Storing furniture for any length of time can be tricky. Changes in temperature, humidity, light exposure, and pests can all cause damage to furniture over time. Properly preparing and protecting your furniture before storage is key to keeping it in good condition until you are ready to use it again. Here are some tips on how to best store furniture for the short or long term.
Why is furniture susceptible to damage in storage?
Furniture is vulnerable to several elements when in storage that can lead to cracking, warping, discoloration, mildew growth, and other types of deterioration:
- Temperature fluctuations – Exposure to extreme cold and heat cycles can cause wood and upholstered furniture to contract and expand, resulting in cracks and splits.
- Humidity – High humidity provides a moist environment for mold and mildew growth. Low humidity causes wood to dry out and possibly warp or crack.
- Light exposure – Direct sunlight and bright light causes fading and discoloration of upholstery and wood finishes.
- Pests – Rodents, silverfish, and other pests can damage upholstery, wood, and stuffing materials.
- Dust accumulation – Dust buildup dulls finishes and fabrics.
Proper storage conditions that minimize these threats are essential for keeping furniture in unchanged condition during the storage period.
Prep furniture for storage
Before placing furniture into a storage unit or room, take these steps to prepare it for ideal storage:
- Clean surfaces – Vacuum upholstered pieces and dust wood surfaces. This removes abrasive dirt and debris.
- Apply protectants – Wax and polish wood furniture to protect the finish. Use fabric protectant sprays or covers on upholstered furniture.
- Take photos – Photograph the furniture from all angles to remember how to reassemble it later.
- Disassemble when possible – Take apart furniture units that come apart to make moving and space efficiency easier.
- Pad corners – Affix felt pads, foam, or bubble wrap to cushion corners and edges.
- Remove drawers – Take out drawers from cabinets, chests, and nightstands, as this makes them lighter to move and prevents warping.
Proper preparation helps ward off many of the hazards posed to furniture in storage environments.
Choose the right storage location
Selecting the optimal storage space protects your belongings:
- Climate controlled unit – This maintains a consistent moderate temperature and humidity level year-round, which is ideal for wood and fabrics.
- Avoid extreme temperatures – Don’t store furniture in attics, garages or sheds where extreme heat and cold occur.
- Low humidity – Pick a space with low humidity to prevent mold growth. Use a dehumidifier if needed.
- Low light – Minimize fading by avoiding storage in rooms with windows and direct light exposure.
- Pest control – Facility should proactively manage pests. You can also place sticky traps around furniture.
- Clean and dry – Prevent mold and mildew by storing in a clean, dust-free room that is free of leaks.
A climate controlled unit is ideal, but an interior room works if temperature and humidity are moderated.
Use furniture covers
Furniture covers provide an extra layer of defense when pieces are in storage:
- Loose covers – Drape dust covers over each piece.
- Fitted covers – Tailored covers hug the furniture to better protect the surfaces.
- Plastic covers – Clear plastic sheeting prevents dust accumulation.
- Moving blankets – These protect against scratches during transport to storage.
- Sheets – White sheets can be used for an inexpensive solution.
Check furniture periodically while stored to ensure the covers remain securely in place.
Store upholstered furniture properly
Follow these tips for storing upholstered seating and mattresses:
- Stand up – Store vertically instead of laying flat to avoid sagging and damage to springs and padding.
- Cover – Use fitted dust covers made of breathable fabric.
- Rotate – Flip or rotate foam cushions every few months to prevent flattening and creasing.
- Sprinkle baking soda – Baking soda absorbs moisture and deters pests.
- Air out – Uncover and let air out before using again to freshen.
Avoid stacking upholstered pieces directly on top of each other.
Protect wood surfaces
Use these steps to keep wood furniture damage-free:
- Polish – Apply a light coat of furniture polish prior to storage for added protection.
- Wax finishes – Wax finished wood periodically to replenish wax layers since wax naturally depletes over time.
- Lacquered finishes – Lacquered finishes also wear down over time. Consider applying a fresh coat before storage for long term protection.
- Oil surfaces – Rub a small amount of oil into wood prior to storage to condition and preserve it.
- Avoid direct contact – Place pieces in cloth sleeves or use furniture pads to keep wood from directly contacting cement floors or walls.
Be mindful of temperature and humidity which can cause wood to warp, crack, or dry out.
Care for leather furniture
Leather requires some special considerations:
- Clean leather – Wipe leather pieces down with a leather cleaner and let dry completely before covering for storage.
- Moisturize – Apply a leather conditioner to prevent cracking or drying out.
- Avoid direct light – Direct sunlight can fade and dry out leather.
- Maintain shape – Stuff cushions with acid-free paper to retain shape.
- Cover – Use breathable cloth covers to allow airflow and prevent mildew.
Storing leather furniture in a climate controlled environment is best.
Metals also need maintenance for storage:
- Clean – Remove fingerprints, residue, and tarnish from brass, chrome, wrought iron, etc using a gentle metal cleaner prior to storage.
- Coat – Apply a thin coat of lemon oil or mineral oil to surfaces to deter rusting.
- Buff gently – Rub a soft cloth over metal pieces to restore shine.
- Anti-tarnish strips – Place strips in storage boxes and furniture drawers to inhibit tarnishing.
- Avoid contact – Use felt pads underneath metal furniture legs or bases to prevent scratches.
Regularly inspect metals while in storage to catch any emerging rust or tarnishing issues.
Cushion rattan & wicker
Rattan and wicker need a bit of padding for protection:
- Clean – Use a hose or damp cloth to remove dirt and debris woven into rattan or wicker.
- Pad corners – Wrap cushioning around corners and feet.
- Cover – Use a fitted cover or drape with a sheet or moving blanket.
- Avoid dampness – Water can cause rattan and wicker to crack and split.
- Watch for pests – Check periodically for signs of mice or insects nesting in wicker.
Store these delicate items indoors in a dry location.
Care for fabrics
Upholstery fabrics are vulnerable when furniture is not in use:
- Vacuum – Thoroughly vacuum furniture to remove dust and grit before storage.
- Fabric protectant – Spray upholstered surfaces with a preservative to guard against mold and stains.
- Limit folding – Refrain from folding or sharply creasing fabric when possible.
- Even support – Pad areas that will have pressure on them for prolonged periods to maintain shape.
- Rotate cushions – Flip and rotate cushions occasionally so wear occurs evenly.
Inspecting stored furniture fabric periodically lets you catch any emerging issues.
Clean glass & mirrors
Glass tabletops, furniture accents, and mirrors need proper cleaning and padding for storage:
- Clean surfaces – Remove fingerprints, smudges, and dust using a glass cleaner.
- Pad edges – Use cork, felt, or foam pads to cushion corners and sharp edges.
- Wrap – Carefully wrap mirrors and glass tabletops in plastic sheeting or moving blankets.
- Vertical storage – Stand mirrors upright rather than stacking flat.
- Avoid direct contact – Use furniture coasters or pads so glass doesn’t directly touch other surfaces.
Regularly check glass for emerging cracks or scratches while furniture is stored.
Consider climate control
For the best protection, store furniture in spaces with climate control and limited humidity:
- Air conditioning – Keep storage units and rooms cool. Aim for temperatures around 70 F.
- Humidity control – Use dehumidifiers to keep humidity around 45% to discourage mold growth.
- Holistic pest control – Monitor for and manage insects that can damage furniture and fabrics.
- Dark spaces – Prevent light damage by using window coverings and low lighting.
- Air circulation – Periodically open storage areas to refresh air and prevent a musty smell.
Maintaining the proper storage environment preserves your furniture for the future.
Inspect furniture periodically
Don’t just put furniture in storage and then forget about it. Occasionally check in on the condition:
- Monthly inspections – Do a quick visual check for any emerging issues.
- Insect traps – Monitor traps for signs of pest problems.
- Light testing – Take pieces out of storage briefly to look for light damage if they’ve been covered.
- Fabric rubbing – Lightly rub fabrics to feel for emerging holes or tears.
- Odor check – Remove coverings and air out upholstered pieces to check for musty odors.
Catching problems early allows them to be corrected before causing lasting damage.
Consider professional storage
For expensive, antique, or fragile furniture, consider professional storage services:
- Climate controlled units – These facilities closely monitor temperature and humidity.
- Valuable item storage – Some offer specialized storage for items requiring extra care.
- Fire detection systems – Commercial spaces have automated fire detection and suppression systems.
- Pest prevention – They fumigate storage spaces to eliminate insect problems before furniture comes in.
- Security monitoring – Facilities have security systems, cameras, guarded access, and property protection policies.
The cost for commercial storage is often well worth it to protect cherished furniture pieces.
Prepare furniture for removal
When it’s time to remove furniture from storage, take steps to transition it properly:
- Gradual temperature changes – Adjust the temperature gradually so furniture doesn’t crack or warp.
- Inspect condition – Look pieces over carefully for any damage that may have occurred while packed away.
- Check finishes – Wax, oil, or polish wood pieces if needed to restore luster.
- Touch up flaws – Use appropriate touch up products to disguise any scratches, chips, or scuffs.
- Freshen fabrics – Steam or professionally clean upholstery if musty or dusty.
Take your time prepping furniture to come out of storage before putting it back into use.
With proper preparation, furniture can remain in excellent shape through periods of storage. Take steps to clean pieces thoroughly, pad and cover vulnerable areas, maintain ideal temperature and humidity levels, and periodically inspect for problems. If you give your furniture the right care and protection while in storage, it will be ready to use and enjoy again whenever needed.