Think about Safety before you Pack up Those Boxes

Most of us think that just getting our possessions into proper packing boxes is the only goal before moving day.  But if you are planning a move, there are some hidden hazards to consider.  It is illegal to transport many dangerous substances.

Common sense says that no one would willingly pack and move dangerous chemicals, but often these items are used in everyday tasks, and most people never think about the difficulties they might cause. Aside from a problem if a bottle breaks, or a can spills, there are definite hazards in the contents of many things found in your house, basement, yard, and garage.

Hazardous Materials

Many everyday household items contain materials that should not be shipped, or even carried by the owner. On the list of things from your garage or house that should not be packed and/or moved are propane tanks, fireworks, chemistry sets, scuba and other oxygen and compressed gas tanks, loaded guns and ammunition, matches, car batteries, and charcoal and lighter fluid.  Do not even consider moving anything flammable!

The legal requirements for transport of dangerous materials for the UK are written by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe— the “European Agreement concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road” is found at   ( the U.S. the regulations are overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency using the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act and the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. (  Since reading these regulations is tedious, take some time to talk to your professional moving firm instead.  If you are transporting your packing boxes yourself, use the list below and exercise caution. (Keep in mind that most jurisdictions have strict regulations about moving and disposal of hazardous materials.)

The list of dangerous substances includes:


Pool chemicals

Nail polish remover

Cleaning solvents

Gasoline, kerosene and lamp oil


Motor oil


Weed killer

Paint, especially open cans



Just because a substance is not poisonous does not mean it should be part of your move.  Things that can leak should never be packed. Discard or give away open containers of most household cleaners and other substances on the list.   Make sure to drain gasoline and motor oil from all tools and gardening equipment.  Disconnect any batteries. (Remember it is likely not legal to transport the battery.)

Perishable Items

It is tempting to attempt to pack and move perishables, especially from the refrigerator.  Unless you are moving to a close location, it is not a good idea. A few firms advertise that they will accommodate perishable foods if you are moving just across town. Remember if you do elect to move your food, it is your responsibility to get it packed correctly and unpack as soon as possible.  (Since your heavy refrigerator is likely to be at the front of the truck, get plenty of ice!) But most firms will not accept them at all, so you will need to get enough ice chests to move everything yourself.  A few days before the move, check the expiration dates of things like ketchup and mustard, and discard expired containers. Then clean the freezers and refrigerators, and keep the doors open to air out the interior. Absolutely do not consider moving a full refrigerator!  If it slides or tips during transport not only the contents, but the appliance interior will be damaged.

If you are planning a long-distance move, consider discarding all boxes of any kind of food. You do not want to find insects sharing your breakfast cereal in your new house.

It is probably an exercise in futility to move plants with a moving truck.  I know of many people who could not give up their carefully nurtured plants and ended up either putting them in the back seat of their car, or renting a small van just for the plants. Since plants really are replaceable and mostly inexpensive, just find nice homes for them.

Connie Williams is an information junkie who lives to ferret out fascinating ideas for her readers. She writes articles and blog posts on a variety of topics such as moving boxes.  After many moves, she has learned a great deal about using packing boxes efficiently.