I headed out to my storage room today, as I needed to retrieve a couple of tools and store away some extra parts and project supplies that I won’t be needing for a while.
The door was hard to slide open, and I soon discovered why.
A short stack of 4 Rubbermaid Roughneck totes had collapsed. There was one larger tote on the bottom, and three smaller totes on top.
I haven’t been out to storage since maybe sometime in July, so this was a surprise to me.
There wasn’t too much weight in any of the storage boxes, but I guess summer heat made the plastic a little soft. Although that doesn’t seem very probable. It’s hard to say which tote deformed first. One of the smaller totes has reshaped itself significantly but not catastrophically, but the tote on the bottom was completely crushed and deformed. There are tears in some areas where it looks like the plastic pulled apart.
The weight of the smaller totes wasn’t enough to crush the larger tote on the bottom, but I guess summer temperatures helped lead to this inevitability. That shouldn’t have happened, though.
My Sterilite Ultra totes, Akro-Mils attached lid containers, Dewalt ToughSystem cases, and Bosch L-Boxxes were all unaffected.
Sterilite markets their Ultra totes as being resilient even in cold temperatures, when certain plastics tend to get brittle and easily cracked, but I never considered that warmer temperatures could lead to such structural failure. Although my Sterilite and Rubbermaid totes seem to be made of similar materials, the Sterilite totes were all perfectly intact.
Each of the smaller totes was loaded with maybe 20 pounds of stuff. There might have been 50 pounds of weight on top of the tall Rubbermaid tote that was on the bottom.
I don’t think I can place the blame on Rubbermaid for this, but I will certainly think twice about buying any more Rubbermaid Roughneck totes. I bought about 8 smaller totes back in June, and the blue tote shown in the second photo has served me for at least 8 years now.
At least part – or all – of the blame rests with me, although I’m not sure what I could or should have done differently. Another thing to point out is that the totes were placed near the metal roll door. Although the door is never really anything but warm to the touch, maybe it radiated extra heat to the totes. That also seems unlikely.
Storage totes, even totes warmed by summer heat, shouldn’t fail like this. Maybe I loaded them down with greater weight than I thought? Although, I always consciously place heavier totes on wire shelving units, as these types of storage boxes tend to bulge if you put any more than 20-25 pounds – evenly distributed of course – on top. Or I use heavier duty boxes on top of dunnage racks (also made by Rubbermaid) or pallets.
The more I think about it, the more I believe that the stacked weight caused the bottom one or two totes to very slowly bulge and deform, until they toppled forward. Then, the uneven weight distribution caused additional buckling and deformation. That makes more sense than thinking the plastic softened enough in summer heat to plastically deform and collapse under load.
Luckily, nothing was damaged, only my pride. I really should know better about these things. The only thing that makes me feel better, aside from the lack of obvious damage to tote contents, is knowing that I can’t be the first person this ever happened to.