Whether you’re moving to a new place or just need to make space in your current home, a storage unit can offer some great benefits! But the same time, if you’re not careful, your items could end up damaged. Luckily, there are several things that you can do to package your items in a way that will keep them in good condition.
If you’re preparing to move some of your belongings into storage, you’ve come to the right place. This article will give you details about how to package your items to prevent damage during storage. We will also discuss some best practices on how to load your storage unit for ease of use.
Wrap and Protect Your Furniture
Furniture is one of the main items that people place in storage units, so it’s important to know how to protect it. You want to prepare it in a way that prevents:
- Moisture uptake
All of the above can destroy furniture, especially if it’s made of wood or cloth. You also want to load it into the storage unit in an orderly fashion, which we will discuss later on in this article.
Cover the Floor
Be sure to place a protective layer of plastic or rubber on the floor of your storage unit before placing furniture inside. Although many storage units are perfectly safe and weather-proof, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Placing a protective layer on the floor can help prevent your furniture from sitting in a puddle of water if it happens to seep in through the floor or the sides of the unit.
Use Blankets and Furniture Pads
Cover your furniture with heavy blankets or furniture pads. You may think that since your items will be sitting still (i.e. not bouncing around in the back of a moving van while it drives down the road), that they won’t get scratched, but that is rarely the case. Use furniture pads and blankets to wrap your furniture as much as possible. You can even use packing tape, wrapped all the way around the blanket, to keep it in place.
*Note: Cloth furniture should be covered with a white sheet rather than a dark blanket to avoid dark ink absorbing into the fabric.
Clean and Seal
If you have some wood pieces that are really important to you, consider cleaning them with a furniture polish and covering them in a wax sealant prior to wrapping them up. This will help protect the surface and also prevent moisture from getting into the wood. With leather couches or cloth pieces, use a leather or fabric protectant spray for the same reason. Be sure to let them dry for 24-48 hours after cleaning before wrapping them.
Disassemble Larger Items
Larger items, such as bed frames, may need to be disassembled in order to save room in your unit. If you dissemble something and wrap each individual piece, be sure to store them vertically in the storage unit so you can save on floor space. You may also want to place the hardware for each piece in a plastic bag and label it to save yourself some trouble when you go to reassemble everything.
Clean and Pack Appliances with Care
Large appliances will need to be thoroughly cleaned prior to placing them in storage. In the case of kitchen appliances, if you don’t deep-clean them, you could attract rodents and other pests into your storage unit, which can cause a ton of other problems. Although it might take a little longer, it’s best to just put in the work now for better results later.
Defrost and Deep-Clean
Refrigerators and freezers must be completely defrosted prior to being placed in storage. We recommend defrosting them outside in your garage or driveway if possible, to avoid water running all over your floor. Once thawed out, clean them completely with an all-purpose cleaner or a bleach and water solution to be sure that there is no food left on any of the surfaces.
Ovens and dishwashers must also be deep-cleaned. Many ovens come with a specific cleaner that is made for the interior and exterior, so use that if you still have it. If not, an all-purpose cleaner or bleach and water solution will do the trick.
Drain the Water
Appliances that have water lines such as dishwashers, washing machines and refrigerators with ice dispensers, must also have water lines that are completely dry before placing them in storage. Leaving water in the hoses of such appliances can result in:
- Other irreparable damage.
If you live in a cold region of the country, the water can freeze inside the lines and cause damage that way, as well.
Leave the Doors Open
If possible, when you place appliances in your storage unit, leave the doors slightly ajar. This is highly recommended especially for kitchen appliances. It will allow proper ventilation and help prevent foul odors, condensation and mildew.
Pack Up Electronics the Right Way
The key to packing electronics is to avoid wrapping them in plastic. Although you may think that bubble wrap or plastic will help protect them, you might be doing more harm than good. Plastic can actually trap moisture inside the electronics, which can do some major damage over time.
Don’t Use Plastic
Instead of using plastic, you should choose packing materials such as:
- Packing peanuts
These will adequately protect your electronics. If possible, pack your electronics back into their original packing materials and boxes. If you no longer have those items, pack them in their own box with their own cables so you can easily reassemble them when you’re ready.
Clean Your Electronics
Before packing your electronics, be sure to wipe them down to remove dust and dirt. The last thing you want is for the dust to settle into the mechanical parts of your electronics! You may also consider using compressed air to remove dust from:
- USB ports
- Auxiliary ports
- Other items with dust-attracting crevices
Off the Floor and Away from the Door
When you put them in your storage unit, never store electronics on the floor where they could be damaged by water seeping in. Instead, place them on a shelving unit or on top of furniture to keep them off the floor. You should also store them in the back of your unit to protect them from heat, cold and other elements near the door.
Be Mindful of All Fragile Items
There are tons of items that could potentially fall into the “fragile” category. Each type of item needs special care to ensure safety and prevent damage while in storage. Be sure to read this section carefully if you have a lot of fragile items to pack and store.
In general, when you pack delicate items, you want to use smaller boxes. This will help keep the weight of the box down so you can move it around easily and to prevent it from breaking or tearing during transit. If possible, use wooden crates or even plastic tubs to pack fragile items, as they will hold up to the weight better than cardboard.
When packing dishes, be sure to put a layer of padding or wrapping in between each one. It can be tempting to just stack plates on top of one another, but doing this causes a much greater risk or breakage. Instead you can use things like:
- Bubble wrap
- Cloth wraps
- Packing paper
- Other soft materials
Glasses and cups require padding in between, as well. A good rule of thumb is to make sure there is never glass-on-glass or ceramic-on-ceramic. Additionally, be sure to pack cups with the rims facing down. This will add more stability and allow them to take a little more pressure.
Mirrors and Wall Hangings
We recommend the purchase of specialized boxes for these items. It can be really difficult to pack them in a way that prevents damage, but the specialized boxes and materials make it much easier. If you opt to use regular pads and wrapping materials, be sure to wrap them several times and secure the pads by wrapping tape all the way around the outside.
The glass portion of these items should be marked with an “x” in masking tape. This adds strength and stability to the glass and helps prevent shattering. Adding crumpled packing paper or bubble wrap in between the glass and the padding that its wrapped in will also help.
Figurines and other collectibles should be packed individually in small boxes whenever possible. Just like your electronics, it is best to pack them in their original box. If that’s not possible, try to find small boxes to pack each item and then place them in the larger box.
If you don’t have individual boxes, be sure to wrap each item individually with packing paper or bubble wrap. Line the bottom of the box with pads or bubble wrap before loading it with your items. Be sure to fill empty spaces inside the box with additional packing paper to keep them items from moving around.
Protect Your Clothing from Damage
It is really tempting to just throw all of your clothing into cardboard boxes, seal them up and call it done. However, this is one of the worst things you can do for your clothes, especially if they will be in storage for a prolonged amount of time. Your best bet is to use wardrobe boxes that allow you to hang your clothing up.
Hanging your clothing in boxes while in storage will allow proper ventilation in between the layers of clothes. It will also help prevent mold and mildew from accumulating in your clothes. For added protection, place mothballs or other insect repellent products inside the unit and/or the boxes, as well.
Place Items Methodically in the Storage Unit
Despite how much time and energy you spend protecting your items prior to storing them, it won’t do much good if you don’t load them into the storage unit in a logical way. There are a variety of things you can do inside the storage unit to maximize your efforts to prevent damage. Here are a few key ideas.
This might seem like a lot of work for a storage unit, but it’s an awesome way to protect your items from damage.
Shelves may be a good addition to your storage unit if you’ll be storing items like:
- Other fragile items
Also, if you install some strong shelving units along one wall, you can place the heavy boxes on the shelves, rather than on top of one another.
Many people underestimate how much damage can be done by stacking boxes on top of one another. You can certainly try to put the heaviest on the bottom and the lightest on top, but it’s not the ideal way to store things. The shelves will help you avoid this entirely and let each box have its own space.
Line the Walls First
It happens to everyone – you get everything into your storage unit, close and lock the door, and inevitably need something a week later. You go back to the unit to try to find it and you have no space to walk in between your items. Nor do you have any idea where that particular item is!
This scenario is all too common.
To avoid it, line the walls of your unit first. This means placing boxes, furniture and appliances along the walls, leaving the middle space open for you to walk. Label all of the boxes clearly and face those labels towards the middle of the unit or the walkway. This allows space to move around once the unit is full, so you can find that one thing that you didn’t think you would need.
Store Large Items Vertically
The key to the game of storage is to utilize your space to its fullest capacity. This includes really large items or long items. If possible, store them vertically against the wall to use the vertical space in the storage unit and leave free space on the floor.
For example, kayaks, bicycles and other such items can stand on their end and be secured to the wall. You can stand your coffee table up on its end. You can disassemble large pieces of furniture and store the individual pieces vertically.
When placing items in a vertical position, be sure to secure them to the walls will rope or tie-downs. The last thing you want is for them to fall over and get damaged, or to damage other items in the unit.
Use Moisture Absorbers
Most storage units claim to be “weather-proof” and “climate-controlled” and other fancy things. However, we recommend taking some of your own precautions as well. This includes protecting your items from taking on moisture as a result of humidity, condensation or leaks.
Moisture absorbers are a great way to keep your items fresh and mildew-free while in storage. You can place them throughout the unit for the duration of the time that you use it. They come in a variety of sizes, shapes and brands and most are available at major discount stores, home and garden retailers and other stores.
Avoid Storing Food
This may seem like a no-brainer, but we’re going to say it anyway. Don’t store food in your unit. It rarely turns out the way you want it to!
Most people do this unintentionally. Perhaps you were loading up the items from your kitchen and threw all the contents of your pantry into one big box. After that, you placed it in storage and then it took you longer than expected to find a new place to live.
Rodents and other pests will eventually find their way to your storage unit because they can smell things like:
They can wreak havoc on many items in your storage unit, including:
- Anything else they can find their way into.
In most cases, it’s better to just discard all of your pantry items and purchase new ones when you get to your new place. If that’s not an option, take them with you to your temporary new spot, rather than sticking them in storage.
Putting items in a storage unit can be a necessary action for a bunch of different reasons. The key to a positive experience with a storage unit is to be prepared and not to take any shortcuts. Taking the time to prepare your items for storage can save you a world of headaches down the road.
Be sure to prepare each category of items as described here and use the appropriate packing materials for each. Once you have prepared your items, load your unit in a way that contributes to your damage prevention efforts. It might take a little more work on the front end, but you’ll be thankful when it’s all said and done!