Whether you are downsizing, traveling for an extended period of time, packing up baby clothes to use later, or even rotating out seasonal items, if you don’t store your clothes properly all of your work could be for nothing. Storing clothes correctly, on the other hand, can ensure they last for years and years.

Below are some of the do’s and don’ts of clothes storage to help you keep your clothing in superb condition.

Preparing Your Clothes For Storage

The first thing you should do is wash, dry, and fold all of the clothes that you plan to store long term. Even if a clothing item has only been worn once, small amounts of sweat and oil will still be present. The phrase, “a little dirt never hurt” doesn’t really apply here, because once your clothes are packed away, that little bit of oil or dirt can cause staining and mold growth over time.

Take your more delicate clothing items to the dry cleaner before storing long term. Hang these special items on a garment rack covered with a clean breathable sheet or cloth to keep the dust out while still allowing airflow. You can also use a wardrobe box, either lined with clean breathable fabric or acid free tissue paper.

Keeping Pests Away

After all the hard work you’ve done preparing your clothes, it would be a shame to have pests damage them while in storage. Cedar chips are a safe and natural solution for keeping bugs and vermin away. Cedar has been used to deodorize and repel moths from clothes for centuries. The oil in cedar wood deters insects and kills moth larvae. For an added punch, you can buy concentrated cedar essential oil, which can be diluted to make a refreshing spray for your drawers, closets, or storage units.

The type of container you store your clothes in can also play a part in keeping out unwanted guests. Plastic storage totes are typically your best bet.

Take Inventory

Before you make the effort to put away your clothes for a while, take stock of everything you have. Do you really need that sweater you wore once five years ago? Use this as an opportunity to clean out your closets and dressers so you can make room for future fashion statements.

Donate unwanted items, and rather than toss clothes with holes in them, use them as rags for deep cleaning projects. When you finally unpack everything you’ll have less clothing to deal with.

Make a detailed list of the clothing items you intend to store, or you will likely forget about some things and end up buying similar items again.

Packing Your Clothes For Storage

On a short term basis, standard cardboard boxes are fine to store clothes, but make sure they are very clean. Avoid getting free boxes from the grocery store, because even trace amounts of food will attract pests or cause mold. Acid free cardboard boxes are great for storing clothes for a longer amount of time but you’ll find they are a bit pricey.

Plastic totes are one of your best options for storage, especially if you layer your clothes with acid free tissue paper. If you’re using a tote that you’ve had for a while, make sure to clean and dry it thoroughly.

When storing long term, some choices are better than others if you are concerned about the longevity of your clothes. We have listed different storage options, along with the pros and cons of each.

Cardboard Boxes

  • Pros: Cheap and recyclable, okay for short-term.
  • Cons: Absorbs smells and liquids, can grow mold, not very protective.

Plastic Bags

  • Pros: Cheap and compact, great for quick transport.
  • Cons: Traps and accumulates moisture (creating mildew), not good for storage.

Vacuum Bags

  • Pros: Saves space for short-term move.
  • Cons: Compacting your clothes for a long time will damage them.

Garment Bags

  • Pros: Cotton garment bags are breathable while keeping out dust. Good choice for items like a suit or special occasion dress.
  • Cons: Plastic garment bags can trap moisture and cause mold or mildew to grow.

Plastic Storage Boxes

  • Pros: Keeps out pests, humidity, dust, and water.
  • Cons: Expensive. Can crack or warp if overpacked.

Wardrobe Boxes

  • Pros: Great for garments that need to be hung up. Allows for airflow throughout the garment.
  • Cons: Cardboard can absorb liquid and odor. Only good for a few uses.

Organizing Your Shoes and Accessories

Treat your clothing and shoes the same way by organizing them according to the time of year. Seasonal clothing like parkas, winter caps, and snow boots can all be stored in the summer months.

Keep the clothes and shoes that you wear most frequently in an easy to access location. Garments that are only worn on special occasions should be stored long term.

Things to Watch Out For When Storing Shoes

Pests: The same rules apply for shoes. Avoid mothballs and use cedar chips or cedar balls instead.

Mildew: You can purchase silica gel packets, like the ones that come in your shoes when you buy them. Cedar shoe trees absorb moisture while helping maintain the shape of your shoe.

Choosing an Optimal Storage Location

One of the most important factors you need to take into consideration is the climate that your clothes are stored in. Dry, dark, clean, and cool is a good rule to follow. The temperature in attics and garages can be extreme in the winter and summer months, making them a poor choice for long term clothing storage.

If your home is well insulated, and you are only storing seasonal clothing items, place them in plastic totes layered with acid free tissue paper and put inside of an extra closet.

If you don’t have an extra closet, consider keeping your excess clothes in a climate controlled storage unit. When choosing a storage unit, opt for an indoor air conditioned space, and read customer reviews before committing. When you inspect the unit, double check that it has been cleaned properly and is free of dust.

If your clothes are special to you and you want them to last a lifetime it is important to take as many of these steps as possible. Start by getting the right storage containers or choosing the right storage unit. The rest is just a matter of maintaining your clothes by keeping them clean and pest free. Have fun organizing and don’t forget to fluff and re-fold your clothes periodically.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are mothballs bad for my clothes?

Moth Balls are not necessarily bad for your clothes, but are full of toxic pesticides and chemicals, making them unsafe for humans and pets. Look into alternatives like cedar wood, whether it's in the form of a cedar chest, cedar chips, or a cedar oil spray.

How long is too long to store my clothes?

You want to make sure and check on your clothes periodically, especially if they are in a storage unit. At least once a year you should refold, maybe even rewash your clothes to increase their longevity. You can store your clothes for years and years if you take the right precautions.

What is the best way to fold clothes for long-term storage?

It's important to fold your clothes instead of throwing them in a bag or bin and calling it a day. Marie Kondo, organization expert, has blessed us with her space saving folding technique that allows you to see all of your clothing items at once. It seems complicated at first, but give it the old college try before you ditch this method.

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Hollie Brown