First Home Facts

5 Ways Free Boxes Can Ruin Your Move

No one likes to pay for moving boxes. Moving is expensive enough without having to purchase boxes that you will likely use once and throw away. To avoid this expense, many DIY movers try to rummage through local dumpsters and beg friends and neighbors for free boxes. However, this method of collecting boxes may backfire. Here are 5 ways your free moving boxes can ruin your move.

They won't hold up. Did you know that cardboard boxes are rated for durability? Moving-grade boxes undergo testing to determine their strength. They are assigned an Edge Crush Test (ECT) rating, and it's often printed right on the box. To ensure that your belongings are protected, your boxes should have an ECT rating of at least 32. Most of the boxes you pluck from the dumpster will not meet this requirement.

Another problem with used boxes is that their strength deteriorates over time. Many of the boxes you find for free will have been through several shipments/moves, and with each use the cardboard becomes a little softer and weaker. This can lead to big problems on moving day--you may end up with a pile of your belongings all over the floor when you try to lift a box.

They may attract unwanted friends. Do you plan to ask the nearest restaurant or grocery store for some of their extra boxes? This could end up being a huge mistake. Grease and food residue left on these boxes can attract unwanted creatures such as bugs and mice. This problem can become severe if you plan to leave your belongings in storage for any period of time. 

They may ruin your belongings. One of the biggest problems with hand-me-down boxes is that you don't know where they have been or what has been stored inside. That grease from the restaurant box could stain your favorite polo. The chemicals from that cleaning product box may leach into your pantry foods. The dirt inside that plant box may just ruin your favorite book. In short, the pride you feel after finding a truckload of free boxes may soon turn to misery as you look at a pile of your ruined belongings.

They may not pack so nicely. Did you know that moving boxes are made in standard sizes in order to accommodate certain types of belongings? Standard moving box sizes include:

  • Medium, for books and heavier household goods
  • Large, for bulkier items that aren't too heavy
  • Extra-large for bedding, towels, and other large, lightweight items
  • Wardrobe, for clothing
  • Kitchen, for dishes and cookware (ECT of 44)
  • Frame, for framed pictures and wall art
  • File, for important papers

Trying to transport your small kitchen appliances in an old lettuce box is probably going to result in a lot of pain and swearing.

They'll make it difficult to pack the truck. Another benefit to standard sizes of boxes is that everything fits nicely into the moving truck, like the perfect game of Tetris. However, your hodgepodge boxes will turn a game of moving Tetris into a game of box Jenga, with boxes toppling over one another as you try to make them stack in an organized manner. This will add one more complication to your already stressful moving day, and probably result in the need for therapy afterward.

If you figure that moving is supposed to be stressful, then by all means, continue to collect your boxes from neighbors, classified ads, and dumpsters. If, however, you prefer a more "zen" moving experience, go to sites or contact your local moving company for a quote on some new, standard-sized, clean, durable moving boxes. Your belongings and your nerves will thank you.