How to Prevent Mold in Your Storage Unit
Clean and Dry Items Before Storing Them
Dirt can damage items by scratching them or leaving a stubborn film. Similarly, food crumbs can attract rodents or other pests. Because of these risks, you should make sure that you thoroughly clean items before putting them into storage. However, you should also dry everything extremely well.
Have you heard the saying “one bad apple spoils the whole bunch”? Well, it is the same with one damp item—it can ruin all the items in the container or storage unit.Clothing or upholstery left damp may attract mold and start to rot. Guns, woodwork, or metal items may rust if they're moist. Additionally, moisture left on some items may migrate to other items and ruin them. So plan ahead and clean all of your items at least a few days before you plan to put them in storage so they have a chance to dry. Leave any drawers or compartments open, and let the items sit in a well-ventilated area.
Install a Vapor Barrier
One more way to damp-proof your storage space is to install a vapor barrier, a polyethylene plastic or foil that is placed on the warm side of the storage wall in order to block outdoor moisture. This flexible membrane should also be installed beneath the floor to prevent moisture from the ground to seep inside. You can buy a vapor barrier with a permeability value of less than 1.0 in most hardware stores.
Choose Your Boxes Carefully
The boxes you use can also help to protect items from humidity. If storing clothing, you may want to use airtight plastic boxes. They prevent moisture from getting inside. However, if you're storing art or books, you may want to use breathable, acid-free boxes.
Pack Desiccators in Your Storage Containers
To deal with any residual moisture, consider putting desiccants in your storage containers. You can buy small packs of desiccants—similar to the ones you find in a new shoe box—from packing supplies stores. These little packs contain crystals that absorb moisture.
Note, however, that desiccants usually expire. If you plan to store your items for the long term, you may want to check the expiration period on the desiccants and replace them as recommended.
Keep Airflow in Mind When Setting Up the Storage Unit
Ideally, you should arrange your items in a way that promotes airflow. Try to avoid pushing furniture directly against walls, and leave room between stacks of boxes. If you are storing items in an area with a cement floor, place boxes on top of a pallet. The pallet creates a buffer between the concrete and the boxes. As concrete is porous, it can sometimes harbor moisture from the ground below it. Additionally, the slats of the pallet allow air to move underneath the boxes, encouraging condensation and helping to prevent the buildup of water droplets.
Make a DIY Dehumidifier
In addition to putting small desiccant packs in your boxes, you may want to make a DIY dehumidifier for your storage unit. You can make a powerless dehumidifier by putting a bowl of charcoal briquettes in a bucket. Make sure to use the briquettes that have not been soaked in lighter fluid. They are more effective, and the lighter fluid can create unwanted odors.
Alternatively, you can use a bag of kitty litter. Stay away from the scented varieties. Simply, use the relatively inexpensive clay litter. Finally, if you don't have a bucket, put open containers of baking soda around your storage unit. To be effective, all of these dehumidifiers need to be changed about every six months.
You may already use clay kitty litter to soak up oil spills in your garage. It works equally well to absorb the humidity in a storage facility. Simply tear open a bag or open a bucket of kitty litter and place it in the middle of the building. The clay will absorb the moisture in the air, keeping your possessions safe from mold and mildew.
There is a good reason why manufacturers warn you to keep your charcoal briquettes in a dry location; they absorb water from the air. By placing a bucket of plain, inexpensive briquettes in your storage unit, you can reduce the humidity. You should replace the briquettes every 30 to 60 days to keep the air fresh and dry.
Treat Leather Goods Before Storage
Leather goods are some of the most susceptible to mold growth and may develop mold even in a climate-controlled storage unit if you do not prepare them properly. Use a specialized leather cleaning product to remove all dirt from the leather. (Where there is dirt, there are mold spores
waiting to bloom.) Then, wipe the leather down with a mixture of one part vinegar and one part water. This will help prevent new any lingering fungal spores from blooming.
Finally, protect your leather with a thin layer of shoe wax or conditioner. Use wax for harder leather goods and conditioner for softer ones. This helps seal the leather against moisture, helping to prevent mold growth.
Clean Hard Surfaces
Some people make the mistake of assuming they don't need to clean glasses, dishes and other hard items since mold does not typically grow on these items. However, there may be mold spores resting on these hard surfaces, and they could later transfer to other items and perpetuate mold growth.
To be safe, give all of your hard items and surfaces a wipe-down with bleach and water before putting them into storage. Bleach is excellent for killing mold. This especially applies to possessions that may have come into contact with food, like refrigerators and toasters.
Pack Your Unit on a Dry Day
If you load your storage unit when it's raining, you're almost certain to end up with a few moist boxes and other items. If at all possible, put off loading the storage unit until a clear day. If you absolutely must pack your unit when it is raining, use a tarp to cover boxes and items as you carry them from the truck to the storage unit.
The most vulnerable items for mold and mildew are paper and cardboard, especially if they get wet. The best way to prevent mold and mildew in your storage unit is to store your things in plastic or metal containers. And if you have to use cardboard boxes, make sure they aren’t directly on the ground and are stacked on another container. Use a plastic tarp or a canvas tarp. They aren’t expensive, and they aren’t vulnerable to mold or mildew.
Opt for Climate-Controlled Storage
All of the tips above are especially helpful if you need to store your items in a musty basement or a damp garage. However, to give your items the best degree of protection against moisture and humidity, you should rent a climate-controlled storage unit. That ensures that you can avoid ups and downs in temps and humidity levels.