight

It’s important to consider how the weight of your dunnage might affect shipping costs. Heavier dunnage provides more ample protection, but it’s more expensive and might not be worthwhile. Only use dunnage that won’t significantly affect your shipping weight. 

Custom Dunnage

Certain items can benefit from custom-designed dunnage that will help to secure and protect it during shipping. Custom boxes, as well as custom cardboard inserts, can be designed to not only perfectly fit your unique items, but also to make them stand out and boost your brand. 

Dunnage Costs

Budget is always going to be an all-important factor to consider with any business decision. If you can accurately calculate your costs incurred through product returns and damage rates, you’ll be able to determine which form of dunnage can pay for itself and which forms will wind up adding to your costs. 

Perhaps the boost to the customer experience and branding can make custom dunnage worth the expense, but if not, it’s best to go for eco-friendly or low-cost options.    

Consult with Warehousing and Inventory Experts 

If you’re a small and growing eCommerce business looking for a 3PL that can help you to manage your inventory, provide affordable warehousing, and take on all of your orders and returns, Print Bind Ship can help! Contact us today for your free consultation and we can guide you through the process of choosing the best dunnage and dunnage racks to protect your products.