File Cabinet Buying Guide

A file cabinet helps you stay organized. This file cabinet buying guide will help you find a model that meets your home office space and storage needs.

File Cabinets 101

Being productive in a disorganized work environment can be extremely challenging. A file cabinet, also called a filing cabinet, helps you maintain a clutter-free workspace so you can better focus on the tasks at hand. There are two main types: vertical file cabinets are deep and up to 3-4 drawers tall, while lateral file cabinets are wider and often just 2 drawers tall. You can choose from wood, steel and plastic, with cost and appearance being the prime differences. You’ll also want drawers that lock if you need to store documents that are private or valuable. Storage boxes are another option for organizing and concealing your office files. Most storage boxes are made of plastic, making them easy to access and rearrange. Whatever your work, filing cabinets are an essential tool for keeping organized and staying productive.

Types of File Cabinets


Vertical File Cabinets

Ideal for crowded or confined workspaces, a vertical file cabinet features convenient pull-out drawers stacked one atop the other. The width, depth, height and number of drawers varies between models. When shopping, keep in mind you'll need enough space in front to let the drawers fully extend. Like most other filing cabinet types, vertical filing cabinets are designed to accommodate files and documents up to legal size (8.5" x 14").Vertical file cabinets typically feature two-drawer and three-drawer configurations, but some have as many as five drawers.

Lateral File Cabinets

Like vertical filing cabinets, lateral filing cabinets are an essential tool for maintaining an organized workspace. This type of file cabinet is wider than it is deep and comes with two to five stacked drawers. The lateral storage configuration allows for easy access to more files at once, but demands more floor and wall space than a vertical file cabinet. If space is limited in your office or work area, consider purchasing a two-drawer model. Built low to the ground, this style fits conveniently under tables and desks to free up floor space for other uses.

Mobile File Cabinets

Moving the contents of a filing cabinet is not only difficult, but also potentially hazardous. Fully loaded cabinets can be extremely heavy and nearly impossible to move. Portable file cabinets, like plastic storage boxes, can make the process of transferring files from one location to another much simpler and safer. Standard filing cabinets with wheels make moving files easier still. Consider how often your files will be moved before selecting a filing cabinet for your home office.

Storage Boxes

Similar to vertical and lateral file cabinets, storage boxes are designed to store documents up to legal size. But unlike file cabinets, storage boxes are typically detached single-drawer units. In general, they're made of light materials like cardboard or plastic. This makes them easy to organize and access on a regular basis. Multiple storage boxes of the same type can often be arranged in space-saving stacks or side by side for convenient access. Alternatively, it's easy to stash a single storage box under an office desk or on a shelf to free up floor space.

Modular Storage

Modular storage is a good solution for storing the seemingly endless multitude of non-file office items one acquires over time. These plastic units can be stacked and arranged in different formations, but they do not contain runners for hanging files. Some units feature pullout drawers for easy access, while others load from the top. 

Fire Resistant File Cabinets

If you have vital files or paperwork worth saving, you should consider investing in a fire resistant file cabinet. Many models are rated for one hour of fire protection up to 1700°F. That includes protecting your electronic media like CDs/DVDs, USB drives and memory sticks. These units are also designed to protect your files from sprinklers and water spray. In addition to crucial files, you can also protect original documents like signed contracts, and any cash on hand. 

File Cabinet Buying Tips:

  • Determine which storage configuration best suits both your storage needs and your workspace layout
  • Measure the spot where you intend to place your new filing cabinet, ensuring there's room for the drawers to open fully
  • Shop for versatile file storage if you expect your needs to grow or change
  • Choose a colour and style that matches your existing home office furnishings
  • Consider your security requirements

File Cabinet Features

Drawers +

Filing cabinets typically have two to five drawers, while storage boxes are most commonly single-drawer portable filing cabinets. Consider how frequently you'll need to access your filing cabinet and how much wear and tear your drawers will need to endure. Many professional-grade filing cabinets feature ball-bearing suspension tracking for smooth-gliding drawers. To avoid tipping, choose a filing cabinet with interlocking drawers, a safety feature that prevents multiple drawers from opening at once.

Construction +

Most filing cabinets are made of wood, metal or plastic. Each material has its benefits, but your specific needs will ultimately dictate your best option. A wood filing cabinet complements a modern upscale workspace. Metal file cabinets are well suited for office settings and also are a good choice for unheated environments such as outdoor spaces, garages and storage lockers. For temporary file storage or growing projects, plastic filing cabinets offer the benefits of being lightweight and easy to rearrange.

Locks +

Locking drawers are a standard feature of most filing cabinets to ensure document safety, security and privacy. Some models have a central locking mechanism that secures all the drawers at once. Other models feature individually locking drawers, allowing you the convenience of controlling security on a drawer-by-drawer basis.

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Maintenance Tips:

  • Always follow the manufacturer’s directions for cleaning and maintenance
  • Occasionally check the wheel mechanisms on mobile file cabinets for cracks or weakness
  • Dust and clean all exposed surfaces weekly using a duster or soft cotton cloth and dusting spray
  • Clean all exposed wood surfaces yearly with soap and mineral water
  • Clean hinges using mild dish soap and warm water, and tighten screws when necessary
This article is intended as general information. Always be sure to read and follow the label(s)/instruction(s) that accompany your product(s). Walmart will not be responsible for any injury or damage caused by this activity.



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