Small Cardboard Boxes

Papermaking and Small Cardboard Boxes


It was previously established that on this blog that small cardboard boxes are made of corrugated fiberboard. The latter is a two or more ply sandwich made of containerboard – a thick heavy paper. That’s right – the founding element of cardboard boxes is paper. Paper is made by soaking fibers in water and then spreading them out evenly onto a smooth surface. These fibers are often made from wood chips or crops such as jute, cotton or even corn. This is now, back in the days fibers were made from hemp waste, bamboo, wood bark and bash in combination with fishnets and rags.

References vary for when paper appeared at first and point to 8th, 2nd and 1st centuries BC. One of its original uses was to make bags for tea and preserve flavors. This must be the origin of the barrier protection properties later inherited by large and small cardboard boxes! In China paper for writing became more popular in the third century and around the 800s paper making reached the Middle East where it underwent a number of improvements including ability to produce thicker paper and the introduction of water mills. In Europe, paper making arrived in the 14-16 centuries and replaced the cloth as writing media and wood chips started being used as source of fibers as opposed to fishnets, rags, hemp etc.

While we have all heard the almost horror-sounding stories of the European castles from medieval and even Renaissance times in terms of sewer problems, in China, paper was used as toilet paper as early as the sixth century. It certainly did not have the qualities and softness of a virgin fiber Kleenex tissue in its new custom engraved small cardboard box, yet it was available when sanitary habits in Europe had some room for improvement and America was no even discovered yet.

Later on, ISO 216 defined the A4 paper standard which is overwhelmingly used in Europe with A3 being twice as big and so forth. In the US, a standard sheet is 8.5×11 inches which makes it just a bit shorter and wider than its European counterpart. When buying plastic sheet protectors, it is sometimes better to buy the US size and fit a lot more A4 papers in there even if they slightly stick out on the bottom. What is more, even some smaller cardboard mailers are sold in exact 8.5×11 or A4 sizes which helps when mailing legal documents.

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Kleenex Small Cardboard Box


While Kleenex is a trademark by Kimberly-Clark, it certainly has become a generic word to name tissues, toilet paper and in phrases like “Kleenex-size box”, it is almost used as a shape landmark. What is not known too much is the fact that, Kleenex started as a brand for makeup removal tissues, was used in gas mask replacement filters and became popular as pocket handkerchief replacement after the 1930s.

Kleenex small cardboard boxes are available in custom modes where one can go to the manufacturer’s website, upload an image and create a unique personalized box of tissues. While such an item would hardly cause an uprising at home, having these custom-made boxes for a business or a visitors’ center for example, could really send a message and create returning and loyal customers. The effect, working in the back of customer minds, might well be worth the extra $4.99 plus shipping cost per box.

Kimberly-Clark are often criticized that they do not use any or enough recycled fibers in their products so they do not do much to promote proper forestry management or sustainable development efforts. This may have changed recently or some time ago as seen from the picture below. This typical small cardboard box is endorsed by the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) and its logo is placed on the side, clearly visible. The FSC itself could be a bit controversial, yet attaining such certification typically suggests that the item which it is placed on, is produced in a manner compliant with proper forestry and waste management practices. In addition, they claim on their packaging that the box where the tissues come in is made of at least 95 percent recycled material with most of them being an actual 100%! So while the tissues have to be nice and soft and come from virgin fibers, the packaging and the actual cardstock of the box is all from recycled fibers. What is more, the latest packaging of the small cardboard tissue boxes have a water resistant top part to prevent the box from getting destroyed by water and to protect its contents. Hopefully, the environmentalists would forgive them for using even more chemicals in the packaging.

small cardboard boxes

A Kleenex Small Cardboard Box


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Bacteria Free Food Packaging in Cardboard Boxes

This post would be referred to as the gossip column of this blog on small and large cardboard boxes. Reportedly, Russian scientists in collaboration with their Middle Eastern colleagues have tested and isolated a type of paper which prevents bacteria from growing. The technology used is silver nanoparticles. Under laboratory conditions, paper coated with this slim layer of silver can preserve food longer without allowing bacteria to grow. This has serious impact on fighting preventable food poisoning against Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus (or staph). These bacteria release enterotoxin in the lower human intestines and can cause major health issues. Having such a prevention method while in transit could potentially increase shelf life or preprocessing storage time of many products especially fresh items.

Having such silver nanoparticle coated paper verified via official quality assurance processes can lead to major food service and packaging industry improvements. This could be revolutionary in warmer climates where lime juice and curry powder are still the most popular disinfectants. Where applicable the microscopic nano coating could be applied to inside walls of specialty cardboard boxes which could be advertised as safer food storage. Having such a process certified would require a long test period to make sure that no food ingredients would bind with some of the bacteria-free paper and cause unforeseen circumstances. Applying a step by step proof of concept and getting the buy-in from various industries could be vitally important.

Silver has been known to manufacturers of plastics, vinyl kitchen and wet area panels, sinks, cabinets etc. It could also be combined with polystyrene or polystyrene sheets which are fungi resistant as well and tested and tried in the food service arena. The downside of such a product breakthrough is usually cost. While this technology calls for nano measurements as opposed to thick silver-coated plates attached to the boxes’ containerboard material, it would invariably carry a price implication factor. The economy objective of such custom or specialty packaging would only be commercially significant if cost can be curbed and made available to all packaging suppliers and manufacturers. Otherwise it would only remain in the cool emerging technology statistics.

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Meeting Customer Demand with Cardboard Boxes

Cardboard boxes are widespread and universal containers for transportation and storage of items. Their versatility stems from the fact that they are extremely customizable across almost all their properties such as designed load weight, strength, barrier protection, water resistance, fire retardation, edge crush test, puncture resistance etc. All these features contribute to accommodation of various loads and conformity to a plethora of customer and product requirements including some relevant regulations for shipment of certain controlled items.

The unique features of cardboard often come from its building blocks. Cardboard’s proper name is corrugated fiberboard. The latter is built from containerboard which is a representative of a higher family of products called paperboard. Paperboard is typically heavy, thick paper with weight of above two hundred grams per square meter (sometimes also seen as grammage). This sturdy paper is then shaped, cut and folder into the three dimensions of a cardboard box with one caveat. Corrugated fiberboard boxes have another mission-critical dimension which lives inside their walls – the wavy triangle flutes. Corrugated fiberboard was conceived in the eighteen hundreds as we know it today and became overwhelmingly significant to industrial production in the twentieth century.

The corrugated flutes are what makes a box strong and exceptionally adaptable to tailor-made requirements. The flutes are these tiny triangles which live in the walls of the cardboard boxes. They flex and bend and in this manner absorb pressure from inside and outside “perpetrators”! The wavy triangles are the shock absorbers and springs of cardboard boxes and allow them to handle natural and unnatural shakes and drops as a parcel travels from source to destination. Technically speaking, the flutes are graded from A to F and this is the full post on corrugated flutes in details. Their size is imperative to other characteristics such as vertical stacking for example. Many boxes even have their own signage for how many are to be stacked without damage to the corrugated containers themselves or the load inside.

By and large, wider flutes suggest better box stacking capabilities, while finer or smaller flutes point to sturdier sidewalls and more efforts needed to pierce a box or in other words – better puncture resistance. Edge crush test is also a relevant factor here as its values recommend how much pressure should be safely applied to the edges of a box before it gives in. All these various cardboard box statistics should be taken into account when selecting and calculating the most appropriate shipping or moving box from largest to smallest cardboard boxes.

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Cigarette Box

The owner and admin of this web blog is an avid non-smoker and whistle blower against smoking in public places. The latter often alienates people and deprives restaurants and other establishments of precious, solvent clientele at least in some cases. Nevertheless, since this is a site on small cardboard boxes, some attention will be given to a very popular box style – the cigarette box.

Cigarette boxes are a typical style of small cardboard boxes and are made of paperboard. Paperboard is popular in the packaging industry and it is the building block of cardboard shipping boxes. The latter are made of containerboard which is a type of paperboard. Paperboard  is usually thick heavy paper with grammage of over 200 grams per square meter and can be single or multiplied. When some bleach is added in the manufacturing process, the printing qualities of paperboard can increase to almost postcard or poster style. This fact is well made an advantage of by various cigarette graphic designers.

By far the most popular style of cigarette packs and boxes is the flip top style which is a hard pack. It has proved good to aficionados and people who appreciate a good smoke since it protects the tobacco from crushing and destroying the cigarettes while traveling in a shipment or simply toted in a purse, backpack or a back pocket of jeans. In addition to flip top boxes, certain tobacco manufacturers have found more innovative ways to attract customers since direct advertising is no longer relevant or in some places banned by regulations. These new customer approaches include sophisticated box design such as the silver slide hard pack by Benson and Hedges (pictured below). The box has an opening on the left side from where the internal container is slid to the side exposing its content. Under heavy and continuous usage, this small cardboard box would probably not survive too long, yet for the life of one pack, it does just fine.

It is also an interesting fact that cigarettes in their cardboard homes are not always twenty in count. I can recollect seeing smaller half packs in my childhood when smoking was hype. As of late, anything other than a twenty-pack would be considered rare or vintage. In Australia, for example, the most popular pack size is twenty five as opposed to the standard twenty. What is more, cigarette cardboard boxes do not always have to be boring or too classic in their presentation. Occasionally, manufacturers would design these limited-edition packs and boxes made of tin. They sometimes use this option to sneak out of the hideous and alarming messages written on boxes which never seem to scare the right audience.

Other styles of cigarette cases can be made from various inspiring material such as silver sterling, tin, aluminum or in rare cases for real lovers of accessories – titanium. Law enforcement officers should consider getting one even if they are non-smokers – they have been known to save lives from bullets. Custom jobs and engravings in this field are the norm. Company logos or personalized messaging on these are rather popular together with unique qualities and unforgettable looks. Often these specialty cases can be paired up with a customized sunglasses case and cause a riot if colors and styles are properly matched up.

Cigarette Boxe

Cigarette Box Slider Style

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Polystyrene Mesh and Small Cardboard Boxes

Polystyrene mesh (pictured below) is really helpful when shipping or simply moving fragile items such as glass containers, ornaments and other decorative elements or pieces of art. Polystyrene mesh is very handy for fruit and other food service deliveries when transporting perishable food or extra soft items which cannot take any abuse or bruises while en route. Sometimes apples, apple pears (also called Asian pears or papples) avocados and other organic items are neatly wrapped up in such foam.

The full post on polystyrene lists all its features, goodness and popular use. Polystyrene mesh is available in various sizes and can sometimes be substituted by rope or corrugated fiber mesh with the same characteristics. All work just as well and are relatively light-duty in a sense that once taken off the product the mesh can sustain damages which make them unfit for subsequent usage. Nevertheless, polystyrene mesh is a perfect example of an accessory to small cardboard boxes. It is a method to further insulate and protect items while in motion or in larger shipping containers.

Polystyrene mesh is flexible and bends in order to protect its content. By itself it will not provide sufficient insulation due to the fact that is it too thin. Its recommended use is in combination with bubble wrap, packaging peanuts, packaging paper and other style of loose fill. It is a good idea to keep items packed separately and to make sure that cardboard boxes are tightly sealed after items are carefully placed inside them. Use of acid free tape such as j-lar tape could be relevant if product requirements call for it. The natural bending, triangle, corrugated wavy flutes within the walls of cardboard boxes provide an additional layer of cushion, security and barrier protection for its inhabitants. In addition, small cardboard boxes can have special layers of fire retardant or water resistant chemical applied to their outside walls as an another layer of insulation and safety.

It is important to only use new boxes when transporting food. Used boxes can contain remnants of previous loads which might come into contact with the food and cause unpredictable consequences. What is more, new boxes made of recycled fibers or with added bleach for improved printing qualities should be tested against food samples to make sure than no reaction occurs under longer co-existance or with temperature increase or fluctuation. Finally, food should never be poured directly into a cardboard box and have immediate contact with the walls of small or large cardboard boxes. A protective packaging layer should be applied according to the load specifications such as special food or freezer bags, anti-static bags etc.

Polystyrene Mesh

Polystyrene Mesh

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Cardboard Boxes, Fibers and Paper Pulp

The building block of small cardboard boxes is containerboard. It is a thick, heavy paper which is essential for the internal and external liners as well as the corrugated wavy flutes in the middle of the cardboard sandwich. Before containerboard is manufactured, it all starts with wood fibers and paper pulp.

Pulp is manufactured from softwood trees such as fir, spruce or the hardwood aspen and birch trees. It is a material made by splitting fibers off of trees, fiber crops or recycled material (deinked pulp). The separation of fibers can be done mechanically or by a chemical reaction (kraft process). Some examples of fiber rich crops are flax, jute, hemp, linen and cotton. Currently chemical pulp represents over ninety percent of the market pulp available, with US and Canada being the largest manufacturers and contributing to over a third of the world’s output. Mechanical pulping was first done in Germany in the 1800s and shortly after followed by chemical wood pulping which is now the prevailing technique.

Wood pulping is continuous during the year and commercially significant. Yet trees have to be grown for many years. Reforestation and sustainable forestry management allow tree harvesting to not be deadly to our forest biodiversity. The Forest Stewardship Council is a body which certifies paper products made from renewable sources or following the principles of sustainable forestry management. When trees are used for fiber and paper pulp production, only the wood core (sap-wood and heart-wood) is used. Bark is chipped off and used as fuel or with limited application in the furniture industry.

Harvesting fibers from crops is another method. It is sometimes viewed as a more reliable source since it only takes one season for the crops to be ready to harvest. A lot shorter cycle, yet very seasonable and weather dependent which makes it hard to guarantee year-round supply.

Wood chips and crop fibers are turned into heavy fiberboards which are then transported to a paper mill for further processing. Wood and crops utilized into pulp manufacturing contain four ingredients – water, lignin, cellulose and some other carbohydrate polymers. The objective of pulping is to decompose the large fiber structure of the chips or crops into a consistent fiber mass. Chemical pulping mixes the ingredients with chemicals and decomposes lignin which makes the cellulose fibers stick together without damaging them. Chemical pulping is used to make stronger paper which is popular in the packaging industry and relevant to small cardboard boxes. Mechanical pulping is the more efficient method yet less popular. By mechanical pulping more paper can be produced from less trees, yet the final outcome is softer paper which is used in production of newsprint stock. A combination of the two is also popular with regards to compliance with product requirements.

Bleaching is a natural next step in the manufacture of corrugated fiberboard. Bleaching agents such as chlorine, oxygen etc. are used and often raise environmental concerns. Bleaching improves printing qualities of paper and there is a variety of industries, packaging and shipping for instance, which do not need all cardboard boxes to be white. Such uses of paper, in combination with deinked or recycled pulp is an example of environmentally friendly packaging. Large and small cardboard boxes manufactured without pulping agents are such representatives.

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Cardstock and Small Cardboard Boxes

While small cardboard boxes are made of corrugated fiberboard, cardstock also has its place as a relevant topic on this website. Cardstock, also card stock and cover stock, is a style of heavy paper similar to paperboard available in a plethora of weights. Its most popular uses are as business cards, postcards, binder covers, files, protector sheets, paper crafts, scrapbooking, rummy, poker etc. playing cards and other stationery. Cardstock is available in many colors and can be matched up for special events and celebrations. White is typically for weddings, glossy metallic silver for an upscale black tie anniversary party etc. Normally cardstock is matte and it can also be glossy or anywhere in between the two such as semi-gloss etc. Acid-free cardstock is available for improving printing qualities and to prevent fading over type or turning to yellow – this is important for snow white invitations which can be ordered in advance with special pricing and not turn yellow on the day of the wedding.

Popular paper weight comparison:

Paper Type Weight
Newspaper 45-50 g/m2
Office Paper 70-80 g/m2
Heavier Paper 90-120 g/m2
Paperboard 225 g/m2 and up
Cardstock 130-500 g/m2

Cardstock is typically measured in grammage or poundage depending on whether the standard or the metric systems are relevant. Grammage for cardstock is usually in the 100-500 grams per square meter range. This is also set by ISO 536, determination of grammage for paper and board. The ISO standard defines the weight of paper per square meter. In other places which do not comply with ISO 536 a similar measurement is used to measure the weight of paper per square unit of area.

In addition, cardstock can be measured by point size which is thickness in thousands of an inch. An example could be an 8-point card which is 0.008 inches thick or about 0.203 millimeters, with an approximate weight about 200 g/m2.

The other unit which is sometimes used to measure paper weight (occasionally seen as density) is basis weight – the weight of 500 sheets of paper is a very popular unit. Generally basis weight is measured in pounds of a ream of uncut paper. There are several kinds of uncut paper referred to as stock – bond, cover, index, newsprint stock etc. Office paper would normally be 24 or 20lb bond. Pounds (lbs) is often substituted by the hash sign. So a 65# Cover would refer to 65-lb cardstock.

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Small Cardboard Boxes

Small cardboard boxes offer many advantages around the home and office. In addition, their natural sturdiness makes them rarely helpful when it comes to shipping smaller items and fragile merchandise. Judging by some of the online resellers who ship a USB memory stick in a TV-size cardboard box, it might be a good idea to remind them of some of the evident convenience provided by small cardboard boxes.

In most cases, cardboard boxes are made of corrugated fiberboard. The generic name cardboard is rather incorrect since it does not specify the material boxes are made of. In the old days cardboard was manufactured for shoe or hat boxes, check boxes, chocolate boxes etc. by stacking layers of regular paper and gluing them together until needed strength was reached. This proved inefficient in the area of pre-industrialization and a newer approach was needed.

Corrugated fiberboard met that industrial requirement and the advent of containerboard allowed for small and large cardboard boxes to be born in the shape and form which they exist today. Containerboard is a type of strong paper which, in a classic scenario, is used in three instances building the corrugated fiberboard sandwich. In any regular-style box, there typically is an inside linerboard, the wavy corrugated flutes in the middle and a printed cover on the outside. All three are made from containerboard. The wavy medium in the sandwich is what makes small cardboard boxes heavy duty, allows them to absorb internal or external applied pressure and act as a cushion protecting the goods inside. What is more, the corrugated flutes flex and bend as needed and contain air withing themselves according to their grade – normally grade A through F with varying number of flutes/folds per linear meter or foot. They can be thinner or thicker depending on product specifications. The air inside their triangles acts as barrier protection and can be of vital imporance when transporting food or other perishable goods.

Since cardboard boxes often are made from a mix of recycled (test liner) and virgin (craft liner) raw materials some extra attention is to be heeded here. Recycled fibers and pulp often contain traces of ink, adhesive, solvents or other contaminants. In most cases this is no problem yet when shipping food items, it is best to use all new cardboard boxes to mitigate the risk or health/food-born problems. Using recycled material might be feasible provided some tests are run in advance to make sure that individual food packaging does not come in contact with the corrugated fiberboard resulting in toxic emissions. While merchandise is in transfer, temperature can raise and lead to unexpected material reactions. Often using polystyrene sheets or packaging peanuts is a good way of avoiding trouble which could be cooking inside the small or large cardboard boxes. Polystyrene is appropriate since it is chemically inert and virtually free of any style of fungi. It is also almost indestructible by air or light humidity. It is a good idea to keep cardboard boxes dry and free of moisture to avoid further issues with transportation.

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Small Cardboard Boxes – A Modern View

Cardboard (or the proper corrugated fiberboard) was invented in the 1800s and became commercially significant in the twentieth century. Its immediate impact on the packaging industry and small cardboard boxes is apparent and of vital importance. A lesser known fact is that cardboard figures and cut-out shapes were used to model and explain the complexity in the DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) molecule by biochemists scientists James Watson and Francis Crick in the 1950s. So if you thought that cardboard was useless brown junk cluttering up alleys and walkways, maybe it is time to change the perception.

Cardboard is generally avoided as a term since it is too generic – it does not designate the material used. Small corrugated fiberboard boxes would be the proper name of items such as gift boxes, cigarette boxes, check boxes and the like. For this reason, this website prefers to address them as small cardboard boxes – it is a bit easier to digest and remember.

Corrugated fiberboard is typically made of containerboard – a thick heavy paper of usually 200 grams or more per square meter. Other types of strong solid paper relevant to cardboard boxes include paperboard, chipboard, construction paper and even card stock. While the difference between these is sometimes subtle, they do have their specifics. Containerboard is used to make the side liners and the corrugated wavy medium which goes in the cardboard sandwich. Its color is typically khaki-brown. Printing qualities of the outside linerboard can be improved by adding special bleach to the pulp when making paper from wood chips or a combination of chips and recycled material. Containerboard can be made of virgin on recycled pulp. When it is made from virgin it is referred to as kraft liner, when it is a mix of virgin and recycled materials – it is termed test liner.

Paper and cardboard have a large recycling ratio. This has a few implications. Use of paper has grown, yet when it is paired with well-planned for forestry management, small cardboard boxes do not necessarily cause environmental crises. The amount of trees planted can make up for and even exceed the needs of the paper industry (in other words, it can scale dynamically). This is true for North America and Western Europe. When timber and wood chips are imported from other areas of the world, it is reasonable to expect that such careful effort towards sustainable development might not be relevant due to a number of local reasons, government policies etc. Consequentially, it is important to differentiate between import sources and stay competitive on price of recycled materials vs virgin raw materials – if the price of reclaimed materials becomes too high, enterprises would be looking to import from elsewhere.

In addition, recycled pulp could often contain dirt, ink, traces of adhesives, mineral oil etc. Shipping food supplies in recycled cardboard boxes might not be a safe step in the long run. Recycled small cardboard boxes are and excellent choice for everything else which does not need barrier protection from weather or other environment or the packaging itself. Minding the design weight characteristics and the edge crush test of the box and matching these up with the load ensures safe shipping package travels.

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