Packing liquids is often considered one of the trickier parts of moving, but it doesn’t have to be! With a little bit of care and planning, you can avoid spills—and more importantly, you can avoid damage to your moving boxes and the belongings inside of them.
Liquids spill in transport for a lot of reasons. Sometime boxes tip over or moving trucks hit a bump in the road, and sometimes things just get jostled around. If your liquids aren’t properly secured, that’s going to mean a whole lot of mess. If you’d rather not deal with that (and who would?!), then it’s important that you take your time when packing liquids, making sure to properly secure spillable items so that something as simple as a pot hole isn’t a total moving disaster.
So how do you do it? Follow these tips for packing liquids so you can worry less about spills and more about everything else.
Take an inventory
All liquids have the potential to cause damage. That includes water, which can degrade cardboard moving boxes and cause them to break. So as a first step, figure out exactly what you’re working with in terms of liquids. This will help you determine how much you’ll need when it comes to packing materials.
Keep in mind that there are some liquids that you are not allowed to pack in a moving truck, even one that you’ve rented and will be driving yourself. You can find a complete list of those items here, but as a general rule of thumb, if it’s corrosive, flammable, explosive, or highly toxic, you’re going to have to get rid of it before moving day (read our article on how to dispose of hazardous waste to learn how to do it).
Get rid of what you don’t need
The less liquids that you have to move, the better. In addition to disposing of hazardous liquids, you also shouldn’t be packing liquids that you simply don’t have any use for, like that bottle of perfume that you haven’t sprayed on in a decade. If it’s not going to serve a purpose in your new home, it’s not worth the risk of packing. And since we always recommend going through and getting rid of stuff before packing anyway, sorting out unwanted liquids is just one more step in a process that you should already be doing.
Not sure if something should make the cut? Here are some questions to ask yourself to help make your decision.
- Have you used it in the past year? If no, toss it.
- Is it expired? If yes, toss it.
- Is the container it’s in damaged? If yes, toss it.
- Is the container pretty much empty? If yes, toss it.
If there are liquid items that you don’t want or need but are still useful and plentiful, you may be able to donate them. For example, you can contact your local women’s shelter to see if they will accept unopened personal care liquids like shampoo and face wash, and your local animal shelter may be able to make use of unopened bottles of bleach, since you won’t be able to move with them anyway.
As for all the other liquids that you’re not bringing along, provided they are not hazardous, dump the liquid, rinse out the container, and then recycle or toss it as appropriate. For medications, hazardous liquids, and any liquids with chemicals, contact the waste management provider in your area to find out how to safely dispose of them.
Pack liquids together
The best way to keep liquids from damaging valuables during your move? Don’t give them an opportunity to. Packing liquids together means that everything is equally well contained and that, if there is a spill, it’s not the end of the world.
To minimize risk, pack your liquids by type. Toiletries and cosmetics can be in one box, kitchen-related liquids like oils and sauces in another, and natural cleaning products in another. Since you’ve hopefully already sorted your liquids while taking inventory, this should be easy to arrange.
Use the right packing materials and techniques
There are various ways to go about packing liquids, but we like the foolproof method below.
Start by gathering the right materials. You’ll want:
- Plastic wrap
- Packing tape or rubber bands
- Garbage bags
Once you’ve got what you need, follow the steps below for each container of liquids that you have to pack.
Step one: Secure the opening. Cut a square of plastic wrap, then remove the top from the liquid’s container. Put the square over the opening and then replace the top, being sure to screw it on as tightly as possible. There should be some overhang so that there is a bit of plastic coming out below the top.
Step two: Wrap the top from the outside. Now that the top is secured back on, take a larger square of plastic wrap and wrap it around the outside of the top for a double barrier. Secure it with packing tape or a rubber band. Alternately, you could use place containers in sealable plastic bags, but since you really only need to wrap up the top of each container you’ll use less overall plastic by choosing to use plastic wrap instead.
Step three: Line your box (if using cardboard). We advise using plastic bins when packing liquids (more on that in the next tip), but if you’re set on using cardboard then use a garbage bag to line the box. Place the bag in the box so that the opening is facing up, then place your properly wrapped and sealed liquid containers in the bag, also facing up. Secure the bag at the top before taping up the box.
Pack liquids in plastic bins
Plastic bins are a smart way to go when packing liquids. That’s because, unlike with cardboard, you don’t have to worry that a spill will leak out onto other items. Plastic ensures that any spilled liquids are completely contained, and can also be easily cleaned and re-used in the event of a mess.
If you don’t have any plastic moving bins but want to get some, start your search with the six best companies for plastic moving bins.
Be sure to label
Liquids are fragile materials, so be sure to label them as such. This will help make sure that the boxes or bins containing your liquids are packed correctly for transport, meaning right side up and with care. Labeling your containers with liquids also makes your life easier when it’s time to unpack, since you won’t have to scramble around for things like shampoo, conditioner, and cleaning supplies—all of which you’re almost certainly going to need during your first day and night after moving. So to cover all of your bases, you’ll want to write “FRAGILE,” “LIQUIDS,” and the general type of items in the box or bin.
As for unpacking, open your boxes or bins carefully and on a flat surface, since even with safe packing methods your liquid containers are likely to have shifted around. Remove their seals, and you’re good to go.
Rather have someone else deal with packing liquids for your move? Hire full service movers, who in addition to loading and unloading the moving truck will also pack up your house for you—liquids and all.