Cardboard Boxes Vs. Plastic Bins; Which Is Better For Storing?

It’s a question that deserves attention when storing your valuables: cardboard boxes or plastic bins? In this blog, we’ll go over the pros and cons of both storage containers to help you figure out which option is best for storing your things.

Cardboard Boxes for Short Term Storage

First and foremost, we want to say that we appreciate the practicality and function of cardboard boxes! They are cost effective, easy to store once collapsed, and can be re-used until they fall apart. If you’re in a pinch to store something, cardboard boxes are readily accessible at most storage facilities and are affordable.

Cardboard boxes are fantastic options for storage when you’re considering storing your things for a short amount of time, and in a dry place. Although cardboard boxes are relatively cheap in comparison to plastic storage bins, you definitely get what you pay for. Cardboard boxes have some serious cons that require contemplation before using them to keep your precious belongings safe. They also have some great positives, too. 


CONS

  • Prone To Mildew and Mold

Cardboard and moisture are not friends. They just don’t mix. Cardboard is susceptible to moisture and will begin to break down if it’s exposed to humidity. Once the box has encountered moisture, especially for long periods of time, it won’t only break down; it will begin to grow mold. And if the box is not removed, the mold will spread throughout the box, ultimately contaminating your things. 

  • Attracts Rodents

Have you ever stored grain, or flour, in a paper bag—only to find that mice have eaten through the paper? Mice and rodents love paper and will chew through it for food, but also to get to whatever else is in the box. Once mice have chewed through the cardboard, they will then proceed to urinate and defecate all over anything inside of the box. If this happens, you’ll have to wash everything that you can and throw away things that can’t be saved. Consider things like scrapbooks and photos that will have to be tossed. 

  • Short Shelf Life 

Cardboard boxes don’t last very long, especially when exposed to heat or extreme sunlight (and moisture, but we’ve covered that already). Heat will make the boxes curl and become thin, ultimately losing their density—the very reason we use these receptacles in the first place. When cardboard boxes become thin and brittle, they lose their strength in keeping heavy things inside the box. 

  • Loses Shape Over Time

Cardboard gets tired over time. After heavy use or a long time of use, the box will begin to break down and change shape. This means that if you’ve decided to store things in a cardboard box for a really long time, chances are the box will begin to break down. If you’ve decided to stack boxes on top of one another, the bottom wall of the box will eventually become weak as well. This can result in your stack spilling over, things becoming broken, etc. 

PROS

  • Affordable & Accessible

Cardboard boxes are wildly affordable and can be found pretty much anywhere. Really well-made boxes manufactured with dense, high-grade cardboard can hold up well and can be reused often.

  • Safe For Short Term Storage 

Cardboard is a great option for short-term storage, especially if you know the boxes will be stored in a dry, cool, and safe place. Consider cardboard boxes for moving things in a moving truck or vehicle, or for short instances where you’re handing the box off to someone else for unpacking. 

  • Easy to Collapse
    Cardboard boxes are easy to store once you’re done using them. They can collapse onto themselves and lie flat to fit really anywhere. 

Household plastic storage containers in the store

Plastic Bins for Long Term Storage 

Plastic storage containers are by far the best choice when it comes to storing your belongings for long periods of time. Plastic, a synthetic material, is much more durable than organic matter like paper—and lasts longer too. Although we’ve got a long list of pros when it comes to plastic storage containers, we’ve got some cons, too.

PROS

  • Long Lasting

Plastic storage containers last a long, long time —especially if you’re able to afford a high-grade container. They won’t break down the same way that cardboard boxes will over time. 

  • Doesn’t Break Down 

Plastic bins won’t lose their shape like cardboard boxes do, and don’t grow tired and weak after multiple uses. The plastic stays hard and in place for long periods of time. You won’t have to wonder if your plastic bin is collapsing inside of your storage unit with all of your things inside of it.

  • Keeps Rodents Away

Unless the plastic storage bin you’re using is made of really thin, hardly-there-plastic, your belongings should stay safe from rodents. Rodents can’t chew through hardy plastic as easily as cardboard. This means you won’t have to worry about rodents urinating and defecating on your belongings.

CONS

  • Expensive 

Well-made plastic storage bins can be quite costly, depending on where you’re buying them and how well they’re made. Some storage bins can be up to $100 each. This makes storing goods in high-quality storage bins out of reach for lots of people. 

  • Can Melt 

Plastic will melt when exposed to high temperatures — which are common if you are storing your things in the southwest. It’s important to store your things in plastic bins that are well made, not with thin plastic. Since most self-storage units are made of metal, temps can easily reach 120+. Flimsy plastic won’t stand a chance in those conditions.

  • Not Collapsable

What do you do with a storage bin once you’re done using it? Well, that can be tricky. Unlike cardboard which will break down, plastic keeps its form. Since most storage bins are quite large, storing them once you’re done using them can be tricky. 

As you can see, both cardboard boxes and plastic storage bins have their place in the storage world— it purely depends on what you’re using them for, where you’re storing your things, and for how long you’ll need them. We hope this was helpful in your decision-making.

Happy self-storing!

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