Storage boxes come in varying shapes and sizes. Learn how to store cardboard boxes the right way and when to avoid using them altogether.

Updated 4/3/17 from an article originally published 3/21/2013.

How to store cardboard boxes

We need a variety of boxes when we’re relocating for ease of transportation and protection of our belongings. These moving boxes are meant to be temporary and are commonly made from cardboard.

Cardboard moving boxes should be used for their primary objective – moving. But it’s not unusual to store items long term in these inexpensive boxes. The misconception stems from the idea: pack it once, decide if you need the item right away, and if not, put the box in storage, wherever that might be – garage, attic, basement, shed, or off-site storage.

Sometimes it’s better to take the time to unpack all your items after a move, then carefully store each item properly depending on where it will end up. We’ll go through scenarios when cardboard boxes aren’t ideal for long-term storage and even show you how to store cardboard boxes the right way.

Long Term Storage Cons for Cardboard Boxes

In order to store cardboard boxes effectively, it’s important to know all the problems associated with cardboard.

  • Cardboard breaks down much more quickly than plastic and is more susceptible to weather conditions, such as heat and humidity.
  • Cardboard takes a shorter amount of time to age. If you use cardboard boxes to store items long term, don’t expect the items to remain in perfect condition.
  • Bugs are especially attracted to cardboard boxes and their contents.

Some storage areas are worse than others for cardboard. Be aware of what is being stored and where before you decide to use a cardboard box. Are you storing on a concrete slab or other outdoor flooring in a shed? These moist areas can be disastrous for cardboard boxes.

Concrete slabs and outdoor flooring, if not sealed properly, will seep moisture, and if you have a cardboard box on the ground, it will then absorb the moisture and get the items in the box wet. If this happens, your items will become ruined and mildew or mold will start growing in the box.

If you have chosen to stack cardboard boxes in this situation, the bottom box walls have now become compromised, and there is a chance of the stack falling.

How to Store Cardboard Boxes Properly

1. Maintain Your Storage Area

If you maintain your storage area, cardboard boxes can last a lot longer. Keep boxes on shelves so they are always off the ground, don’t stack more than a few boxes high, and make sure the heavy items are on the bottom of the stack.

2. Use Climate Control Storage

Another thing that really helps keep your cardboard boxes in good condition for storage is a climate-controlled storage unit. If you have the option of climate-controlled and non-climate-controlled, and you plan on storing items in cardboard boxes, always take the climate-controlled option. What this does is maintain the level of humidity and temperature so your cardboard boxes will not be as affected by outside conditions.

3. Opt for Indoor Storage Space Like an Attic

Instead of storing your items in the garage, perhaps you decide to store them in your attic with a wooden floor. There is no chance of moisture seeping up through the floor to ruin the boxes. However, be aware that there is a chance of water leaking through the roof and onto the boxes, thus causing the same type of damage as in the garage.

When to Use Plastic Totes for Storage

Sometimes it’s easier to err on the side of caution. As long as they are sealed correctly, plastic boxes and totes are not affected by moisture or water. They are also not as susceptible to breaking down when stacked. These storage options are better at dealing with the elements and are much better protected from insect infestation.

Plastic boxes come in a variety of colors. One benefit to these containers is the additional organization offered.  Store items in clear boxes with different colored lids to create an organizational system for your belongings in storage. You can use color coordinating lids with the subjects of what you are storing. You can even make a legend of the colors and stick it to the wall of the storage area.

Some examples of lid color coordinating are:

  • Green – Christmas, winter
  • Red – Valentine’s Day
  • Orange – Halloween, Thanksgiving, fall
  • Blue – Fourth of July, summer
  • Pink – Easter, spring
  • Black – New Year’s

Plastic boxes for storage come in various sizes, and you don’t need tape to put them together. They usually have locking lids, and best of all, the clear ones can help you see what you are storing – a great start to helping you get or stay organized.

When determining what long term storage box to use, make sure you consider the conditions of your storage area. Sometimes you can get away with cardboard boxes, and other times it’s best to stick with sealed plastic totes. Not sure where to source quality cardboard boxes? Visit any of our Life Storage locations for moving boxes in a variety of sizes.


If you are in need of some extra room to store some of your belongings, consider renting a storage unit from one of our Life Storage facilities. Our storage units are priced at affordable rates giving you the best option for your items and your budget.

About the Author

Lauren Thomann

Lauren Thomann has written about self storage and moving since 2015, making her our storage expert. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in English and Linguistics and has published over 150 articles on moving, storage, and home organization. She is also a contributing writer at and Martha Stewart.

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