How To Properly Store Clothes



Sometimes, I look at my closet and I just want to give up! The shirts are smashed together and when I pull them out, they need a solid ironing. The pants hang haphazardly and I don’t know which ones even fit any more. And the dresses, well, I ignore them altogether! So I decided to go through my clothes and get rid of the ones that are way out of date, tattered and torn. I put pants together and arranged T Shirts by color. Dresses I hung with plastic dry cleaner bags on top and put all the sweaters in plastic storage bags. The piles I had left were divided by whether they were going into the trash can, a donation bin or into my storage unit since they were merely out of season. But, I had to quickly figure out how to protect those clothes that I wouldn’t see for a while so that I could get a longer life out of them in the future. It doesn’t matter if you are dealing with your own seasonal clothing or storing baby clothes or even packing and protecting vintage clothing, there are certain ways to pack things up that will increase the longevity and quality of the garments.

Packing clothing for storage is fairly logical, but it is easy to make a mistake when you are putting clothes away in a storage unit. There are somethings that you can do that will save you time and money and disappointment if things were to be ruined. Of course, making sure your items are freshly cleaned and then packaged are the first steps. But continuing on making sure that they are packed properly will allow you to wear them in the future still in excellent condition without any moth holes or disintegration. The following is a list of steps to take in order to keep your clothing fresh, clean and in good condition until you need them when the next season comes around If you are storing your clothing in a garage or a storage unit, in the attic or even under the bed, these are some suggestions that will help you pack.

First, you should take an inventory on what you are packing up. This will help to easily locate what is inside. If you are packing baby or children’s clothing for use by other children in the future, it is a good idea to pack things by size and even gender. As time goes on, it is very easy to forget what is inside a box or bag and when the time comes to look for things, you don’t have to dig through everything. It will also save you money from repurchasing a lot of clothing you don’t need. Your clothing inventory should include: the name of the article of clothing, abrief description including size and  where the item is stored.

Next, throw out the clothing that is a wreck and donate the rest. Clothing that is in poor condition just takes up precious space and if you are keeping them to use for rags or as fabric, then put them with rags and fabric! Clothing that goes into storage should be in excellent condition and ready to wear the minute you take them out of storage. Smells and stains will only set into the clothing more permanently when stored for long periods of time. Smells from poor condition clothing can seep into better clothing as its stored. As a general rule, if clothing is beyond saving by laundering, get rid of it. Declutter your closet and figure out which pieces are good for the future!  

Cleaning and prepping your clothing is the next step on their way to storage. Don’t just toss your clothes into a plastic tub no matter how clean you think they are. Preparing them is part of the process. Here are some ways to prep your clothing for storage: get rid of the old plastic garment bags. When storing clothing for long periods, these bags can accumulate excess moisture and damage clothing. Wash your clothing the way it tells you on the label. Even if the item is clean, wash it again just before you pack it up. If the garment has a musty smell, you can use a clothing steamer to get rid of odors. Use a hand vacuum on any clothing or fabric item that can’t be washed. This will loosen up any dirt especially if you place the item on a screen and vacuum  using the lowest suction setting. When the clothing is clean, put items into fresh plastic bags folding some items such as sweaters with tissue paper. Organize clothing so that like items are together. Sweaters go in one bin, pants in another and winter coats in yet another. That way you know where everything is located. Put a label on each bin with the contents listed.

The ideal place to store clothing is somewhere that is cool and dry. Technically, it is more important that you figure out where to store your clothes than how to store them. If you store your clothing in a musty basement, it doesn’t matter that the clothes went in clean and fresh, they will come out smelling like the musty basement.

Find a location that is dry and dark so that it won’t cause fading. Stay away from light. Find an area that is free from ultraviolet light and store the garment boxes off the ground. If your storage spot has light coming in, try to use storage containers that are dark colored instead of transparent ones. No direct sunlight and good air flow is essential.

Don’t use airtight containers. Unlike most things in storage, you do not want your clothing storage boxes to be airtight because fabric and textile items need circulating air for longevity. Air quality in the storage area is important for clothing because any smells or dampness will be absorbed. Airtight containers could work for some clothing if it will only be in storage for a short time. Avoid attic spaces. Areas like this fluctuate in heat throughout the year and excess heat can break down clothing fibers.

Packing clothing into boxes should be done using only acid-free boxes. If preserving clothing is extremely important, such as vintage items or special pieces like suits and wedding dresses, acid-free archival boxes are the best storage option.  If it is not possible to use these types of boxes, you can line cardboard or wooden boxes using quilt batting and white sheets to add a layer of protection between the clothing and nature. You can also create hanging storage using garment racks.

There are a few other tips that can help with clothing storage that I have found along the way.

Don’t use wire hangers. They can damage clothing over time. Use padded, plastic or wooden hangers as they get the best results for clothing shape.

If you are storing clothing by hanging them on racks, use breathable fabric to cover them up. Use sheets or cotton and linen coverlets. This will keep the air flowing but the bugs and dust out.

Use cedar chips or oil to keep moths out. They smell better than mothballs and they won’t leave your clothes smelling horrible.

If you are storing any fabric in a metal box, line it first with a breathable fabric. First, this helps with sharp edges that could snag clothing and second, it allows air and diminishes the possibility of the metallic smell getting into the clothes.

When folding clothing to fit in bags, fold them gently without any hard lines or creases. The larger that a piece can be laid out the better. Tightly folding clothing doesn’t allow for air flow and rotting can begin from within.

Use acid free tissue paper to separate pieces from each other to protect the fabrics. Again, clothing needs to breathe and this gives a little room between pieces.

If you clothing is being stored for a very long time, try at least once a year to refold everything differently than before. Creases won’t set in and the fabric being shaken out will help eliminate disintegration.

Storing clothing doesn’t have to be a chore. It can help you preserve your clothing for future use, especially if you take the necessary steps.

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