Amazon Storage Bins
Despite their presence in nearly every American home, plastic storage bins get surprisingly little attention in terms of professional reviews. But our experts overwhelmingly steered us toward Sterilite, noting the brand’s easy availability and their affordable bulk prices, followed by Rubbermaid and The Container Store bins as other options. Additionally, we visited Home Depot, Lowe’s, Bed Bath & Beyond, The Container Store, Target, Walmart, and a local hardware store in person to inspect a selection of models firsthand to become acquainted with materials, ergonomics, and feature quality beyond online and interview recommendations. This research proved extremely important since some of features noted by organizers—sliding doors, flap door lids, drawers, and wheels—felt cheap and prone to breakage when inspected in person. We eliminated almost all models with any of these add-on features, believing the convenience did not make up for their potential to break easily. We also passed on models designed for food storage, and under-bed storage designs. The bins we chose to test are your basic two-piece combos: the tub, lid, latches, and not much else.
Amazon Storage Bins
Because of its giant size and significantly more robust construction, we initially planned to leave out the 140-quart Rubbermaid ActionPacker ($79). The rugged box is much heavier, wider, pricier, and just plain tougher than the other bins, and its solid sides don’t allow you to see the contents inside. Yet, there’s something about it—one friend, singling it out from among the towers of storage bins piled in our living room, called it “badass.” With a design that’s part cooler, part toolbox, the 34.5- by 16.4- by 18.5-inch plastic bin weighs 16.3 pounds (by our measurement) even when it’s empty. It’s expensive, but it’s covered by a one-year warranty, which was the only such protection we found among the bins we picked. This item deserves recognition, even if it’s different from every other model we reviewed and tested.
Amazon Storage Bins
In an ideal world, plastic storage bins are packed and organized with the thoughtful planning and care of a Smithsonian archivist. The reality is plastic storage bins are usually stuffed haphazardly and to full capacity, often in a hurry, and used in situations ranging from office document storage, in children’s rooms for toys, for transporting stuff in a move, as seasonal closet annexes, or for hauling camping gear out of a garage. They’re the MacGyver of storage accessories, and they live rough lives.
Amazon Storage Bins
These bins give you exactly what you’d expect at this price, with no major disappointments: For a mere $6 per bin (a third the cost of our upgrade pick), you can buy these Sterilites and get a closet, kid’s room, garage, or home office packed, stacked, and organized in no time. These see-through bins held their own alongside the pricier products in our performance testing, surviving the drop test without cracking. They also passed leak-free in a water test we devised to re-create a flooded basement—standing in shorts and flip-flops in the backyard, holding a garden hose overhead, we sprayed the bins while each sat weighed down by bricks in a plastic kiddie pool. Despite some incredulous stares and curious inquiries from neighbors, the test successfully showed that the Sterilite’s walls and lid could keep water from getting inside.
Amazon Storage Bins
Storage bins often end up in semi-outdoor or uninsulated spaces, like garages, attics, and basements, where they’re subjected to less than ideal temperature, humidity, and air quality. They need to stay sealed shut, so we paid special attention to the fit and finish of their lid and latch locks. We looked for both tactile and auditory cues indicating a seal was properly made, along with extra foam or rubber gasket to help secure a seal. The best plastic storage bins, which are ready long-term storage and require infrequent access, usually have thicker polypropylene or polyethylene walls, with tub bottoms and lids designed to interlock for vertical stacking. We chose to test both clear and opaque models, because there are circumstances when content visibility would (and also would not) be desirable. Good products can have additional material added to stress points, like honeycomb or diamond patterns reinforcing the lid and bottom sides.
Amazon Storage Bins
Over the course of testing, we started to think of the ActionPacker as the Humvee of plastic storage bins, with typical household plastic bins being the sedate suburban minivans. Dropped from a height of 6 feet, the oversized bin survived the drop test with only a minor scuff; it bounced and the latch opened, but the lid itself remained closed. And because the lid top is convex, all water sprayed during our wet test dripped off. No water would be likely to get into the ActionPacker under less extreme circumstances, either—a half-inch lip fits into a channel along the underside of the lid, creating a recessed seal.
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Some other shortcomings could be shared with both Ultra Latch sizes: The 30-quart’s sides tend to flex a bit when overstuffed, a problem that could worsen with the 70-quart’s larger pieces of plastic. Beyond that, like the 30-quart, these bins’ bottoms could potentially slide on smooth surfaces, and we wouldn’t recommend stacking them higher than two to three bins at once.
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Container Store 70-Quart Stor-It-All ($19): The all-black design seems to hint that these are made for the garage and shed storage. And indeed, you could stuff this nearly 18-gallon-capacity model with gardening tools or sporting goods easily. But the Stor-It-All also scored well when stuffed with a trio of throw pillows and a folded blanket to test its capacity and lid security, attributed to a locking handle incorporated onto the lid, instead of attached to the base. This feature made it easier to engage the locking mechanism by pushing downward instead of locking upward like other models when overstuffed with soft goods. Online reviews praise the Stor-It-All for being tough and capable of storing/supporting plenty of weight, from keeping a contractor’s supply of paints in check, storing food preservation equipment, to the somewhat mysterious claim of it holding “the weight of 100+ pounds of armor on it” without issue. Unfortunately this reinforced construction unit is marred by an uncomfortable handle grip, with sharp edges that can dig into fingers while lifting heavier loads. These models also have a sharp taper from the opening down to the bottom, which means less available storage space at the base of the bin. Though not as large or as heavy as the Rubbermaid ActionPacker, it is more suitable for stacking in multiples (and it’s available in other smaller sizes for modular groupings). Be careful, though, as an unusually glossy finish on the lid makes it a bit too easy for other bins to shift around on top.
The size comes with a caveat: Because of the larger dimensions, the 70-quart Ultra Latch model seems prone to ship with cracks or arrive with broken lids when delivered in bulk, according to several Amazon reviewers. This happened to Sweethome editor Harry Sawyers; one 70-quart lid arrived damaged, and he called Amazon and was refunded the cost of the damaged bin only (no replacement bin was shipped).
If overall durability and a more secure lid are more important to you than saving a few dollars, get the Ziploc 60-Qt Large Deep Weathertight Storage Box ($17). This bin aced all our tests, and only the higher price prevented it from being our top pick. It’s comfortable to carry, the stiff sides don’t flex whether the bin is empty or fully stuffed, and it doesn’t slide around on the ground or when stacked on another bin. The thing that really sets this product apart isn’t available on any other manufacturer’s bins: a six-latch locking lid, which closes with a loud, satisfying snap and stays shut whether it’s dropped onto concrete or sprayed with a hose.
The grips on the Sterilite Ultra Latching Box feel fine when the bin is empty, but once it’s loaded with heavier items and lifted, your fingers press in more deeply and suddenly meet a sharper edge. This may be a rough seam in the plastic. It’s a minor annoyance, but over the span of carrying dozens of storage bins from room to room, garage to moving van, or from the basement upstairs, it gets painful. You could wear gloves, but then your hands may be too bulky to fit in the grips.
Gallery of: Amazon Storage Bins
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