Figuring out the pros and cons of cardboard boxes vs plastic boxes can make or break (literally) a move. And there’s not one right choice! It all depends on when, where and how you’re moving.
“In general, you should always consider two factors: The distance of your move and the environment you’re moving from and to,” said Sarah Buckwalter, a professional organizer and mover of Organizing Boston.
If you’re considering the type of boxes that would be best for your move, keep reading for some great advice from Buckwalter and another professional organizer. Combined, they help pack up hundreds of moving boxes for their clients every year.
Consider How Far You’re Moving
For short and easy moves, our experts recommend tried-and-true cardboard moving boxes. They’re easy to find, cheap to buy and can be easily recycled.
“We tend to use cardboard boxes more than plastics bins, when moving a client,” said Jamie Shaner of Home Solutions of WNY, Inc. “But we use heavy-duty boxes that are the same size, so they can be easily stacked.”
For longer moves, plastic totes can bring an added layer of protection. But they’ll cost more and you’ll want a place to store them later, since they can’t be broken down.
“Cardboard is the easiest way to go,” said Buckwalter. “It’s also more lightweight, which could save you money if your movers are changing you by the pound for long-distance moves.”
Determine How Long You’ll Store Your Stuff
If you’re planning to store you stuff in a storage unit or garage for a while, some experts recommend opting for plastic bins that will stand the test of time.
“If people are putting things in storage, then I highly recommend tote over boxes,” said Shaner. “They’re safer, easier to stack and more stable.”
Both experts also recommend using shelves to keep boxes organized in storage, which will make your stuff more accessible and keep it off the floor.
“Plastic boxes can hold a lot of weight and will last a long time,” said Buckwalter.
But if you have little-to-no storage space in your new home, pack what you plan to unpack right away in cardboard and choose plastic for the few belongings you want to store.
“Some things you want to protect more than others, and plastic boxes are good for that,” said Buckwalter. “I have a couple of glass ornaments that I keep stored in a plastic box, because I know they won’t get crushed no matter where the box goes.”
Figure Out Where You’ll Store Your Boxes
Take into consideration where you will be storing or moving your boxes, because wet or muggy environments can degrade cardboard boxes. That environment can also trap moisture in plastic.
“Humidity is definitely a factor people should take into consideration in places like Florida,” said Buckwalker.
Both experts recommend plastic boxes with locking lids (pictured above), if you’re planning to store in spaces like attics and basements where it can get extremely hot or cold and where bugs may want to find a new home.
“Plastic totes keep out water, smoke, critters of any kind – it’s an issue that a lot of people deal with – and it’s a lot harder for those thing to get into a box with a lid,” said Shaner.
But if you’re moving during dry days or in a temperate climate, then cardboard boxes are the best option.
“Boxes tend to be more economical of a choice,” said Shaner. “Heavy-duty boxes can be used multiple times.”
Shaner suggests to avoid labeling cardboard boxes, in case you do want to reuse them or perhaps give them to someone else who is moving. She uses post-its or adds plastic sleeves to include notes on what’s inside. Color coding dots are a great to keep track of what boxes go into what room.
For more tips, check out these handy packing hacks to help with your upcoming move!