Whether you’re moving house, renovating your home, or just lacking storage space, if you need to put your clothes in storage, you want them to come out in the same condition they went in. After all, if you went to the trouble of storing your garments, it means you like them and intend to wear them again – so, opening a box of stored clothing to be hit by the smell of mildew or the sight of moth-eaten fabric will be truly disheartening.
To prevent damage to your stored clothes and ensure that they stay intact, fresh, and beautiful, no matter how long they stay in storage, you need to know how to store them properly. Tossing them in plastic bags and leaving them on the floor of the storage unit won’t do – you need to pack your garments with care and provide them with adequate protection against dust, dirt, moisture, and pests.
Here is how to store clothes in a storage unit so they stay safe and ready to wear when you need them.
How to prepare clothes for storage
First things first – before you start packing your clothes for storage, you need to prepare them properly.
Sort out your clothes
Go through your clothing items and decide what to do with them:
1) Set aside the clothes that will stay with you:
If you’re storing clothes short-term (until your renovation project is completed, until your new home is ready for moving in, etc.), set aside the clothes you’re going to need during that specific period;
If you’re storing clothes long-term (because you don’t have enough storage space in your home, because you’re moving temporarily to another city, state, or country and renting out your current home – and, therefore, needing a safe place where to keep your personal items until you return, etc.), set aside the clothes you wear on a daily basis, your favorite clothes, and the clothes you know you will need in the near future (or the clothes you’ll be taking with you, in the case of a temporary move).
2) Get rid of unneeded clothes:
Sell, donate to charity, or give away to family and friends clothes in good condition that you don’t need or don’t like – clothes that don’t fit, clothes that are not your style, etc.;
Throw out damaged clothes and clothes that are too worn out to be worn again.
See also: What to do with unwanted clothes when moving
3) Make an inventory of your remaining clothes (out-of-season clothes, rarely worn clothes, official attire, sportswear, and/or other specialized clothing items you won’t need anytime soon, etc.) – these are the clothes that will go into storage.
Wash and dry the clothes that you plan to put in storage
Washing and drying your clothes before packing them for storage is essential for their safety and good condition.
Any dirt remaining on the clothes can seep into to fabric and cause stains and odors that are hard – and sometimes impossible – to get rid of. Residual perfumes and oils – and even sweat – can settle into the fabric and turn your clothes yellow. Food stains, makeup stains, cigarette smoke, and other stains and bad odors may also settle in over time and ruin your clothes. Besides, dirt, perspiration, and food stains attract insects and other vermin that can wreak havoc on the clothes.
To prevent such unfortunate scenarios and keep your garments safe and fresh, you need to wash them well before putting them in storage. (Bonus tip: Have your more delicate clothing items dry-cleaned.)
It is also crucial to make sure that your clothes are completely dry before you pack them for storage. Any remaining moisture can cause mold and mildew, which will ruin the fabrics and cause foul odors, so your garments need to be as dry as possible when they’re put in storage. (Bonus tip: Wait a couple of hours after your clothes have come out of the dryer before packing.)
How to pack clothes for storage
The best way to pack clothes for storage is to sort them by type and material and pack like items together, according to their specific packing needs – this will make packing easier and more efficient and will help ensure the safety of more delicate clothing.
Take care of hanging clothes
Furs, silk garments, dresses, suits, dress shirts, blouses, and other delicate and easily-wrinkled clothing items should be stored hanging up to avoid crushing the fabric.
So, how to store hanging clothes in storage unit?
The best option is to use wardrobe boxes – they’re sturdy, tall, and equipped with a hanging bar on the top, so they’re perfect for storing hanging clothes. These specialized boxes made of heavy-duty cardboard will provide top-notch protection to your clothes and will keep your fine garments wrinkle-free and in excellent condition during the entire storage period.
Just be sure to avoid wire hangers which may rust or stretch out fabrics over time (use padded plastic or wooden hangers) and space the clothing items to allow for airflow (this will reduce the risk of mildew and will help prevent wrinkling and creasing).
Alternatively, you can store your hanging clothes in breathable garment bags.
The rest of your clothes should be folded – or rolled – and put in appropriate storage containers.
Store folded clothes in plastic bins
Pants, jeans, sweaters, T-shirts, underwear, sports clothes, baby clothes, and other clothes that don’t need to be stored hanging can go in cardboard boxes or plastic bins.
Plastic storage containers are the better option for storing clothes long-term – they’re durable, waterproof, and impenetrable to pests. Plastic boxes provide excellent protection from dust and dirt and keep moisture out, thus greatly reducing the risk of mold and mildew growing on your stored clothes. Besides, insects and rodents can’t get inside a plastic bin and eat the stored clothes or make a nest in them. And if you get clear plastic containers, you will be able to see through them and, therefore, easily find any specific clothing item you may need.
Cardboard boxes, on the other hand, can break down with time, especially if they get wet. They don’t provide protection from humidity – moisture can seep through the cardboard and cause mold to develop inside the box. What’s more, rodents and insects can easily eat through cardboard and get to the stored clothes.
Bonus tip: Be sure to fold your clothes right when packing them in storage containers:
Fasten all snaps, button up all buttons, and close all zippers;
Lay the clothes face down on an even surface, smooth out the fabric, and fold the garments carefully and loosely to prevent wrinkles and allow the fabric to breathe (it is a good idea to add tissue paper in between the folds to reduce wrinkling and creasing);
Wrap more delicate items (like cashmere sweaters) in acid-free tissue paper before putting them in a storage container;
Line the storage containers with packing paper, put heavier clothes on the bottom, and stack lighter items on top;
Allow air to circulate and your clothes to breathe by packing them loosely and not overstuffing the storage containers.
Keep in mind that after months of storage, folds can turn into creases that are hard to get out. It may, therefore, be better to roll your clothes instead of folding them (especially clothing items that roll easily and evenly – jeans, cotton T-shirts, etc.) – rolling is more space-efficient and more effective in preventing wrinkling. (See also: How to pack clothes so they don’t wrinkle)
Don’t forget to label your clothing storage containers. (See also: How to label boxes for storage)
How to properly store clothes in a storage unit
Now that you know how to pack clothes for long-term storage, it’s time to find out how to protect your clothes in storage.
Here are some tips for storing clothes in storage unit to help you ensure that you will find your garments in the same condition they were in when you dropped them off:
1) Do not vacuum pack clothes
Using vacuum sealed bags is a great way to save space in a storage unit, but vacuum packing your clothes when putting them in storage is not a good idea.
Vacuum packing compresses the clothing fibers, ruining the shape and fit of the garments and causing wrinkles that can become permanent. Besides, natural fibers need to breathe – when the air out of sucked out, they cannot breathe and deterioration speeds up, ruining the clothes.
2) Do not store clothing in plastic bags
Plastic bags trap moisture (which can result in mold growth) and tear easily (which leaves your clothes exposed to dust, dirt, and pests), so they’re not a good option for storing clothes in a storage unit.
3) Take measures to reduce moisture
Add moisture absorbing silica gel packets to your storage containers and throughout the storage unit to help keep your items dry and prevent musty smells.
4) Use cedar chips or balls to keep pests away
Cedar is a safe and natural solution for keeping pests away from stored clothes. It releases natural phenols that are toxic to pests – the oil in cedar wood deters insects, rodents, and other vermin and kills moth larvae. The coniferous wood is a much better option than any chemical pest deterrents which can seep into the fabric and make clothes smell and deteriorate. Besides, cedar absorbs moisture from the air (which helps prevent mold and mildew) and has a lasting pleasant aroma (which helps eliminate other odors).
It is not a good idea to place cedar balls or chips directly onto clothes, though – put them in a small plastic bag instead and put the bag in the plastic bin with your clothes (leave the bag slightly open). You can also put a couple of small, plastic containers of cedar chips in your storage unit – this will help reduce humidity in the unit, will keep pests away, and will leave everything smelling fresh and natural.
5) Consider climate-controlled storage
The best way to store clothing long term is to put them in a climate-controlled storage unit.
Climate-controlled facilities maintain steady temperatures and humidity levels in their storage units, so the stored items are never exposed to intense heat, severe cold, temperature fluctuations, or moisture. What’s more, climate-controlled units are tightly sealed (so they provide excellent protection from dust, dirt, and pests) and have good air circulation (which further reduces the risk of mold and mildew and helps keep the stored items in good condition).
If you opt for climate-controlled storage, you can rest assured that your clothes will be in pristine condition when you take them out.
Good to remember: Environmentally-controlled storage is especially important when it comes to storing delicate and valuable clothing.
6) Use shelves or plastic racks to organize your clothes in the storage unit
Cardboard boxes and plastic bins are easy to stack, so you will have no problems organizing and arranging your storage unit. Yet, if you have several storage containers stacked on top of one another, it will be difficult to retrieve a clothing item from the bottom bin. Besides, it is not a good idea to put a box of clothes, even if it is a plastic box, directly on the floor of the storage unit (the risk of damage to the box – and, therefore, to the clothes stored inside it – is much bigger when the container is sitting on the floor).
You’re advised to get a storage rack or a shelf unit and arrange your storage boxes on it. It will be safer for your stored clothes and will make it much easier for you to get things from the containers.
Related: How to pack a storage unit
7) Get insurance
No matter how safe and secure a storage facility may be, an accident can always happen (a fire, flood, break-in, etc.). It is, therefore, a good idea to purchase insurance for your stored clothing to ensure your peace of mind – especially if you have valuable clothes stored in the unit.
8) Visit the storage unit regularly
When putting clothes in storage, it’s important to visit your unit every once in a while to make sure everything is alright. If a problem occurs (moisture build-up, pest infestation, etc.), the earlier you discover it, the better chance you will have to prevent damage to your clothes.
If your clothes will be staying in storage for a long time, be sure to refold them at least once a year during one of your visits to the storage unit. This will help prevent permanent creasing and will also allow you to better examine the condition of your clothing.
So, to sum it up: how to store clothing in a storage unit? The best way to store clothes in storage unit is to pack them in plastic bins, arrange the storage containers on racks, and take measures to reduce risks of potential damage (use moisture absorbers and cedar balls or rent a climate-controlled storage unit).
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