Corrugated Fiberboard & Cardboard: What’s The Difference?

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Corrugated Fiberboard and Cardboard - What’s The Difference

When it comes to researching types of packaging, you will likely come across two very similar types of packaging: cardboard and corrugated fiberboard. While these materials have a similar appearance and even come from the same raw material, they do have some significant differences that make them each better suited to one packaging purpose than the other.

In this post, we’ll look at the key differences between cardboard and corrugated fiberboard, identifying which one is the right match for you based on the needs of your business and its products.


Cardboard is an essential packaging resource in nearly every business. Cardboard was first developed in 1817 and has revolutionized how businesses wrap, store and ship their products. It is a very diverse packaging material that can be easily scaled into packaging boxes of any size.

Cardboard is everywhere, it is nearly impossible to go about your day without encountering it at some point. For example, cardboard is used to make anything from cereal and juice boxes to board game boxes and mailers. It is now one of the most common forms of packaging worldwide and is typically used to package relatively light-weight products rather than be used to store or ship heavier items.


Because of its versatility, cardboard has plenty of advantages, especially against non-paperboard packaging products. These advantages include:

  • Affordable – Cardboard costs significantly less than many other packaging types. Its lightweight also helps cut down shipping costs.
  • Easily recyclable – Once used, cardboard can easily be recycled and turned back into another cardboard product. On average, cardboard can be recycled up to 7 times.
  • Easily customizable – Unlike other packaging materials, it is very easy to print branding, warnings or other information onto cardboard.
  • Low environmental impact – Kraft paper, the material used to make cardboard, comes from chemical pulp found in wood. Unlike some other popular packaging materials, such as plastic, kraft paper comes from trees, which can be sourced sustainably unlike fossil fuels.
  • Completely biodegradable – As well as being easily recyclable, cardboard is biodegradable. This means it will decompose naturally and is an excellent choice for biodegradable packaging. In fact, cardboard buried in soil only takes 3-6 months to decompose, much faster than compostable packaging.


Despite some of these advantages, cardboard is not always the best solution for every packaging challenge. The disadvantages of cardboard packaging can include:

  • Not waterproof – Because cardboard is made up of wood pulp, it is unable to withstand much moisture before degrading. Be mindful of this when preparing a package that could be left in an open, exposed area.
  • Limited recycle period – While cardboard is recyclable, it cannot be recycled as many times as other materials. Fortunately, most cardboard products are easily compostable, which is far more environmentally-friendly than even biodegradable packaging.
  • Not suitable for heavy items – While it is more durable than regular paper, regular cardboard boxes can still tear or crush with enough weight on them.

Corrugated Fiberboard

Having looked at cardboard, let’s learn more about a similar type of paperboard packaging, corrugated fiberboard.

Corrugated fiberboard is a type of paperboard and is otherwise known as corrugated cardboard. Unlike regular cardboard, this type of fiberboard is corrugated. This means that it not only includes extra layers of cardboard, but also that these inside layers are crimped to create a sequence of zig-zag patterns.

Corrugation is a powerful technique that makes a material significantly stronger. This is because the triangular pattern between the multiple layers of the fiberboard offers better support by making it easier to evenly distribute weight. Corrugated cardboard boxes are therefore much more capable of packaging heavy items than regular cardboard ones.

The most common use of corrugated fiberboard is shipping and packing boxes, but it can also be directly used as a product’s packaging. For example, many electronic and household appliances like microwaves, vacuums and coffee machines are often packed and sold in corrugated cardboard boxes.


Corrugated fiberboard has similar advantages to regular cardboard, plus some extra benefits too. Here are the advantages of corrugated fiberboard:

  • Resilient – Corrugated fiberboard boxes are stronger than regular cardboard and better suited for transporting goods.
  • Customizable – Corrugated fiberboard can easily be customized to suit your branding and product’s needs.
  • Fairly stackable – Because of its resilience, cardboard boxes can be stacked on top of each other without crushing provided that the items they hold are not too heavy.
  • Environmentally-friendly – Like regular cardboard, corrugated fiberboard comes from renewable raw materials and is easy to recycle. In fact, many people regularly reuse corrugated cardboard boxes to store their own personal items.


While corrugated fiberboard has some major advantages, particularly when compared to regular cardboard, it does come with some drawbacks. The disadvantages of corrugated fiberboard include:

  • Sensitive to moisture – While the extra layers in corrugated fiberboard give it some resistance compared to generic cardboard, it can still succumb to the elements.

Which One Is Right For Me?

Compared to other packaging materials, like plastic bags or glass containers, cardboard and corrugated fiberboard actually have a lot in common. They both come from the same raw material and manufactured similarly, with corrugated fiberboard providing more thickness and resistance to crushing. What makes them different is how they are commonly used.

Cardboard is better choice if you:

  • Want simple and effective packaging for your product
  • Want to customize your packaging without it feeling thick or heavy
  • Want to package non-fragile, light-weight items like stationary or dried foods.

Meanwhile, corrugated fiberboard is better if you:

  • Need a resilient packaging
  • Want to pack a product for shipping
  • Need to package a heavy-weight item like furniture

As well as picking one of these two boards, there might also be a situation where you will need both regular cardboard and corrugated fiberboard for your business’ needs. For example, you may need a regular cardboard box to package your product, which is then placed into a corrugated box for shipping.

Get Affordable, Quality Packaging Solutions For Your Products with Crownhill Packaging

If you are looking for quality cardboard packaging or have any questions about which type of cardboard packaging is best suited for your business’ needs, consider contacting Crownhill Packaging. As one of the largest and most innovative packaging companies in North America, we proudly deliver tailored packaging solutions for businesses of all shapes and sizes.

To learn more about how we can help you find the quality packaging you can rely on, contact our team today!

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