The shipping industry refers to the padding used in packaging to keep goods from getting damaged as dunnage. Dunnage is the primary reason why we can ship anything anywhere without it breaking. Different types of dunnage packaging include, but are not limited to:

  • Foam
  • Cardboard
  • Paper
  • Bubblewrap

Shipping dunnage can serve as padding, a barrier between heavier and lighter items, or a barrier to prevent water or dust contamination. Different types of goods require different levels of dunnage packaging. For example, pillows don’t require a lot of dunnage because they are less likely to break when sliding around during transport.

On the other hand, you need a lot of dunnage for electronics like TVs, fridges, and/or high-end electrical appliances. These items come with multiple kinds of dunnage that keep their structural integrity intact until they reach their destination.

Additionally, the right dunnage packaging serves as a barrier against contamination and moisture. Dunnage is ideal for protecting against spills, rain, and other obstacles that could seep into your packaging and wreak havoc on your goods.

Why Do You Need Dunnage?

What is dunnage in the grand scheme of things? It might seem like shipping dunnage is an unnecessary expenditure, but it can save a business in two significant ways.

Protect Your Goods, Protect Your Revenue

Using appropriate dunnage packaging protects your goods at every stage, which in turn supports your bottom line. You deal with less waste due to broken and damaged items, meaning you can cut down on a range of costs, including labor and insurance.

Reduce Damaged Orders to Satisfy Customers

Clients don’t usually pay for broken or damaged items, right? That means it’s in your best interest to use appropriate shipping dunnage to ensure the goods reach your clients in pristine condition.

Consistently delivering a well-packaged, intact product can increase customer satisfaction and build a loyal customer base. This simple step translates to repeat purchases and fewer customer complaints in the long run.

10 Types of Dunnage

Whether you’re utilizing trucks, trains, or other methods of transport — different types of dunnage offer unique advantages. Let’s explore the various types of dunnage used by businesses when shipping product.

1. Corrugated Plastics

Plastic corrugated dunnage is often used to protect valuable components and parts from unwanted scuffing, damage, abrasions, or scrapes that often occur during shipping and handling. This dunnage material is available as single and double-faced sheets, and in polyethylene or polypropylene.

Corrugated plastic dunnage easily withstands impact, punctures, and tears, making it much more durable than other dunnage materials. It is also resistant to moisture, dust, and fiber, and encourages reusability due to easy washing and superior design.


corrugated plastic rolls used for dunnage

2. Solid Plastics

Expensive but reliable. Solid plastics keep goods dry and protect against shock transport given its price tag, it’s primarily used in industrial or high-end shipping, where broken items can mean large disasters. Plastics are typically made of recycled materials.

They mostly come in shrink wrap or corrugated sheets, which you can use to wrap containers or lie on the bottom to prevent moisture contamination. However, this versatile material can be used for several types of luggage and comes in double or single-faced sheets or rolls for different packaging needs.

3. Bubble Wrap

If you have an item made of glass coming in the mail, chances are it’s covered in bubble wrap. Small air cushions in the design of bubble wrap cushion fragile items from shocks to avoid unwanted breaks. Bubble wrap is also cost-efficient and reusable if you can resist the temptation to pop each one of those bubbles after your first use.

4. Wood

Wood can be a barrier, brace, ballast, and moisture protection material. Wood doesn’t come cheap, and it’s used for some tough shipping jobs. Trucks and trains frequently use wooden pallets to keep products off the hard floor. However, that’s not the only use for this type of dunnage. If light and heavy items are shipped in the same container, wood can be used as a barrier to prevent the more severe things from falling onto the light ones.

Ships and planes can use wood as ballast to balance the different shipping areas’ sides or as braces to keep items from jumping into the air. Ships also often use wooden pallets and wood as a moisture barrier at the top of containers.

5. Air Pillows

Air pillows are large plastic bubbles that can be used to cushion items and fill negative space in containers. In shipping, the more space in the package, the more likely items will get damaged. After all, that’s space in which the thing can roll and bounce around, causing shock and damage. That’s why air pillows exist.

6. Kraft Paper

Cheap, recyclable, reusable, effective, and eco-friendly, kraft paper is a shipper’s best friend. Don’t be fooled by its innocuous nature. Kraft paper gets the job done. Kraft paper comes from softwood trees and features two layers, a base that provides support and cushion with a thinner layer that serves as a cover for aesthetic appeal. It’s incredible at preventing shock and damage for the price, making it a near-perfect dunnage packaging material.

7. Corrugated Paper

Not to be mistaken for Kraft paper, corrugated paper is a more affordable version of solid plastic dunnage. It adds strength and support to the outer packaging while cushioning the items inside. Corrugated paper typically uses recycled materials in a tri-layer product. You have a fluted layer between two thinner layers to provide some flexibility without losing structure and cushion.

8. Foam

Shipping delicate items requires high-quality dunnage. Foam will get the job done. While it’s not cheap, it’s almost guaranteed that your shipped item will arrive in one piece. This is the packaging material most often used in electronic and appliance shipping. New TVs, pricey toaster ovens, and even phones are usually packed with this lightweight, waterproof, shock-absorbing material. It checks almost all the boxes for the perfect dunnage material.

9. Steel

Steel dunnage is the most expensive option, and typically used for high-dollar items. Though it’s commonly used in the automotive and industrial industries, it can serve various purposes. Most commonly, companies use it to protect heavy, high-value items by holding them steady. In some cases, companies use a steel frame to provide structure and prevent larger, heavier items from crushing lighter goods. Steel shipping dunnage can also be a series of racks that separate goods into columns or stacks.

10. Custom Dunnage Solutions

There are plenty of custom dunnage systems available for unique shipping needs. Some businesses may require multiple types of dunnage to secure and protect their items. If one type of shipping dunnage won’t cut it for your product, then you might consider a custom solution. Custom dunnage solutions are often available from companies specializing in various packaging and manufacturing systems.

The Right Dunnage Makes a Difference

20% of large eCommerce purchases arrive damaged, and it falls to businesses to pay for the return, damaged items, and new items. That represents a sizable chunk out of your revenue that could certainly be used better elsewhere.

While there’s no way to prevent all losses, the right dunnage can have a substantial impact on your bottom line. You have plenty of options for materials, so there’s something for every budget and product.

Selecting the right shipping dunnage for your goods can substantially reduce the number of items that arrive damaged. That means fewer returns, less waste, and more satisfied customers. The right dunnage can make all the difference in customer satisfaction and your bottom line.

It’s another valuable way to build a loyal customer base while protecting your assets and reducing lost goods. Whether your item requires various types of dunnage or you’re looking for something specialized, a trusted packaging company like MDI can help. Contact our team today to get started!