What is Dunnage? The Ultimate Guide to Buying Dunnage

What is Dunnage? The Ultimate Guide to Buying Dunnage

Dunnage is a common term used in the shipping industry, especially by eCommerce sellers. This term is associated with the logistics of packing goods for shipping to consumers. So what is dunnage? Dunnage is not a single item but a term encompassing many protective materials used to fill items before handling and shipping. Essentially, dunnage is used to pack and load cargo for shipping. 

What Is Dunnage? 

In the shipping industry, dunnage definition refers to the various protective durable padding materials that cushion products and packages during transit and loading and unloading. Dunnage acts as a shock absorber and prevents the movement of the product in the packing box or container. 

There are many types of dunnage material. There is no shortage of protective materials shipping companies use to pack before shipping by trains, trucks, ships, and airplanes. However, there are some common varieties of dunnage material widely used for shipping goods. A suitable dunnage material should be used for a specific type of product. Some have been discussed here.

Kraft Paper 

Kraft Paper is a widely preferred shipping dunnage because it is highly flexible, cost-effective, and eco-friendly. Due to its high flexibility, Kraft paper can be wrapped around the product, bunched up or torn, and crumpled. Altogether, Kraft paper provides a high level of protection at affordable rates.

Bubble Wrap 

Bubble Wrap is the most commonly used dunnage material for packing fragile easy-to-break items such as glassware during transit and other shipping stages. The highly beneficial aspect of bubble wrap is that it can be reused if the bubbles don’t burst. Bubble wrap is an environmentally friendly packaging option since it can be used again and again. 

Air pillows 

Air pillow is an inflatable dunnage material. The air pillows are made of plastic and provide a cushion to the products in an inflated state and prevent them from sliding inside the box. Air pillows come in the category of packing filler materials because they are put in packing boxes to fill the space between the product and the walls of the packing box. Air pillows are among the most favored packing filler materials for e-commerce companies because they are light in weight and do not add bulk to the packages, thereby reducing shipping costs. In addition, they are also cheaper.


Foam is a popular alternative to bubble wrap and is widely used to secure electronic items, medical equipment, and fragile and sharp products. Foam is thin and light in weight, and it protects the fragile products by providing padding against jerks and shocks. Foam dunnage comes in the form of both sheets and specialized foam wraps having customized sleeves. Foam can be reused but cannot be recycled.

Solid Plastics 

Solid Plastics are rigid and hard plastics used as dunnage material for large, heavy, and bulky items. They are widely used for industrial shipping. Solid Plastics are customized as per the dimensions of the products, packing boxes, or containers in which they are shipped to ensure a perfect fit. 

Solid Plastics are expensive, and there are specific requirements for shipping products packed using solid plastics. But they provide the most efficient protection to large and heavy products.

Corrugated Paper 

Corrugated Paper is designed to carry multiple weights. Hence it can be used to wrap a wide variety of products of different weights. Corrugated Paper protects the product against moisture. Thus it is a suitable dunnage choice for products transported on-board cargo ships. It is also an environmentally friendly option.

Packing Peanuts 

Packing Peanuts is a box filler material widely used to fill the spaces between products and the walls of the packing boxes. The packing peanuts are balls made of Styrofoam which absorb shocks and impacts, protecting the products against damage. The balls are small and flexible enough to fit even cramped spaces inside the packing boxes. Nowadays, packing peanuts made of corn starch is also available. They can be recycled. 


Steel is a costly dunnage material and is used in high-value shipping. Steel dunnage is typically used for shipping heavy products. This is because steel keeps the rich product stable throughout the transit and protects the lighter products being sent along with the heavy product against damage. 


Repurposed old cardboard boxes can be shredded and used as dunnage material. Recycling machines cut old cardboard boxes in the form of sheets. These cardboard sheets are flexible and can be wrapped around products. They are widely used to cover fragile items and are used primarily for shipping glass bottles.


Wood is commonly used as dunnage for heavy products. The typical kinds of wood used as dunnage material include spruce, hemlock, pine, and other similar types of wood. Wood is commonly used as a partition between heavy items. Only dry wood containing only 12-15% moisture can be used as dunnage. Fresh wood and wood exposed to fresh air cannot be used as dunnage because the high moisture content can damage the products.

Benefits of Dunnage 

Products are at risk of damage during loading, unloading, and transit. Proper dunnage prevents the product from sliding and slipping. It also absorbs shocks, jerks, and impacts. Thus, the product is protected against damage. 

Moisture can damage sensitive electronic items and spoil perishable food products. The dunnage absorbs moisture and protects such products against the harmful effects of moisture.

The seller needs to refund or replace if a damaged good is delivered to the customer. As a result, the merchant not only suffers revenue loss but also gets a bad name in the market in case of frequently damaged consignments. Proper dunnage ensures that intact products are delivered to the customers, thereby preventing replacement or refund.

Training the packing staff in using various dunnage materials for different kinds of products accelerates the packing process. This ensures that more orders are shipped each day without any compromise in the quality of packing. 


There are many types of dunnage material. Shipping companies use these protective materials to pack before shipping by trains, trucks, ships, and airplanes. However, there are some common varieties that have been discussed here. When choosing a suitable dunnage material for your specific product type you should consider the following factors: weight capacity (how much weight will it take), stacking capability (how well can it be stacked) and rigidity (does it bend easily). 

To find out more about our pick-and-pack services or other freight forwarding solutions please get in touch with us at Simpl today!

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