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International Packing Symbols A Complete Guide

Have you ever examined your packaging and pondered the meaning of all the symbols? The use of one or more signs on the box is constant, regardless of whether you received the packaging or your customer did. 

The international packaging symbols are a collection of illustrative pictures and letters describing the package and what's inside. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) oversees the symbols and keeps a database. 

These packaging symbols are widely recognized and convey information about the product inside clearly and understandably. Using symbols that alert receivers or transporters to potential dangers during transit is advisable. Even though using most of these symbols on your boxes is optional.  

Although some symbols are self-explanatory, we have created a guide to assist you in understanding each symbol's meaning and how to use it when necessary. 

Sounds interesting? So, let's begin! 

Handling and Care Packaging Symbols

internal symbols

This Side Up 

Two upward arrows make up this box symbol, indicating how the box should be positioned to keep it upright. This symbol indicates that the contents should never be carried upside-down or sideways to avoid breaking them. Additionally, it serves as a helpful cue for which side of the box to open. 

Fragile 

Some boxes may have the word "fragile," which is self-explanatory. The contents of the box must be handled carefully because they are vulnerable to damage. On some boxes, the word is occasionally replaced by a picture of a cracked wine glass. Likewise, it shows fragility. This typically indicates that the box contains glass or crystal components. 

Food Safety 

 Wine glass and fork are used as food packaging symbols. This symbol shows that a restaurant or other food establishment has taken precautions to guarantee the food's safety. The symbol may also signify particular safety measures taken, like wearing gloves when preparing food. 

Handle with Care 

The "handle with care" symbol represents hands cupping a box. This indicates that the box has numerous small components or parts that will get harmed by careless handling. In contrast to the fragile sign, the handle with care sign instructs users to load and move the box with extreme caution. 

Keep Dry 

The umbrella stands for the requirement that the box always is kept in a dry location and never be left outside in the rain. This symbol also informs you that the box contents are not waterproof. 

Temperature-Sensitive 

The logo of a thermometer with the recommended storage temperature represents temperature-sensitive items. Even though the general rule of thumb is to keep it out of the sun and the rain, some products (such as pharmaceuticals) may require storage in cooler temperatures. 

Protect from Direct Sunlight 

The warning sign for "protect from direct sunlight" features a box in the sun with a line running through it. This implies that the items inside the box are flammable and may burn when exposed to the sun (such as food) (see the next symbol). This symbol is similar to temperature-sensitive. 

Flammable Materials 

The fire symbol represents flammable substances. This means that if the box is left close to an open flame, smoke, hot surface, or sparks, the contents inside and the box itself risk burning and suffering damage. This is valid for anything made of paper or containing chemicals. 

Do Not Open with Knife 

This symbol for the box indicates that opening the package with a knife contaminates the contents. 

Do Not Place Near Magnets 

A package's contents may be magnetic force-sensitive. If so, this symbol forbids handlers from putting the package close to a magnet. 

Maximum Stacking Height 

The stack height is indicated by two parallel horizontal bars with a number on top. This would depend on the items inside the box and the box's strength and thickness. The symbol's number should be verified because it isn't always the same. When the number 4 is displayed, it indicates that only 4 boxes or fewer of the same type may be stacked on top of one another. Any more than 4 puts the bottom boxes at risk of being harmed. 

Do Not Stack 

You may occasionally notice two horizontal bars divided by a red line. This means that you should avoid stacking the boxes. These boxes are either too delicate or contain items easily damaged by pressure. It is good practice to check in a box symbol before using it.  

Do Not Hook 

An X-marked hook helps to symbolize this packaging icon. It indicates that the boxes are too heavy to be carried or hooked onto something. The boxes might start to open from below if you do that. 

Do Not Lift 

A person lifting a box with a prohibition sign is a metaphor for the possibility that the box is too heavy for one person to lift alone. You might require a trolley or the assistance of another person. Any of these symbols, as shown below, should be avoided. 

Scope 

The scoped symbol represents the package's center of gravity, which also informs handlers of how evenly the package's contents are distributed in weight. 

Two-person Lifting 

In the symbol, if two people lift the box, it can be lifted with the assistance of one or more additional people. 

Trolley Lifting 

If the sign depicts a trolley box on it, using a trolley to lift the box is required. It is advised not to ignore this symbol because it may indicate that the boxes must be lifted correctly and then gently lowered to the ground. 

Sustainable Symbols

sustainable symbols

Recycle Sign 

It is one of the most widely recognized international symbols on any box. This symbol stands for the shipper's sustainable business practices. 

FSC Sign 

With the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification, suppliers and companies can be sure they're looking for, purchasing, and utilizing materials from responsibly managed forests and recycled materials. The sign indicates that the box's materials have received FSC approval.  

Remember that not everyone is eligible to use the FSC label.  

Tidy Man 

The image of a man using a trash can represents being responsible when throwing away your boxes or the items inside (e.g., tissue paper, bubble wrap, etc.). 

Plastic Recycling 

The plastic recycling boxes icon may vary depending on the type of plastic recycled. It is symbolized by the recycle symbol with a number in the center. The number should indicate the type of plastic that was recycled and used. 

Recycling PET or PETE (polyethylene terephthalate) 

Water bottles and other one-time-use items manufacturing process use this kind of plastic. 

Recycling HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene) 

This plastic is used to make slightly more durable plastic products like shampoo bottles and tubs. 

PVC (Vinyl or Polyvinyl Chloride) 

PVC pipes are a type of plastic commonly used for siding and piping because they are durable and work well in all types of weather. Plastic packaging symbols are very easy to understand as compared to others.  

LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene) 

This type of more malleable plastic is used in grocery bags. 

PP (Polypropylene) 

Due to its high melting point, this plastic can withstand hot liquids or solids. Some straws and cups contain it. 

PS (Polystyrene)  

Other Plastic Types 

Companies use this kind of plastic to make Styrofoam. Compared to other types, it is more rigid. Any other kind of plastic or resin that doesn't fit into one of the above-mentioned categories is "other." 

We hope you have got it now! These are some of the packaging symbols that are most frequently seen on custom boxes and shipping cartons. This list of shipping symbols is quite comprehensive, and you might discover that some are country-specific or even dependent on the type of packaging and use (e.g., food packaging). 

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