Shipping Box Symbols and What They Mean

For everyday private and commercial shipping, most logistics companies use cardboard boxes. Aside from plastic packaging and shipping containers, cardboard boxes are the obvious choice for a fairly reliable protective packaging. Aside from its reliability to protect most cargo, cardboard boxes are biodegradable, fairly strong, and are very versatile.

But if you ever come across a cardboard box, you might find shipping box symbols and might be confused about what they mean. The symbols on cardboard box symbols often tell people how to handle the box and its contents without damaging the item inside. Here are a few of these package handling symbols and their meanings.

Fragile Package

Most businesses will simply stamp on the words “fragile” or a combination of this broken wineglass and the word beneath it. Alternatively, it can simply be a picture of a wineglass without a crack. Boxes with this symbol mean that it is containing items that can easily be broken if mishandled. While there’s a supposed belief that letting the shipping company’s employees know that an item is fragile may end up giving worse treatment than regular packaging, it’s still important to place this symbol in case someone tries to stack other boxes on top of this.

While most shipping and packaging companies will wrap fragile items like china, glasses, ceramic dinner glasses, and more in multiple layers of bubble wrap or any type of packing material for fragile items, it may not be enough if the people responsible for handling these boxes if mishandled. So, letting everyone know that the contents of the box are fragile can help reduce the risk of breakage.

Food Package

If the wineglass symbol isn’t broken and is accompanied by a fork, this means that there are food items inside the box. This means that the package has perishable goods and must be delivered as soon as possible. It’s also a good way to warn the handler that damage to this box could damage the quality of the food. For example, If the box contained cookies or a bag of chips, the mishandling of the package could lead to crumbling.

Handle with Care

This symbol warns the box’s handler to take care when handling. It is often seen beside the fragile symbol, but a package can still require more care even though it isn’t fragile. This can mean that a package should not be treated as any other package and must not be stacked, loaded, or carried around without attention to certain contents of the package.


This means an object is flammable or can burn when placed near open flame, sparks, smoke, hot surfaces, and anything that can start a fire. This can include certain chemicals, aerosol, paper, and more.

Keep Away from Direct Heat

This symbol instructs the handler to keep the box away from direct heat. This can be due to many reasons. One is that the object is flammable and can catch fire if placed under extremely hot temperatures.

Another is that under certain temperatures, the box, and its contents can be damaged when placed in certain temperatures. For example, some food and cosmetic products come with labels instructing the consumer to keep food items in areas that don’t exceed certain temperatures.

Keep Under Temperature

Even if an object is away from direct sunlight, it may still need to be placed in cooler or warmer places. This symbol often comes with a number on the thermometer. This number is the temperature in which the package’s contents should be in. For example, it’s not enough to put the ice cream away from direct sunlight and should be kept in cold places.

Keep Dry

While shipping cardboard boxes are mostly not waterproof due to its paper-based material, this symbol states that the items inside it may be ruined by water, so the box should be kept covered from rain or away from wet areas. For example, if a cardboard box contained rolls of bathroom tissue, if water were to seep into the box, it would ruin the tissue.

This Side Up

Packages with this symbol mean that the contents must never be carried sideways or upside-down, otherwise, the contents will be prone to damage. It also indicates which area you should open the box to avoid the contents from spilling or getting damaged upon opening.

Use No Hooks

Boxes that have this symbol carry heavy items that may cause the box to unexpectedly open from below if it were raised by a hook. This means that the box should be handled from the bottom to avoid accidents.

Do Not Stack

The contents of the package may be fragile or tightly pressured, and stacking other boxes on top of it may cause it to burst from the inside.

Maximum Stacking Height

This indicates that while it is OK for the box to be stacked with other boxes, it can only be stacked below a certain amount of boxes that are roughly equal to its own size and weight. Any more than the indicated number on the symbol may result in breakage or bursting.

Do Not Lift

This is for objects that are so heavy that it may cause back injuries to a person who will attempt to carry this on their own. Instead, they should use other means to transport the box such as trolleys, forklifts, and other heavy machinery.

Two-Person Lift

The box may be too heavy for one person, but it is possible for two or more people to transport the box around. However, handlers must practice proper lifting techniques to avoid the risk of injuring their back.

For Trolley Transportation Only

The object may be too heavy for people to handle or requires smooth transportation and will require a trolley to move around.

These symbols on shipping boxes not only keep the contents of the box safe but also protect the person handling the item. By understanding these symbols, you can get an idea on how to properly handle packages, keep them in good condition, and what to do and what not to do even without knowing what is inside the box.

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