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Shipping containers stacked ready for shipping

How to Insulate a Shipping Container


When it comes to food transportation, simply packing your products in an insulated box and dry ice packs is never enough. If you are a food company that ships its own perishables, shipping containers are the ideal option. Even though the majority of shipping containers are refrigerated, this won't be enough to maintain the container's temperature if you live in an area with extreme temperatures. To ensure that your frozen products don't thaw and spoil, continue reading to learn how to insulate a shipping container.


Why Do You Need to Insulate a Shipping Container?

 A man standing on an empty container with a notebook in his hand

Credit: Envato Elements/ diego_cervo


Due to the fact that most shipping containers are made of thermally conductive steel and are not by design insulated, the air temperature inside your container likely reflects the temperate outside. Insulation is therefore crucial for safeguarding your temperature-sensitive products, including frozen foods, meats, ice creams, dairy items, chocolates, and more.


Types of Materials Used to Insulate Shipping Containers


There are different types of materials that you can use to insulate your shipping container. Here are the most common types:


1)  Spray Foam

 A person spraying foam into a area surrounded by wood

Credit: Envato Elements/ Photovs


Spray foam or polyurethane spray foam insulation is a simple and adaptable insulation material that will keep your shipping container dry in wet months and warm in cooler months. Due to its ability to develop a smooth vapor barrier, it will be able to prevent any kind of condensation, preventing food deterioration. Additionally, spray foam insulation expands upon application and is highly flexible, so it will be able to fit into gaps of all shapes and sizes. This material can be used for interior as well exterior insulation. However, bear in mind that spray foam insulation is more expensive and messy to work with than other insulating materials.


2)  Styrofoam

 Three pieces of blue styrofoam

Credit: iStock


Styrofoam or extruded polystyrene foam insulation (EPS) is a cost-effective choice to add basic interior insulation to a storage container. In addition to being easy to install, styrofoam also has a long lifespan and is an inexpensive choice. If styrofoam or extruded polystyrene foam insulation is not the insulation material for you, you can always try expanded polystyrene foam insulation (XPS). When compared to EPS, expanded foam insulation has a lower water vapor resistance.


3)  Batt Insulation

 A roll of batt insulation

Credit: Department of Energy


Batt insulation is a popular insulating material that is made out of tightly woven strands of fiberglass, mineral wool, or plastic fibers. You can buy this type of insulation at most hardware or equipment stores for shipping containers. They are often sold in compact stackable rolls or blocks. The advantage of choosing batt insulation over other kinds of materials is that it fits tightly, which will prevent airflow and the transfer of heat.


4)  Loose-Fill Insulation

 A man holding some loose fill insulation

Credit: Paragon Protection


Loose-fill insulation refers to small bits of insulation materials that are put into wall cavities. Before installation, these insulators often need to be completely contained in the wall hollow to prevent any fallout. Loose-fill insulation ensures that there is no airflow escape, thereby keeping the container's temperature constant.

Loose-fill shipping container insulation can be of 3 types:

  • Cellulose Insulation
  • Loose-Fill Glass Fiber Insulation
  • Vermiculite Insulation and Perlite Insulation


5)  Blanket Insulation

 A roll of blanket insulation

Credit: Go2 Insulation Wellington and Kapiti


In addition to the insulating techniques mentioned above, you can get a little inventive based on your resources and budget. For instance, you could always attach thick blankets (which come in batt materials) to cover the walls within your shipping container. You can use blankets made of cotton, wool, and fiberglass.


Factors to Consider Before Insulating Your Shipping Container


Before insulating your shipping container, make sure to consider the following factors:


1)  Climate in the Area

 A sun shining over a field with mountains in the background

Credit: Envato Elements/ AZ-BLT


One of the most important factors to take into account when insulating your shipping container is the climate of the area. If you reside in an area with really low temperatures, you might want to add extra layers of insulation. However, if you reside in a hot or humid area, you may want to utilize insulating materials that can keep heat and moisture out.


2)  Type of Products You're Going to Ship

 A bowl of frozen peas, beans and snaps

Credit: Envato Elements/ photopopova


The type of insulating materials you use will depend on the type of products you want to ship. For instance, the type of insulating material will alter depending on whether the product needs to be kept frozen or at room temperature.


3)  Vapor Barrier

 Two people looking at the entrance of a container and looking at plans

Credit: Envato Elements/ ckstockphoto


When it comes to maintaining the container's temperature, you will need to consider the vapor barrier. In order to prevent corrosion, you must install a vapor barrier because containers frequently release moisture, especially if they are refrigerated.


Additional Ways To Prevent Food Spoilage


Even though you are taking all the necessary precautions to guarantee that your shipping container stays chilled and maintains its temperature, you still need to have a backup plan in place to prevent product spoilage in the event that everything else fails. By taking the necessary actions, you can stop your products from spoiling:


1)  Use the Correct Coolants

 A pack of blue coolants that are stuck together

Credit: Envato Elements/ vsoldatov7


It is essential to use the right coolants when transporting perishable products in order to maintain optimal temperatures. When choosing coolants, make sure that you use a combination of gel packs, dry ice packs, and wet ice.


2)  Use Efficient Insulated Packaging

 A Nice Packs Thermal Liner

Credit: Nice Packs


Insulated packaging can maintain the temperature of perishable products throughout the delivery duration. By using the right insulated perishable packaging products, such as insulated box liners and insulated boxes, you can stop your perishable items from deteriorating.


3)  Cut Down on Shipping Time

 A lady loading a box into a shipping container

Credit: Envato Elements/ seventyfourimages


Perishable products must be shipped as quickly as possible. No matter how well-insulated the shipping container is, you must transport perishable items, especially fresh produce, within two days. To ensure that your products arrive within this window, schedule your shipments at the beginning of the week.




If you find it impossible to construct your own shipping container or modify it to be insulated, you can simply hire a shipping company to ship your temperature-sensitive items. Whether you're using your own shipping container or employing another company to handle the transportation for you, use the appropriate insulators and coolants for your products to prevent spoiling. For insulated liners and dry ice packs that will endure the duration of the journey, shop at Nice Packs.

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