Plastic containers vs cardboard boxes for storage

If you’re planning on putting your belongings into storage, then you will need to decide how to smartly pack everything away. There are two main options available: using plastic containers or cardboard boxes. 

You want to make sure that the type of storage boxes you use are easy to pack, efficient, and offer the best possible protection for your items. We’ll look into the considerations between using plastic and cardboard for storage, and help you decide which one is better.

cardboard box

Plastic containers vs cardboard boxes

When you put items into storage, you want to make sure that they will be properly protected. You also don’t want to put too much money or effort into this. Here’s what you need to know about plastic and cardboard storage containers. 

Plastic containers

The first thing to note about plastic containers is that they’re more durable and offer a greater level of protection, but they’re also a lot more expensive. For storage, plastic containers also offer the major benefit of being able to neatly stack on top of each other. This saves loads of space and makes packing your storage unit a far easier task. 

On the downside, these containers don’t offer any type of flexibility. If your items are oddly shaped, then you might not be able to fit them into a plastic container. Items like blankets or pillows are flexible and can be easily stuffed and molded into containers of all shapes. If you’re packing things like books, you will need to make sure that the plastic containers are the exact size, otherwise, you will waste valuable storage space. 

Plastic containers also all need to be the same shape and size for neat stacking. If you’re using plastic containers for storage, then try to get ones with flat sides and lids. If the sides are angled, you will waste quite a lot of storage space. Unfortunately, most plastic containers that you can buy at the shops don’t fit flush next to each other. 

Plastic storage containers are much easier to open and access than cardboard boxes. When using cardboard boxes for storage, you’ll probably need to tape them closed. Plastic containers can open up easily in case you want to take an item out of storage. They’re also easy to label, and clear containers allow you to see exactly where all of your items are.

Airtight plastic containers also offer the benefit of keeping out things like moisture, bugs, or mould. When your possessions are in a long-term storage situation, keeping your items dry and protected from these things is incredibly important.

plastic container

Cardboard boxes

Cardboard boxes are a lot more accessible than plastic storage containers. They’re way cheaper than plastic boxes, although they’re not nearly as durable. 

Cardboard boxes come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. When they’re packed neatly and carefully, they can still be stacked up on top of each other. You just have to pay careful attention to placing heavier, larger boxes on the bottom and lighter, smaller boxes on top. Stacking boxes like this can waste space.

Cardboard boxes have perfectly flat sides and tops which makes them easy to place next to each other edge to edge. This can save you a lot of space.

One of the big benefits of using cardboard boxes for storage is that they are slightly flexible. If your items are oddly shaped or just a little bit too big, the box can bend slightly to accommodate this. However, this will mean the boxes don’t sit flush next to each other.

Cardboard boxes with hanging bars are great for hanging clothes. You can also get corrugated cardboard boxes that offer greater protection for fragile items. 

The major downside to using cardboard boxes for storage is that they’re not nearly as durable as plastic containers. If there’s some kind of spill or moisture in your storage unit, then cardboard boxes won’t protect your items from this. They also aren’t completely airtight, and can still let in things like mould, mildew, and insects.

storage boxes

Important considerations between plastic and cardboard boxes for storage

Here are some other things to keep in mind when deciding between plastic storage containers and cardboard boxes:

  • When you take your items out of storage, cardboard boxes can be easily folded up and recycled. Plastic containers, on the other hand, shouldn’t just be discarded. These can take up a lot of space. However, plastic containers are always useful to have around the house, and they can always be repurposed for other storage solutions.
  • Cardboard boxes are more environmentally friendly than plastic containers. These boxes are often made from reused materials and are biodegradable, unlike most plastic boxes.
  • Plastic containers can be placed directly on the ground, but it’s better to raise cardboard boxes in case of flooding.
  • Plastic containers can be reused hundreds of times, unlike cardboard boxes.
  • Plastic containers are easier to pick up and move from your storage unit to your house. Cardboard boxes can be more difficult to manage.
  • Cardboard boxes generally take longer to pack and unload than plastic storage containers.
  • Plastic containers come in limited sizes, but there are cardboard boxes to fit all kinds of items. You can even get cardboard boxes designed for mattresses. 


Both plastic containers and cardboard boxes have their pros and cons. Cardboard is cheap, versatile, and recyclable. Plastic is durable and easier to stack. If you’re putting your items into storage for the long term, then plastic containers are generally a smarter option. They offer far greater protection and are easier to manage. 

A good approach would be to combine both. More expensive and fragile items that require better protection can be stored in plastic containers. Durable and more common items can be packed in cardboard boxes. Always pay attention to each item that you’re packing to ensure that it’s placed in the right kind of container.