The Difference Between Shipping Boxes and Shipping Cartons, Pt. 1

Is there one?  …Oh, you didn’t hear my question?  It was: what is the different shipping boxes and shipping cartons?  Before taking on this job of writing about packaging and shipping supplies, I would have just assumed that there was none.  In fact, I would have assumed that “carton” was just another word for “box”, and vice versa.  Well, apparently there is a difference.  I scoured the internet for information, searching websites and discussion forums (apparently this question has been asked by more than just myself, and by people who do not write about packaging and shipping supplies.  That is kind of surprising if you ask me, but who am I to judge?).

I have to take a minute to relay what the average Joe was saying about how shipping cartons are or are not the same thing as shipping boxes.  Many of the posts were liberally seasoned with phrases like “omg” and “haha” along with some keyboard emojies that meant to exhibit a great sense of humor, or a sense of bafflement, or even just an expression of being unamused.  If you are so unamused by a question (“who cares?”), then why even bother replying to it?


Perhaps the two most popular answers were: same thing different name, and shipping cartons hold boxes/are compartmentalized.  It seems that both answers are correct.  Yes, you can call a box a carton, and you can call a carton a box, especially depending on which part of the world you live in (as one deeply insightful and well-travelled individual so graciously pointed out).  Another part-time, unofficial anthropologist discussed the history of the orignal words.  For example: carton comes from the Italian word cartone, which means “pasteboard”, and cartons just so happen to be made out of paste/cardboard.  But it’s also true that sometimes a carton holds several boxes (and the example of a carton of cigarettes was used again).  This small-time anthropologist went on to deduce that a “boxwood” is a type of tree, and since boxes were originally made out of wood that is how they got their name.  However, nowadays, most boxes are also made from cardboard, making “shipping cartons” interchangeable with “shipping boxes”.

The whole thing apparently really baffles people, and I don’t blame them.  One thing is for certain, though, and that is that customers tend to use the word “box” and people actually in the packaging and shipping industry tend to use the word “carton”, and this will be discussed further in part 2.

The Difference Between Shipping Boxes and Shipping Cartons, Pt. 2

Welcome to part 2 of “The Difference Between Shipping Boxes and Shipping Cartons”.  These articles are meant to be interchangeable, so if you missed the first part you shouldn’t have a problem hanging with us here in part two.  As a matter of fact, you didn’t miss much at all.  We simply deduced that the word “box” and “carton” are interchangeable because cartons are made from cardboard, and boxes used to be made from trees but now they are primarily made from cardboard as well.  Also, we discussed how you could say that a carton holds smaller boxes of something (a carton of cigarettes was the most popular example).

We ended by saying that a customer would probably say “shipping boxes” whereas a producer slash mover slash individual involved in the shipping and packaging industry would probably say “shipping cartons”.  Why is completely uncertain.

Keeping along the same trajectory of discussion, if you happen to go to a website that sells packaging and shipping supplies they will more than likely refer to boxes and cartons interchangeably.  Their menu probably advertises “boxes and cartons” above “bags” and “cans, jars, and bottles”.  Or if you select “shipping cartons” you are taken to the same page that “shipping boxes” takes you to.

While in part 1 of this topic I primarily talked about what discussion boards had to say on it, this part is more devoted to what I found on actual packaging and shipping websites.  For one of the websites, they referred to their boxes when talking about packing or shipping more household type items, like food and clothes.  When they started talking about shipping cartons, though, they referred to transporting freight.  Which could more or less be the exact same thing said in different words, since “freight” is just referring to “a load”.  Or “freight” could be seen as much heavier and bulkier items, such as a bunch of boxes put into a carton.  Also, it seems that a fairly common opinion is that cartons are made of two different parts, a bottom and a lid.


Once again, at this point in history, it seems like the words “box” and “carton” are more or less used interchangeably.  Whereas at one time the two probably distinguished between products, whatever developments in technology has rendered that distinction obsolete.  Therefore, “shipping cartons” may have differences when compared to “shipping boxes” or, then again, they very well may not.


Cardboard Shipping Boxes in Suburbia

Every day, riding our bikes home from school, we would spot the cardboard shipping boxes a ways off, as if they were a signal to our brains, and we would pick up speed and race past that house with our eyes trained straight ahead.  It was of the utmost importance that we did not make contact with any part of the house.

We all thought that the man who lived there was watching us, and that if he thought you were taking notice of him or his property he would hunt you down and add you to his list of victims.  This is because there was a legend about this guy, who of course lived alone.  His blinds were always drawn, and every window and every door was always closed, even to the garage.  The odd thing about this particular situation was that this man’s home was not in disarray- there was no peeling paint, there were no overgrown weeds and hedges.  He did not drag a metal garbage can scraping down the driveway.  In fact, everyone got the opposite vibe from him.


There was not a leaf out of place on his lawn.  The landscaping was done to perfection, all the flowerbed lines perfectly cut and maintained.  Every single flower and blade of grass was healthy.  We often saw him kneeling on his gardening mat, with a plastic bucket next to him, and he would pick out blades of grass and browning petals.  At his front door there were always those cardboard shipping boxes.  The UPS guy made a delivery just about every stinking day.  We could always expect to see one sitting there when we road by, and then we would checkjust before supper and it was always gone.

We speculated as to why he dealt with so many cardboard shipping boxes, and all’s we could come up with was illegal activity.  We figured body parts, cleverly disguised in machinery.  We figured torture tools, because no one would look at such innocent mail and think: murder material.  I think we all knew that the whole thing was just a story that the neighborhood kids fixated on, but then we were also afraid that it was really true, while we were trying to think that it wasn’t.  Whatever the case, we moved away when I was in seventh grade, and to this day whenever I see cardboard shipping boxes waiting on someone’s doorstep I get a little chill down my spine.


Plastic Shipping Bags for Preserving the Products

Try saying that three times fast. The title, I mean. It’s a lot harder than it looks. Taking the time to really punch out the Ps is not popular with the mouth’s ability to pronounce. Anyway, I could probably proceed for the rest of this post using mostly Ps, and I wouldn’t even be practicing it on purpose- Apparently I need something to cleanse the palate…

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?


Okay, so, have you received a care package in the mail? If you are like most people than you probably have, and if you aren’t than I would like to apologize in advance. Now, getting into specifics. Have you ever received a care package that was improperly packaged? This would typically involve opening the box and seeing that everything was in its original state, with nothing segregated. Why should this matter? When dealing with edible and inedible products this matters very much. Following is a list of helpful tips for sending off care packages that can be received and taken full advantage with the full effect. In short: the package deal.

  • First, get yours hands on some plastic shipping bags. I don’t care if it’s a leftover grocery bag, or a sandwich baggie. Any bag becomes part of the plastic shipping bags family when it comes time to send off a care package.
  • Separate food items from non-food items, and completely wrap both parties. In the military, it was common for entire care packages to be thrown out simply because the generous senders had neglected to extra-wrap the soap. It doesn’t matter if a bar of soap comes wrapped in paper, and a candy-bar comes in plastic. If you don’t create even more of a barrier (hint hint, plastic shipping bags) that candy bar is going to taste like Zest. And that sucks. It sucks enough being on a deployment. Trying to eat a Snickers that tastes like the shower just adds insult to injury.
  • It goes without saying that plastic shipping bags could relieve most of the heartache that comes with a leaky product, and yet so many people fail to follow this simple step. Altitude changes will cause bottles to burst, and for whatever reason batteries often decide to release their hazardous fluids. Wrapping items appropriately can save the cookies from getting a bath, or the mustache socks from deteriorating in acid.

Packing Boxes for Sale as a Business Enterprise

If I ever wanted to go into business I would probably start with one of two ideas: medical uniforms, or packaging and shipping supplies. You see, medical uniforms are always in high demand. You know how you go into the pediatrician’s office and all those cute scrubs just automatically make everyone a little bit happier? They are usually shiny and crisp looking; Sylvester the Cat or mustaches or Pooh Bear, not a stain in sight. These people have to buy those. They have to maintain a standard, you see. They have to look sharp, and friendly, and like they care. What does any of this have to do with packing boxes for sale? Not a whole heck of a lot, when you are looking at them together. But when you are looking at them as two separate, possible business enterprises it starts to make a little bit more sense.

Just like medical uniforms are in constant, high demand, so are packaging and shipping supplies! If I could offer packing boxes for sale in bulk, I think people would really respond to that. How many times, when you are getting ready to move, do you dread having to spend all that money on packaging supplies? If you buy any of it from a local department store you are sure to overspend, and forget about the actual moving stores. They upcharge like crazy! You probably wont wind up leaving yourself enough time to order online, either.

Packing Boxes for Sale

Enter: your local packaging and shipping supply store, with packing boxes for sale, packaging tape, moving blankets, you name it. On your way home from work you can go and pick up a bundle of boxes and set your mind at ease. I could even put together a moving bundle, with different size boxes, and tape, and bubble wrap, and those little divider things for cups and vases and stuff. And tall, skinny boxes for lamps because, let’s face it, moving lamps is a huge pain in the B-U-T-T. The crucial part is making sure that the prices are competitive to what is going on online. I bet moving companies would even start to purchase from a local store, at least in a pinch.

Of course I know that there are already stores that offer packaging and shipping supplies, but those are usually shipping stores, and they won’t offer everything necessary for packing up a whole house, and you certainly couldn’t buy it in large quantities.

So, yeah, I’ve got some thinking to do. The local college has a really great physician’s assistant program, and I could probably get signed on to provide them with their uniforms for the students. Or I could put up a sign that says “packing boxes for sale”.