In our Vs. series we put different storage options up against each other to find the best solution for your needs.
Boxes Vs. Bins is where we put standard cardboard boxes up against rubber or plastic storage bins.
There were a few categories we considered:
Strength, Durability, Capacity, Accessibility, Longevity and more…
Cardboard boxes are obviously not as strong as the hard plastic bins but they can be cheaper and easier to find.
Depending upon the style of your box you can put just as much stuff into a cardboard box as you could fit into a storage bin of the same size.
Some box styles have lids that detach and some have flap style lids that need taping or folding. The folding method is not as strong as taping the flaps and could result in the box collapsing if there is too much weight on it or in it. Other styles have lids that are attached on one side, this makes it very easy to locate the lid and is a strong option for stacking.
One problem you are left with when you use left over or used boxes is that they are all different sizes. Stacking boxes that are odd sized can get awkward and dangerous. Always stack larger heavier boxes on bottom and smaller lighter boxes on the top to avoid tipping.
Another problem you find when stacking either boxes or bins is accessibility. When you stack them you will inevitably have to unstack them again to get inside. Cardboard boxes are harder to access usually due to the tape. You have to cut the tape or rip it then reapply it when you are finished to ensure durability and cleanliness. With storage bins the lids remove and attach easily or some have an interlocking lid that does not detach at all. We will talk more about that in the bins section.
The longevity of a cardboard box will depend upon what is inside of it, what is stacked on top of it, and how it was handled while moving or packing. Under the right conditions a cardboard box will last a long time, but if it is introduced to the forces of nature it will rot away to nothing. One thing about cardboard is that once it is bent or weakened it will never be as strong as it was.
Storage bins come in different styles, brands and sizes but all seem to be stronger than their counterparts the cardboard box.
With the different styles and brands comes a difference in durability among storage bins. Some brands make them strong and thick with strength in mind while others make them thin with their bottom line in mind. So make sure when purchasing a storage bin that you look at and feel the side walls and bottom for thickness.
Bins with lids that are one piece will stack better than bins with lids that have an interlocking closure style. That being said it is nice that the interlocking lid does not come off because you never have to search for it when your bin is ready for storage. It seems that the interlocking lids may let more dust and elements into the bin than the solid lids do. I always have trouble fitting those interlocking pieces together correctly, especially after they have warped from the years of having heavy items in the bin.
The capacity of most storage bins is the same as the capacity of a cardboard box of the same size. That being said, some storage bins have angled sides from top to base which decreases the capacity a little. There are also hand holds on most storage bins that will decrease the interior space as well.
Accessibility as mentioned is better when you have a storage bin because it doesn’t require tape. But accessibility also depends on how organized your storage space is. If you have tall stacks of bins that need unstacking then you may need to reorganize. It may take up a little more space to make your stack lower but it is safer and it will make your bins easier to get to later. Another tip for ease of access would be to purchase clear storage bins so you can see what is inside them eliminating a lot of the guess-work that goes into searching for stored items.
The longevity of a storage bin is much greater than that of a cardboard box. The bin is made of plastics and rubbers that are made to last where boxes are made from cardboard and materials that biodegrade and break down. The storage bin will hold up much better against floods and other moisture related problems like heavy humidity or fire sprinkler malfunctions. The storage bin will also hold up better under extreme weight conditions. If you over pack a cardboard box the handles or the box itself may rip, but if you over pack a storage bin the plastic holds up much better, you may not be able to pick it up or close the lid but it is stronger just the same.
Cardboard boxes can be cheaper and easier to find than storage bins but they are not as strong or durable.
Storage bins are strong but not indestructible, if overfilled and dropped it will break.
Capacity has been ruled a tie.
Accessibility went to the storage bin because it doesn’t require tape.
When labeling do not use permanent marker, you will have to cross it off later if you want to reuse the box again. Label with paper and clear tape so you can easily remove and relabel later when you reuse. The tape method works for both boxes and bins but it will begin to rip the cardboard on the boxes the more times you remove to relabel.
If you have the funds to purchase storage bins then it is recommended, otherwise boxes work fine. Boxes will not last as long but under the right conditions and with the proper care and packing they could work for your needs.
Follow our Vs. series to find more solutions to your storage problems.