How do you keep clothes safe in a storage unit?

Quick Answers

Here are some quick tips for keeping clothes safe in a storage unit:

  • Use plastic bins or wardrobe boxes to store clothes, shoes, and accessories
  • Wrap delicate items in acid-free tissue paper
  • Use moisture absorbing packs in boxes and bins
  • Elevate boxes off concrete floors on pallets or plastic crates
  • Seal boxes with packing tape
  • Label all containers clearly
  • Regularly check storage unit for pests, mold, or moisture damage

For many people, renting a storage unit provides a convenient way to safely store belongings when you don’t have enough space at home. However, the contents of a storage unit can be vulnerable to damage from moisture, pests, mold, and more. Clothing and other textiles are particularly susceptible to these hazards if not properly protected.

Proper storage methods are key to keeping clothes undamaged for both short-term and long-term storage. With some advance preparation and appropriate packing techniques, you can keep garments looking their best until you are ready to wear them again.

Use the Right Storage Containers

The first step is choosing appropriate storage bins, boxes, or wardrobes. Look for containers that meet the following criteria:

  • Airtight – Bins or boxes that seal tightly prevent dust, pests, and excess moisture from getting in.
  • Acid-free – Acid-free cardboard, plastic, and tissue paper help block acid damage that can cause clothes to yellow or become brittle over time.
  • Sturdy – Thick, durable plastic bins or heavy-duty cardboard wardrobe boxes provide more protection against crushing or collapsing.
  • Stackable – Stackable uniform shapes allow stable, space-efficient storage.
  • Clear labeling – Clear, visible labels prevent you from needing to open multiple containers when retrieving items.

Wardrobe boxes designed especially for clothing storage are a smart option. These often have a rod or l bar built in for hanging clothes and come with covers to shield garments from dust. Clear plastic storage bins are another good choice – these allow you to easily identify contents without unpacking them.

Recommended Clothing Storage Containers

Here are some of the best storage bins and boxes for clothing:

Container Key Features
Clear plastic storage bins Airtight seal, transparent, stackable, variety of sizes
Cardboard wardrobe boxes Built-in clothing rod or rack, covers, designed for garment storage
Acid-free tissue paper Blocks humidity and acid damage, wraps delicate items
Storage bins with gasket seals Waterproof lid seal prevents moisture and pests
Archival storage boxes Acid-free, protects fabric long-term

Packing Clothing for Storage

Once you have suitable storage containers, proper packing techniques are equally important. Here are some tips for packing clothing and textiles to minimize damage:

  • Group by season – Pack winter clothes separately from summer clothes so you can access seasonally relevant items more easily when needed.
  • Use acid-free tissue – Wrap delicate fabrics like silk, wool, and vintage items in acid-free tissue paper before packing into bins.
  • Hang up fabrics – Hang dresses, coats, and suits on the racks in wardrobe boxes to prevent wrinkles or misshaping.
  • Protect colors – Separate bright whites from darker colors with tissue paper if concerned about dye transfer.
  • Fill empty space – Pack clothes tightly and fill excess space with tissue paper to prevent shifting and wrinkling.
  • Cushion rigid items – Wrap hard items like belt buckles, buttons, or shoe heels that could snag fabric.

Take extra care when packing delicate fabrics like silks, lace, knits, and vintage clothing. Use tissue paper wraps to prevent snagging or tearing. Stuff sleeves with acid-free paper to retain shape. Consider special garment bags with padding for extra protection.

Additional Packing Tips

  • Turn sweaters inside out before folding to prevent distortion and pilling.
  • Roll clothes rather than fold to minimize wrinkling.
  • Clean clothes before storage to remove food stains, oils, or pest attractants.
  • Allow freshly dry cleaned clothes to air out before packing to prevent mildew.
  • Zip zippers, button buttons, and tie ribbons to retain shape.

Using Moisture and Pest Control

Two of the biggest dangers to stored clothing are moisture and pests like moths, silverfish, carpet beetles, and rodents. Here are some ways to safeguard against them:

  • Moisture absorbers – Place desiccant packs or silica gel packets in boxes to absorb excess humidity.
  • Moth balls/flakes – Scatter moth repelling products on and around tightly sealed containers.
  • Cedar blocks – Add cedar wood blocks to repel moths and other insects.
  • Pest control sprays – Treat the interior and exterior of storage containers with pest spray before packing.
  • Sticky traps – Use non-toxic sticky traps around storage area to catch insects.

Be sure to check regularly for any sign of insects like webbing, eggs, larvae, or damage to fabrics. Address infestations right away before they can spread. Periodically air out contents to prevent musty odors and allow moisture to dissipate.

Storing Containers Properly

Once clothes and textiles are packed into storage containers, attention must be paid to how those containers are stored within the unit. Follow these guidelines:

  • Elevate – Place containers on pallets or plastic crates to keep off concrete floors vulnerable to moisture.
  • Arrange neatly – Stack or arrange bins tidily to maximize space and minimize risk of toppling over.
  • Avoid external walls – Keep containers away from outer walls where condensation is more likely.
  • Leave space – Allow some space around stored items for air circulation.
  • Minimize temperature fluctuations – Find a storage unit location without excessive seasonal temperature swings.

Storing boxes in a completely enclosed closet area within the unit provides an extra moisture and pest barrier. Be sure to place boxes labeled for seasonal access near the storage room door for convenience.

Ongoing Storage Unit Maintenance

Proper maintenance and monitoring is crucial for keeping storage unit contents protected over time. Here are some important habits:

  • Monitor for pests – Periodically check for any signs of insects like webs, larvae, or droppings around containers.
  • Check for water leaks – Look for standing water or excessive moisture that could penetrate storage containers.
  • Maintain temperature – During winter, consider a small portable heater to prevent freeze damage if unit isn’t climate controlled.
  • Watch for mold/mildew – Immediately remove any boxes with mold growth and air out remaining items.
  • Freshen and air out – Take out and freshen clothing every 6-12 months.

A dehumidifier in the storage unit can help regulate moisture levels. Absorbent materials like baking soda can be left in the space or containers to reduce odors. Avoid storing leather goods or wooden items prone to mold growth.

What to Avoid When Storing Clothes

Just as important as what to do is knowing what not to do when preparing clothes for storage:

  • Plastic garbage bags – Avoid plastic bags without support as they easily tear and allow moisture in.
  • Fluctuating temperatures – Heat and cold extremes can damage fabrics. Avoid non-climate controlled spaces.
  • Sunlight – UV exposure will fade and degrade fabric over time.
  • Wire hangers – Wire hangers can rust and cause staining or holes.
  • Cardboard – Non acid-free cardboard can quickly mold and offers less protection.
  • Stacked furniture – Don’t stack heavy furniture on top of clothing containers.

Mothballs contain pesticides and their fumes can actually damage fabrics, so they should be avoided. Take care not to overfill containers to the point where clothing could get crushed or wrinkled.

Long-Term Clothing Storage Considerations

For long-term clothing storage spanning years rather than months, a few additional precautions can maximize garment lifespan and condition:

  • Have delicate vintage or custom-made garments professionally cleaned and specially packed for storage.
  • Consider climate controlled unit options that regulate temperature and humidity.
  • Use archival grade acid-free paper and cardboard storage boxes.
  • Unpack and air out clothing at least once a year.
  • Inspect boxes thoroughly for pest damage before re-sealing.
  • Repack with fresh acid-free tissue paper when returning items to storage.

Be selective about which special occasion or heirloom clothes merit the cost of long-term storage. Costume, knit, or degraded fabrics may not benefit. For premium textiles, specialized services may also clean, treat, and store items in archival bags in climate controlled vaults.

What to Check When Retrieving Stored Clothes

When it’s time to get stored clothes out for use again, be sure to thoroughly check them over first. Look for signs of:

  • Discoloration – Yellowing or darkened fabrics may indicate damage from humidity or pests.
  • Odor – A musty, stale smell means mold could be present.
  • Stains – Look for water marks, insect droppings, or other stains.
  • Pests – Small holes, missing fabric, or larvae indicate active infestations.
  • Brittleness – If fabric is stiff, crunchy, or falling apart, it may have been weakened by moisture or acids.

If clothes smell musty, air them out before wearing. Use odor absorbing products like baking soda or activated charcoal to help remove unwanted scents from fabric. Clean stained or insect-damaged items if salvageable. Be prepared to get rid of any clothes damaged beyond repair.


Keeping clothes in peak condition for storage requires protecting them from pests, excessive humidity, temperature extremes, light damage, and physical harm. With the right storage materials and careful packing techniques, clothing can stay clean, undamaged, and ready to wear for years to come. Consistent monitoring and maintenance of your storage unit is also essential.

It’s worth investing time, effort, and quality materials in properly storing special garments. Follow these best practices for storage bins, packing strategies, pest prevention, and ongoing maintenance. Taking appropriate steps will ensure your favorite clothes remain in great shape while stashed away awaiting their next chance to be worn.

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