Storing light bulbs properly is important to maintain their longevity and prevent breakage. Most people store spare light bulbs in their original packaging or boxes. However, once those boxes are discarded, many wonder how to store loose bulbs without breaking them. There are several creative ways to store loose light bulbs that protect them just as well as a box would.
Why Proper Storage is Important
Light bulbs are made of fragile glass that can easily break if bumped or dropped. Broken glass bulbs become a safety hazard and will no longer work. Storing them properly reduces the risk of accidental breakage, which saves you money from having to replace bulbs more frequently.
Proper storage also helps preserve the lifespan of light bulbs. Exposing bulbs to humidity, high temperatures, vibration, and dust can all shorten how long the bulb lasts once installed. Finding a storage method that protects from these elements will help your spare bulbs last as long as possible.
Storing Small Numbers of Bulbs
If you only have a few spare bulbs and not an entire box full, there are many small storage solutions that can work well:
Plastic Food Storage Containers
Plastic food containers are a household staple that many of us already have on hand. Choose a round container that will fit your bulb style and use the lid to secure them inside. The plastic will protect the glass bulb from directly touching other hard surfaces while keeping humidity and dust out. Just make sure to label the container so you remember that it contains light bulbs.
If you save your empty egg cartons, they make perfect small bulb holders. Lay the bulbs gently inside the egg indentations, using one per bulb. The carton cradles each bulb to cushion it and prevent contact with other bulbs. For larger bulbs, you can cut wider sections of the egg carton to make larger compartments. Egg cartons are biodegradable and recyclable too when you’re done with them.
Coffee Cans or Mugs
For single spare bulbs, a simple coffee can or spare mug is an easy storage solution. The cylindrical shape cradles the bulb and protects it from rolling and moving around. Use soft cloth at the bottom to further cushion the glass. Just remember to label the makeshift container.
Mesh laundry bags or zippered mesh pouches allow you to see the bulbs while keeping them all together. Look for mesh material with smaller holes so the bulbs cannot slip through. Use multiple labeled pouches if storing many sizes or styles. The breathable mesh allows air circulation to prevent humidity buildup.
Storing Large Quantities of Bulbs
Once you accumulate more than just a few spare bulbs, it’s time to get more creative. Here are methods for storing dozens of bulbs or even 100+ bulbs for those who maintain large home, office, or commercial lighting installations:
Plastic Storage Bins
For a household or office, sturdy plastic storage bins are ideal for handling several dozen spare bulbs. Choose a tub large enough to hold bulbs upright in rows without crowding. Line the bottom with packing paper or bubble wrap to cushion the glass. You can use cardboard dividers to separate rows or bulb types. Stackable bins are great for large bulb collections. Clearly label each bin as to what bulbs are inside.
For workshops, garages, and industrial settings, a metal toolbox can securely hold hundreds of bulbs. The sturdy construction protects the glass from damage. Line the toolbox with foam, cloth, or cardboard dividers to cushion each bulb in its own compartment. Label the outside of the toolbox clearly and keep in a protected storage area. The portable design allows you to easily move bulbs wherever they need to go.
Wooden crates or boxes allow safe storage and easy transport of many bulbs. Build or purchase slatted crates so air can freely circulate while bulbs are secured inside. Affix cushioning like felt or foam to the bottom to prevent rolling and breakage. Stackable wooden crates keep bulbs organized and protected. They look tidy in storage rooms or garages. For easy inventory, label each crate or use an engraved number system.
Wine Bottle Racks
Wine bottle racks have built-in cradle compartments perfect for spare light bulbs. Choose a rack with dividers sized appropriately for your bulb styles. For smaller bulbs, look for narrow divots made for champagne or mini liquor bottles. Racks can hold dozens of bulbs while keeping the glass elevated and separated to prevent damage. Their wall-mounting design is great for garages, basements, or laundry rooms.
Installing a specialized light bulb cabinet provides the ultimate organized storage solution. Use an existing cabinet or have one custom built with rows of shelves sized for your unique bulb collection. Make sure shelves are spaced appropriately and attach cushioning material. Doors enclose the bulbs to keep them dust-free and protected. Label each row for easy access. Built-in cabinets create clean hidden storage.
Free-standing shelving units like utility shelves or bookcases allow tidy bulb storage for large stocks. Choose metal shelving with adjustable shelves to customize spaces for each bulb type. Make sure shelves are deep enough to hold bulbs upright and lined with protective material. Keeping similar bulbs together makes for easy inventory management. Add bin dividers, labels, or a numbered system to identify each shelf’s contents.
Commercial and industrial warehouses can utilize large industrial shelving or rolling rack systems to organize inventory. Heavy-duty metal shelves have adjustable racks to accommodate all bulb sizes securely. Make use of vertical space by installing tall racks with dozens of shelves. Add stair steps for easy access to upper shelves. Numbered shelf rows paired with inventory logbooks streamline locating specific bulbs.
How to Store Different Light Bulb Types
Different kinds of light bulbs have their own storage needs based on shape, size, and material. Here are tips for properly storing common bulb varieties:
Incandescent bulbs are the traditional pear-shaped glass bulbs found in many homes. They are fragile and prone to breaking, so use soft padding in any storage container. Stand them upright rather than stacking horizontally. Keep spare incandescent bulbs in a cool, dry place away from windows and heat sources.
Halogen bulbs produce more heat and are sensitive to grease and fingerprints, which can lead to premature failure. Always handle halogen bulbs with gloves and tissue. Store vertically in divided compartments lined with tissue or foam. Keep compartments spaced since halogen bulbs also produce heat.
Curly compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs should remain upright during storage to prevent curvature damage. Use small compartments or dividers to keep the swirled glass secure. Protect bulbs from humidity and high heat that can reduce CFL lifespan. Handle gently as glass may crack if dropped.
LED bulbs produce no heat but still have fragile glass bulbs prone to breakage. The plastic bases can crack over time too. Keep LED bulbs in a dry, room temperature storage space. Cushion each bulb to prevent rolling and bumping. Store vertically where possible or lay flat with equal support underneath.
Long tube fluorescent bulbs need sturdy support their entire length to prevent cracks and chips. Use a rack, cabinet, or shelving system with full-length dividers. Foam tubing can provide extra cushioning for the ends. Keep tubes vertical, evenly spaced, and in climate controlled storage.
Bulbs for high intensity discharge (HID) fixtures have specialized bases that require angled storage. This allows the inner glass tube and outer glass bulb to stay aligned. Use padding to prevent the heavy bulbs from bumping and vibrating against each other. Lay bulbs at the needed angle rather than upright or horizontal.
Tips for Packing and Moving Bulbs
When preparing to move, spare light bulbs require special care and packing considerations:
– Pack bulbs separately using dedicated boxes marked “Fragile – Light Bulbs.” Never combine with other moving items.
– Wrap bulbs individually in tissue paper or newsprint. Use crumpled paper between each bulb to cushion and prevent direct contact.
– For expensive bulb varieties like LEDs or HIDs, wrap each in bubble wrap for added protection.
– Fill extra space in boxes firmly with packing paper or Styrofoam peanuts so bulbs cannot shift during transit.
– Avoid packing paper towels or any material that can shred. Shards can get inside the glass bulb and cause it to overheat or short circuit when used.
– Write FRAGILE on all sides of the box along with arrows indicating which direction is up.
– Pack bulb boxes tightly in the moving truck surrounded by furniture. Avoid storing near appliances or any heat sources.
– Transport boxes yourself rather than having movers handle to prevent tossing and rupturing.
Following careful packing and transport methods will get all your bulbs to the new location intact and ready for use. When unpacking, inspect each bulb for damage before storing in your new home. With diligent moving preparations, you can keep those expensive bulbs from ending up in pieces on the floor.
DIY Light Bulb Storage Solutions
For the crafty and budget-minded, there are many easy DIY light bulb storage projects that avoid the cost of commercial products:
PVC Pipe Rack
Use standard PVC pipes and connectors to build a custom rack for holding round bulbs. Cut pipes to desired lengths for each row. Use end caps on top and T or L joints to connect multiple vertical pipes so bulbs can slide in from above. Paint the rack for a finished look.
Dowel Rod System
Wooden dowels cut to various lengths allow you to install a simple storage solution. Drive metal eye screws into the ends of dowels. Screw or nail the dowels horizontally onto a board or wall studs. Hang bulbs from the dowel rods by their metal bases.
Peg Board Storage
Turn an inexpensive peg board into organized bulb storage. Install specialty rubber-coated bulb hooks or create your own from bent wire. Cut and bend wire coat hangers into shapes that can hold bulb bases securely. Arrange hooks on the board to fit different bulb sizes.
Magnetic Tool Bar
Use magnetic tool bars or strips to hold bulbs against metal. Screw bars vertically onto a wall stud. The magnetic pull lets you stick bulbs by their metal bases while keeping them separated and secure. Great for garages or workshops.
Old wooden fruit or liquor crates can become vintage-style bulb storage. Use a drill or jigsaw to cut holes or indents into the crate walls sized to fit various bulb bases. Paint or stencil the crates for extra flair. Stack or mount the customized crates to show off your light bulb collection.
Light Bulb Storage Tips
Follow these additional tips for keeping your spare bulbs as safe as possible:
– Always store bulbs away from windows and direct sunlight. Ultraviolet rays can damage the glass and internal components over time.
– Avoid storage areas prone to high humidity like basements, garages, or bathrooms. Moisture speeds corrosion of metal parts inside.
– Prevent accidental breakage by storing out of high traffic pathways. Keep bulbs away from children’s play areas.
– Do not jumble mixed bulb wattages and types together. Improper volts or fixtures can be a fire hazard.
– Organize by bulb type/model and note wattages for easy access. Log inventory if maintaining a large commercial stock.
– Clean up broken bulbs immediately. Shards can easily perforate skin or cut bare feet. Discard unrepairable bulbs properly.
– Inspect stored bulbs yearly for accumulating dust or signs of damage like loose bases or cracked glass. Clean gently or replace as needed.
– When discarding used bulbs, recycle properly. Many retailers accept old bulbs which are considered hazardous waste otherwise.
Proper light bulb storage does not have to be complicated or expensive. With minimal effort, you can utilize items around your home to create storage systems that keep spare bulbs organized, protected, and ready for use.
Light bulbs are glass and need to be handled with care no matter where you store them. Their glass construction makes them fragile and susceptible to breaking if improperly stored. Utilizing materials you already have around the house, such as plastic containers, dividers, rags, or cardboard, can help cushion bulbs and prevent damage. For more bulbs, invest in specialized storage solutions like racks, cabinets, or cases. Just make sure to keep them dry, at room temperature, and separated from each other. Take time to organize and track your inventory. With the right storage method, your spare light bulbs will stay intact and ready for installation when needed. Proper storage saves you the cost and hassle of constantly replacing broken bulbs.