Stacks of corrugated cardboard lying flat

Corrugated vs. Cardboard: What’s the Difference?

Two popular packaging materials that are often confused with one another are corrugated and cardboard cartons. While they look similar, each has unique properties that impact the safety of your products on-site and in transit.

Below, we will take a closer look at the difference between corrugated vs. cardboard boxes to help you determine which is best for you and your customers.

Corrugated Has Multi-Layer Construction

The principal difference between corrugated and cardboard boxes is their construction. 

Corrugated cardboard is made up of three layers of kraft paper. A layer of paper is fed into a corrugating machine, which uses heat and steam to shape the medium into a wave-like structure. Next, two flat sheets are glued and pressed to the edges of the fluted medium. This creates a paper sandwich with a corrugated middle layer between two flat sheets of linerboard.

On the other hand, regular cardboard is made up of only one layer of paper. Pulp is fed into a machine, where it is squeezed through rollers, then pressed into a flat sheet. Due to its thinner structure, basic cardboard is not as resilient vs. corrugated cardboard.

Corrugated Is Stronger

A man sealing a packaging box with tape

The extra protection that fluted paper provides is the most critical difference between corrugated and cardboard boxes. When shipping fragile items such as glass bottles, corrugated cartons tick all the boxes. Their fluted middle layer creates air pockets that absorb impact, making the contents inside the box more resistant to breaking. 

Despite its strength, corrugated cardboard is lightweight and won’t add to your shipping costs. Although corrugated cardboard is more expensive vs. regular cardboard, its extra strength and durability save you money by preventing product damage during transportation.

Basic cardboard, on the other hand, is relatively flimsy. Due to its single-layer construction, cardboard can’t hold up in rigorous shipping environments. It can’t effectively absorb impact to prevent the contents of the box from being damaged. As a result, it is often used as a filler material or to package lightweight products such as cereal or card games.

Corrugated Is More Versatile

Corrugated cardboard is more versatile vs. single-ply cardboard. Corrugated cardboard has many different applications. From packaging boxes to display stands, many industries rely on this material exclusively. Its lightweight and durable construction make it the go-to protective solution for food, electronics, and other fragile or high-value items.

While single-layer cardboard is cheaper and easier to produce, its frailty limits its uses. Besides making up your cereal box, single-layer cardboard is commonly used to make tubes like those found inside toilet paper rolls. This limited utility is another important difference between corrugated cardboard and single-layer cardboard.

Corrugated Boxes Are Reusable

A young boy placing plastic bottles in a box

Since they don’t tear or fall apart easily, corrugated boxes can be used over and over again. If you ship fragile products, you probably go through many corrugated cardboard boxes throughout the year. Instead of throwing them away, why not reuse them? Just make sure to clean them out thoroughly between uses.

On the other hand, single-layer cardboard boxes are generally designed for one-time use. They are easily deformed by the slightest pressure and can be damaged under many conditions. This makes basic cardboard less cost-effective vs. corrugated boxes.

Corrugated Boxes Are Eco-Friendly

A crucial difference between corrugated cardboard and single-ply cardboard is its sustainability. Fluting gives corrugated cardboard extra strength and rigidity, allowing it to be used multiple times before it turns to waste. In contrast, single-layer cardboard is vulnerable to damage. Since it’s easily rendered useless, it is more likely to end up in a landfill after one use.

As a result, corrugated cardboard has a lower carbon footprint vs. single-layer cardboard. In addition, corrugated cardboard is easier to recycle. Many local trash companies have recycling programs for corrugated cardboard. If that’s not an option, there is usually a recycling center nearby that will accept them at your convenience.

Shop Corrugated Boxes at Gorilla Shipper

Now that you understand the difference between corrugated vs. cardboard boxes, you can choose which material is best for your needs. If you want a sturdy, long-lasting storage or shipping solution, go for corrugated cardboard. For lightweight, low-value items, singly-ply cardboard will suffice.

At Gorilla Shipper, we offer corrugated cardboard boxes for shipping canned, jarred, and bottled goods. Our corrugated boxes are certified by the International Safe Transit Association (ISTA) and recommended by UPS and FedEx. Shop our patented Hexabox shippers to deliver your products in pristine condition. Have questions? Contact us now.