What do the Symbols on the Cardboard Boxes Mean?

Sharing is caring!

Most of us do not known about symbols on the cardboard boxes. It is pretty obvious for us to recognise symbols such as ‘This way up,’ ‘Explosives,’ and ‘Flammable liquid.’ But most of the packaging symbols on cardboard remain unknown. So, I’ve done some research and following are few cardboard boxes packaging symbols and their meaning.

Symbols on Cardboard Boxes and What they Mean

Symbols for Package Handling

01. Fragile

This packaging symbol is obvious. It simply means the product inside the box is fragile while can get damaged easily. It typically includes collectibles, antiques, chinaware, glass, pottery etc.

02. Top or This way up

It means the package must always be transported in such a way that the arrows point upwards. However, these packages don’t necessarily be on top.

03. Handle with care

This is a commonly seen symbol on most cardboard boxes. It simply means that the package contains materials that easily get damaged, so it should be handled with care.

04. Keep dry

This sign means the item in the box is not water resistant so the package must be kept away from rain, water or damp conditions.

05. Keep away from heat

This sign is generally found in packages carrying cheese, butter or chocolate. It means the package must not be exposed to direct sunlight and shouldn’t be stored in warm spots.

06. Temperature limitations

This symbol is typically found in packages carrying perishable items such as food or drinks. The marking indicates the temperature at which the package should be transported.

07. Center of gravity

This symbol instructs handlers of the weight distribution of the packaged item and where is its center of gravity. This symbol is used when the center of gravity is not central to the package.

08. No Hooks

This symbol eliminates using any kind of point load such as hooks on the package. However, it doesn’t prevent the package from being used by a plate hook.

09. Stacking limitation

This sign on the box means that the package has limited loading capacity, hence the box should always be on top of the stack.

10. Stacked bars with the number

This is the stack limitation of the package. If it is marked with 3, the symbol means only two boxes can be stacked on top of the package.

11. Clamp here

The symbol is found in the package, where it should be clamped. It also means that the package can’t be clamped anywhere else.

12. Person lifting with prohibition sign

The symbol prevents any human to handle the box as it could be heavy. You will need a trolley to carry the package marked with this sign.

13. Do not use a forklift truck

This symbol prevents the package from being carried by a forklift. The symbol is typically found in the sides of the package.

14. Flames

This symbol indicates the item in the package is highly flammable. It should be kept away from the direct fire, sparks and hot surfaces.

15. Two people lifting the box

This means the item in the package is a little heavier to be carried by one person but light enough to be carried by two people. If you find this symbols, this means you don’t need a trolley.

16. Trolley

This symbol with boxes on trolley doesn’t necessarily mean that the package is heavy but means it needs a smooth transition without any jerks or bumps.

17. Glass and a fork

This symbol means the package contains food items

18. Foto

The symbol suggests the package contains photographic material

Consumer and Product related Symbols

19. Estimated ‘e’ sign

It means that the product in the package is filled with an average fill system.

20. CE Marking

The symbol means the product complies to the requirements of EC directives.

21. Recycling

The symbol means the package can be recycled and should be disposed of in recycling bins.

22. Recycling with a %

This sign denotes what percentage of the recycled material is used in the product.

23. Tidyman

The symbols mean the package should be disposed of carefully and thoughtfully.

24. Q with a telephone

It typically comes with a customer care number so that you can call the concerned personnel if you are not happy with the product.

25. Customer satisfaction

The symbol refers to customer satisfaction and the customer can return the product to the mentioned address if he/she is not happy with the product.

26. Vegetarian

This symbol is found on packages containing edible items that are suitable for vegetarians.

27. Gluten free

This symbol signifies the food items in the package are gluten-free which means they do not contain wheat extracts.

28. Allergy warning

The symbol is a warning that the product can cause allergies to people who are prone to allergies.

29. PAO – Period after opening

This sign signifies how long the product is good to use after it has been opened. It typically comes with a number such as ‘12M.’

30. WEEE symbol

It means the package should not be disposed of in a general garbage bin. It is typically found in a package containing electronic items.

31. The green dot

This symbol simply means the manufacturer has made efforts or has contributed to the cost of recycling.

32. Recyclable aluminum

As the name suggests, the symbol means the aluminum used in the product is recyclable.

33. NAPM recycled

This symbol is typically used on paper products such as cardboards and hardboards. The symbol suggests that the paper or board used in the product is made from at least 75% genuine waste paper or board fiber. The paper doesn’t contain papermill-produced waste fiber.

34. PETA Bunny

The leaping bunny represents cruelty-free products which have been produced without testing on animals.

35. FSC symbol

This indicates that the wood or paper material has come from responsibly managed forests.

36. Fairtrade

The Fairtrade symbol suggests that the product has been sourced from producers in developing countries.

Reading the UN Marking

Many corrugated boxes may contain the UN marking, which suggests that the packaging has been built, tested and is certified to carry solid dangerous material. For liquid dangerous material, specific barrels or metal containers are used.

A typical UN marking on corrugated cardboard boxes would look like this:

E.g. – UN 4L/Y2/S/17/USA/LM0000

Now let’s break it down, what this marking suggests about the package

01. Packaging Identification Code

4L signifies ‘Type of Container and Container Material.’ Here 4L signifies Boxes and Textile

Type of Container Code

1 – Drums

2 – Barrels

3 – Jerricans

4 – Boxes

SEE ALSO:  The Complete Guide to Cardboard Insulation

5 – Bags

6 – Composite Packaging

7 – Pressure Receptacles

The material in the Container

A – Steel

B – Aluminum

C – Natural Wood

D – Plywood

F – Reconstituted Wood

G – Fiberboard

H – Plastic

L – Textile

M – Paper

N – Metal other than Steel or Aluminum

P – Glass, Porcelain or Stoneware

02. Packaging Group

Y2 signifies ‘Packing Group and Gross Mass of Solid.’ Here Y2 signifies Packing Group 2 and 3kg max gross mass.

The letter X, Y, or Z indicates what the packing group

X – Packing Group I (Highest Degree of Danger)

Y – Packing Group II (Medium Degree of Danger)

Z – Packing Group III (Lowest Degree of Danger)

Gross Mass of Solids

The mark suggests the maximum gross mass in kilogram which the package will weigh with the contents inside.

03. Type of Item

S signifies ‘Solid items’

04. Year of Manufacture

17 signifies the year of manufacture of the item is ‘2017’

05. Location of Manufacture

The USA signifies the manufacturer is located in the ‘United States of America’

06. Identification Code

LM0000 signifies the identification code either of the manufacturer or the approval agency. Plus, you can show that in the form of name and address. Register the code and symbol with PHMSA. 

Markings on Cardboard Boxes for Shipment

Use appropriate package marking while shipping the cardboard boxes. This helps in making the letter visible and enabling others to read easily.

  • Shipping address – All cardboard box for shipment will contain the destination address. Additionally, it may also have the name of the person, telephone number, fax and order number.
  • Return address – This is usually the name and address of the company who is shipping the box. It may also contain key contact person name, telephone number, email ID etc. so that if the shipment couldn’t reach the customer it can be returned back to the company.
  • Country of origin – The cardboard box will contain the country of origin. This will support for all the documentation necessary at the port of destination.
  • Blind markings – They are usually coded and difficult-to-understand markings on high-value items. It is intended to hide the true identity of the cargo from theft.
  • Carton count number – You may notice some cardboard boxes with ‘1/3’ written on it. It signifies that the total shipment to a particular customer includes 3 boxes and this is just one of them.  
  • Weight and other measurements – A shipping cardboard box will typically contain the cardboard dimension in ‘cm’ along with its net weight and gross weight in ‘kg’.

How to Stick Package Handling Symbol on Your Cardboard Box?

If you are transporting your items in a cardboard box and want those package handling symbols on your box, you can use the following ways to get it done.

  • Buy packaging symbols you need from online sources. They usually come with permanent adhesives which will stick to the box throughout the journey.
  • You can download free images and print it out at your home. Use waterproof glue to stick print-out symbols on your box.
  • You could simply draw, mark or write using a permanent marker to make it easy for the package handlers. Write down your instructions properly for package handlers to notice it.

Why Use Corrugated Cardboard Boxes to Ship Items?

Corrugated cardboard boxes provide the strength and durability at an unbeatable price point, thereby making it the primary choice of shipping boxes both by consumers and shipping companies.

It is structurally made of a fluted sheet, also called as medium lined with a paper cover on each side also called as the liner. The liner or cover is most commonly made from kraft or semi-kraft paper which is comparatively thinner than the flutes. Depending on the structure of medium and liner, there are a variety of corrugated cardboard boxes. The medium is made from paper that is made using bagasse or straw. The liner paper is crumbly, whereas the medium is relatively spongy, which gives the cardboard its flexible strength. The continuous arcs also enable the weight of the object to be evenly distributed, enabling it to withstand heavy loads.

Some common reason behind using cardboard boxes are:

  • It gives a gentle traction on the transporting product. It saves the product from damage during shipping, storage, and handling. Corrugated paper is not abrasive to the transported products.
  • Unlike other hard boxes, corrugated boxes don’t break; although it flexes under pressure.
  • Being paper material, it is easier to print handling signs and other shipping information on the corrugated cardboard box.
  • It is cost-effective to produce and is recyclable.

Use high resolution inkjet systems to print labels on boxes. The paper surface contributes in absorbing the ink and making it permanent.

How to Pack Fragile Items in Cardboard Box for Shipping?

If you think simply writing ‘Fragile’ on the box is enough to ensure your items security, you are wrong! Most package handlers work at night and have to handle thousands of boxes in a short time. People do not notice the “Fragile” remark on boxes. So, it’s up to you to secure your fragile items. In case someone handles your box in an unusual way, the item comes out safe when they reach its destination.

01. Get the right size box

You should pack fragile items snugly in the package. You can’t have any room for your fragile item to toss around in the box. Although you can use a larger box with fillers in it, fillers always leave space for the object to move around. Plus, it will cost you more in shipping and handling charges. So, it’s very important to get the right size box for your fragile items. Then you should cover it with bubble wraps on all sides. If you are shipping something hollow like a set of the wine glass, use some crumpled cardboard paper inside the glass. You could also consider sending it in another box for added safety. Even better option would be to order customized package boxes for your fragile items.

02. High-Quality Box

Corrugated cardboard boxes are of various types and come in various kinds of flutes. Buying a cheap box is a really bad idea; on the other hand, a good quality box would only marginally cost more. Get a box that has multiple flutes and liners which are sturdy enough to hold your fragile items. If you are not sure what kind of box to get, simply ask for a shipping box made of B-flute, which should be enough for most fragile items.

03. Protecting Your Items Using Bubble Wrap

Sure, you can fill up the box with peanuts and other fillers, but do care to add some extra layers of bubble wrap on it. For filler, you can also use crumpled paper, which in our opinion is a much better option than loose peanuts. For added safety, you can tap the fragile object to the package itself. Use tape only to close of the package lid and don’t go overboard and wrap it so tightly that the item breaks. Repeat the process a few more time if you are carrying a large number of fragile items in one package.

04. Label the Box as Fragile

We know we have said that marking ‘Fragile’ on the box doesn’t make much difference in actual handling, but it’s standard to add a ‘Fragile’ label in the event, your item is actually fragile. You never know, someone can notice your box and the package handler takes the pain of storing your box in a secure spot. You can also add other labels such as ‘Handle with care’ and ‘This way up.’


SEE ALSO:  Is it Safe to Store Clothes in Cardboard Boxes?

Packaging companies mostly use internationally recognised symbols that help package handlers to take proper measures while handling cargo packages. If you wish to transport your items in a cardboard box, you can buy specific cardboard boxes with the specific handling sign you want. Most cardboard boxes already come with some standard handling signs such as ‘This way up,’ ‘keep out of the water,’ ‘fragile’ and ‘recyclable’ as the box could be recycled. So, next time you see a sign on the box, you know exactly what it is and even know the type of contents inside the box.

Sharing is caring!

Leave a Comment