Understanding Cardboard – Why Not All Moving Boxes Are Built Alike

Of all of the tools in a mover’s arsenal, the humble cardboard box is perhaps the most important. If you’re moving in Arlington Virginia, the chances are you’ve been searching high and low to find enough cardboard boxes to hold all of your stuff.

These lightweight, heavy-duty boxes are responsible for containing just about all of your worldly possessions during a move, and given the huge loads we pack into them, it’s surprising that they are able to hold up the abuse.

And yet, there’s much more to the cardboard box than meets the eye. In fact, there are dozens of types of cardboard boxes – and not all of them are appropriate for moving.

Let’s take a look at some of the most important cardboard attributes that go into making a great moving box – and what characteristics make some cardboard boxes poor performers.

The Three Main Types Of Cardboard

Professionals in the packaging industry actually try to refrain from using the word “cardboard” at all – it’s quite vague and general, and can encompass any number of diverse materials that are used in wide varieties of applications. The three primary types of “cardboard” used in the packaging industry are as follows:

Paper – Lightweight, Flexible – And Weak

“Paper” cardboard is the most lightweight variety of cardboard on the market. This type of cardboard is typical in end-user packaging – think the sort of cardboard you’d find on a box of cereal, or used to contain a 12-pack of soda.

This material is made by simply pressing moist fibers like cellulose pulp (cellulose being the product from wood) and drying them.

The result is a flexible sheet that readily accepts deformation, printing ink, and writing. This makes these sorts of cardboards ideal for end-user packaging – but makes them rather useless for any kind of heavy-duty packing or moving.

Paperboard – Medium Weight And Durable

Compared to “paper” cardboard, paperboard is much closer to the public perception of cardboard. Generally, paperboard is at least .25mm thicker than paper, and ISO standards define it as having a weight of above 224 g/m², and it can be either single-ply or multi-ply.

There are three primary materials used to create paperboard – Hardwood, Softwood, and Recycled pulp.

Hardwood is usually made of materials like birch or other hard woods. While these woods are difficult to work with, they have a short, strong fiber material that provides very high tensile strength, at the cost of higher risks to tearing. These paperboards are often used for corrugation – which we’ll get into in a moment.

Softwood like pine and spruce have much longer fibers than hardwoods, which makes them much better choices when resilience and durability are required over sheer tensile strength. In corrugation, these cardboards typically are used as “liner boards”, which we’ll cover in the corrugation section.

Recycled paperboard is made mostly of post-consumer recycled material, with a small amount of “virgin” materials (unused, wood-based pulp) mixed in and is typically not de-inked, which gives it a gray color. While it can be economical to recycle paper for lower-impact applications, these boxes typically lack the strength and durability of virgin pulped boxes.

Corrugated Cardboard – Heavy Weight, Robust, And Strong

Corrugated cardboard makes up the bulk of high-strength, durable cardboard – and is certainly the most popular cardboard to use in the moving industry.

Corrugated cardboard is crafted in a sort of “sandwich” design. On one side, a heavy duty liner board is placed, and on top of that, a corrugated piece of cardboard is glued into place. Then, another liner board is placed on top, and the whole sheet is pressed together into one sheet.

If you ever look at a piece of cardboard and see a wavy, airy internal structure, you’re looking at corrugated cardboard.

Because of its triple-layered design, corrugated cardboard is much stronger than paperboard alone – often 3-4x as strong, providing incredible durability and resilience for its weight.

Part of this strength comes from the materials used to make the corrugated cardboard itself. Because of the triple layer design, the highest quality corrugated cardboard offers softwood outer liner boards, and hardwood corrugation on the interior.

This combination of materials allows for maximum strength, as the stiff inner corrugation helps the cardboard keep its form, and is protected from shearing and damage by the softer, more resilient outer liner boards.

So What Moving Boxes Are The Best?

As a rule, you’ll want to rely on corrugated boxes. Almost all moving companies have a huge selection of shapes, sizes, and weights to choose from, and their stiffness and strength is hard to beat.

Thicker is also usually always better when picking moving boxes – while these boxes may be a bit more heavy and stiff, the strength of the thicker corrugation and heavier-duty liner board means that they will be easier to stack on top of each other, even when fully loaded with heavy objects.

Of course, care should also be taken to ensure that you or your mover pack your boxes correctly – heavier and more durable items in larger, thicker boxes that can be stacked, and lighter, more fragile objects in boxes that will be stacked on top.

There is one more important thing to bear in mind when picking out moving boxes and packing up your stuff – Tape.

Even the most durable of cardboard boxes isn’t immune to breakage – but usually, it’s not the box itself that fails.

The most common cause of box failure isn’t the cardboard itself breaking or tearing, but the stress of heavy objects causing the seams of the box to pop, sending your stuff straight down to the floor.

When packing, ensure that the bottom seam of your heavy-duty boxes is thoroughly taped – this means at least one layer of tape on each vulnerable seam. Preferably, you should use two or more layers of tape. Properly secured, heavy-duty corrugated cardboard boxes can contain extremely heavy loads with no stress or breakage.

Get The Best Boxes – And The Best Movers – With Movers USA

At Movers USA, we’re professional movers in every sense of the word. Our full-service moving services provide exceptional quality boxes and expert movers who can pack, secure, and move your most precious stuff. No muss, no fuss, no hassle.

If you’re in the Arlington, VA area and looking for a great full-service mover company, talk to us first. You can give us a call or contact us. We’d be glad to discuss your specific needs and help you find the moving, packing, or storing solution that’s right for you.

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