The Difference Between Cardboard and Corrugated Boxes

Believe it or not, all cardboard boxes were not made equal. It’s common for businesses (including us) to casually refer to all boxes as cardboard, and they’re not wrong. But, they are skipping a subtle piece of the puzzle. Here’s the main difference between cardboard and corrugated boxes.

Are all cardboard boxes corrugated?

Not all cardboard boxes are corrugated, though many people and businesses use the terms interchangeably. Corrugated boxes are a type of cardboard box, so it’s easy to see why it happens. However, traditional cardboard is slightly different.

Traditional cardboard is flat and lightweight. It’s a lot like a thick form of paper and can only be manufactured in single layers. This kind of cardboard is often used for consumer packaging like cereal boxes or beauty products. You can see an example in our image above – Easy Tiger’s dumpling box is made from traditional cardboard.

Corrugated cardboard is layered. At a minimum, corrugated board has three layers – two which are flat linerboard, and one which is a wavy fluted board. For a stronger corrugated box, you can increase the layers by adding a bigger flute size or different flute layers. You can see an example in our image above – the brown exterior box is an Echo Cartons original, made from corrugated cardboard.

Learn more about the most popular flute profiles available for corrugated boxes.

Cardboard vs corrugated boxes

Now that you understand how corrugated boxes and cardboard boxes are different – which one should you choose? This comes down to how you’ll be using your box.

The purpose of traditional cardboard boxes is branding and product information. These boxes are made to dress up the product inside and tell consumers more about what they’re buying. Because they are flat and lightweight; they do a great job of complex and high-resolution designs.

The purpose of corrugated cardboard boxes is strength and durability. These boxes are ideal for tough jobs like stacking, shipping and retail displays. They can be printed with impressive designs, but you’ll need to keep things simple to be most effective.

Check in with our 5 packaging design mistakes to avoid.

The key factor is strength

If you only take one thing away from our explanation, let it be that corrugated boxes are strong. The multiple layers in your box give it superior crush resistance and a great strength-to-weight profile. When you need to send items across long distances – including fragile and heavy ones – corrugated boxes will be your best choice. 

Read our top tips for strong corrugated boxes.

Does it matter what you call it?

In general, you can get away with referring to all boxes as cardboard boxes. After all, they are made from the same thing. But, the definitions can also be helpful. By understanding the difference between a lightweight box and a strong corrugated box – you can more easily discuss your business needs with experts like us.

Talk to us about corrugated packaging options

Searching for a reliable corrugated box supplier? You’ve found it. Echo Cartons have over 20 years’ experience in the box manufacturing industry. We help SMEs around Australia design and manufacture the ideal corrugated boxes for their business needs. To talk custom boxes, simply request a quote. If you have a general enquiry – contact our team or visit the blog for more corrugated box advice.

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