How To Store Clothes Long Term - And Keep Them Fresh

Learn the best tips for storing clothes long-term to keep them fresh and prevent damage.

February 8, 2024
min read
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Having a stash of out-of-season clothing taking up space can be annoying. But with some planning and effort, you can properly store clothes you don't currently need but want to keep - whether for sentimental reasons or hopes you may fit back into them someday.

The key to long term clothes storage is keeping them clean, dry, and safe from insects/pests. Follow the tips in this guide to store clothes so they stay fresh and wearable for future use.

Sort the Clothes to Store or Discard

Before packing clothes away, be ruthless about deciding what to keep and what to donate or throw out. This will save you space and ensure you only store pieces worth saving.

As you sort through clothes:

  • Try everything on and check condition. Toss items that are damaged, permanently stained, or no longer fit.
  • Consider when/if you realistically will wear each item again. Be extra critical of very dated styles, evening wear, fad pieces, and anything you haven't put on in years.
  • Set aside off-season basics like jeans, sweaters, jackets, etc. to store.
  • Donate gently used quality items that don't suit your lifestyle anymore. Someone else can better utilize them.

Only clean garments in good condition should go into storage. Musty, torn, or irreparably stained clothes will stay that way. Protect your storage space and your fabrics - store them properly or release them.

sorting clothes for donation

Wash and Properly Dry All Your Clothes

Before storage, clean everything thoroughly to prevent odor issues, staining, insect attraction, and other problems down the road.

Here are laundry tips for pre-storage cleaning:

  • Check care tags and sort clothes by ideal wash method. Do separate loads for delicates/handwash-only fabrics.
  • Pretreat any stains/soiled areas then wash using hottest water safe for each fabric. This helps fully clean and disinfect items.
  • Use a scent/dye free detergent compatible with your fabrics. Avoid fabric softeners and dryer sheets - they leave residue that can attract insects.
  • Shake and air dry all delicates, sweaters, suits, etc. Lay fully flat on a towel to prevent stretch/misshaping from hangers.
  • For other items, machine or line dry completely - leftover moisture encourages mold. Don't overload the dryer; overcrowding prevents proper drying.
  • Lightly steam or press clothing if needed to smooth wrinkles or creases. This makes items tidy for storage and helps fibers lay flat.

Proper cleaning and drying is the first key step to prepping clothes for long term storage!

Fix Any Damaged Clothes Before Storage

Before packing away clean clothes, take time to make minor repairs so items stay in great shape. Take a few extra minutes to:

  • Sew loose buttons back on securely, or replace broken/missing buttons.
  • Hand-stitch any small holes, tears, or loose seams. Consult a tailor if damage is extensive.
  • Use fabric glue to reattach broken zippers, sequins, beading, appliques, or embellishments.
  • Seal any stains that didn't come out fully with a colorless wax stick. This prevents them setting permanently over time.
  • Use tweezers to remove pesky pilled areas from sweater surfaces and restore a smooth appearance.
  • Replace missing or damaged trim, lace, ribbing bands, etc. to keep clothing intact.

Your effort preserves clothes and stops minor damage worsening over the years. Fix them now so they last.

Store in a Dark, Cool and Dry Place

To create ideal storage conditions, choose a area that remains dark, moderately cool, and dry year-round. Avoid attics, basements and garages if they get too hot, humid, or extreme temperature fluctuations.

Instead opt for:

  • Bedroom and hall closets
  • Guest room closets
  • Under bed storage bins/chests
  • Hollow core interior doors with added shelves
  • Dedicated wardrobe storage cabinet

Wherever you store clothing, use an accurate thermometer and hydrometer to monitor the space. Ideal conditions are 60-68° Fahrenheit and 35-45% relative humidity.

If space gets too hot/cold or excessively humid, utilize dehumidifiers, silica gel packs, space heaters, or ventilation to counteract. Keeping stored clothes away from direct sun, heat, moisture prevents deterioration like yellowing, warping, rust, mold, and insect infestations.

What to Store Clothes In

Proper storage materials are essential for maintaining fresh, clean clothing. Use archival quality products tested for long term use.

Look for acid-free, lignin-free materials that won't degrade or corrode over time. Recommended materials include:

  • Cotton muslin
  • Unbleached natural cotton
  • White tissue paper
  • Photographic tissue paper
  • Acid-free/archival tissue paper
  • Flat archival boxes/enclosures

Avoid colored tissue paper, newspapers, dyed/fragranced materials that could rub off on clothing. Prevent plastics like garbage bags or plastic bins that trap humidity.

Choose breathable archival clothing storage products for best results.

Specific storage methods to use include:

  • White muslin garment bags: Use for hanging delicate dresses, suits, long vestments to prevent stretching on hangers. Tie/clamp hangers inside at shoulders to support weight.
  • Acid-free tissue paper: Layer acid-free tissue lightly between folded sweaters, lingerie and other delicates. This prevents creasing and absorbs moisture. Change tissue 2-3 times a year.
  • Archival boxes: Pack past season accessories, intimates, belts and lightweight items flat in acid-free rectangular boxes. If stacking boxes, don't overpile - weight can crush items on bottom.

No matter which products you utilize, wrap and support clothes so fabric holds it's shape but air still circulates. Replace wrapping every few years to stop oils and dirt transferring onto clothes.

Make An Inventory of Every Box

A detailed inventory saves endless frustration down the road. As you pack storage containers, keep a tally of exactly what is includes. Lists should specify:

  • Box number - Label all containers clearly, number sequentially.
  • Description of contents - Including key categories, dominant colors,prints, unique items etc to jog memory on box contents.

Be as specific as possible.

  • Any special handling needs - Like requiring tissue replacement or repairs before wearing again.
  • Date packed - So you know when containers were last refreshed/opened.

Print physical inventories to tape to boxes or keep digitally in a file. Just remember where it's stored! Blank box labels you forget what's inside defeat the purpose of packing clothes so carefully.

nicely folded clothes for storage

How to Protect Stored Clothes from Moths

Guarding against fabric damaging moths is paramount. These sneaky insects and larvae live off natural fibers like wool, cashmere, silk, felt, fur, or feathers. Follow best practices to moth-proof storage areas long term.

Cedar Wood Blocks, Rings, and Sachets

Cedar's strong natural oils naturally repel moths and mask the scent of fabrics they want to eat.

Use blocks, lined drawers inserts, hangers, rings, strips, shavings or sachets made from this aromatic wood to create protective aroma barriers.

Cedar also prevents musty smells from developing in enclosed storage spaces.

Replace cedar items yearly as scent fades. Combine cedar with other preventative steps for multi-level protection.

Dried Lavender Buds

Like cedar, dried lavender buds release oils offensive to moths that want to get to your woolens.

Tuck cotton sachets filled with dried flowers between layers of clothing. Or sew tiny organza bags filled lavender to hang in wardrobes and storage bins.

You can easily DIY lavender moth preventatives too. Just refill/replace them every year from your garden or purchase more dried buds.

How To Keep Stored Clothes Fresh

To maximize freshness of stored clothes over the long term:

Monitor Temperature and Humidity

Keep clothing in a space with a consistent 60-68° Fahrenheit temp year-round. Use a thermometer to regularly check. Drastic temperature swings can deteriorate fabrics.

Likewise, maintain 35-45% relative humidity via hygrometer. Higher humidity risks mildew growth. Dehumidify or ventilate as needed.

Air Out Periodically

If possible, remove stored clothes 1-2 times per year to air out. Let them oxidize for a few hours to prevent musty smells. Check for insect intrusions while airing items too.

Refresh Tissue and Wrappings

When you air contents, take time to replace old tissue/wrappings with fresh archival-quality materials tested for long term storage use.

This helps keep fabrics cleaner over time by preventing transfer of oils, dirt and grime that accumulate on used wrappings.

Use Unscented Storage Products

Chemical residues from fragrances, dyes, etc. in storage materials can damage clothing over time. Opt for unbleached, undyed, unscented products.

Also keep storage furniture/shelves clean using only mild, fragrance-free soap and water. Transfer of residues onto clothes can lead to deterioration.

Rotate Stock

Every 2-3 years, fully rotate stored clothing stock. Move off-season items up front while re-packing what you took out last year/season.

This ensures all garments get periodically re-inspected and experience equal cleanliness. It also facilitates re-airing and inventory reviews.

Professionally Clean Before Wearing

Upon removing anything from long term storage, inspect carefully and professionally clean ASAP if soiled or musty before wearing again. Clean after removal contains issues.

folding clothes for long term storage

Consider Long Term Storage Units

For ultimate textile preservation, specialized long term storage facilities are worth considering depending on your circumstances.

These dedicated spaces provide cost-effective, controlled environments for archival storage. Benefits include:

Climate Controlled Units

Maintain constant temperature/humidity year-round for protection. No worrying about seasonal Home fluctuations.

24/7 Monitoring

Environment sensor systems and staff oversee conditions and equipment. No checking your own thermometers!

Fire Detection Systems

Early alert to smoke/flames minimizes risk and damage. Very reassuring for heirlooms.

Pest Management

Professional prevention treatments keep insects out. One less hassle to handle personally.

Security Features

Restricted access, individual door alarms, video surveillance, etc. prevent theft/damage.

Insurance Options

Available insurance protects against loss from covered events like fire or water damage.

Handling Assistance

On-site equipment and staff carefully loads/unloads delicate items anytime.

So if you require professional level storage solutions, specialized units are worth exploring. They provide optimal, protective long term textile storage many homes can’t replicate.

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About Wood Blocks

Our mission is to empower you with the knowledge to curate a wardrobe that not only reflects your personal style but also aligns with environmentally friendly practices. From exploring the wonders of natural mothballs and sustainable garment storage to diving deep into DIY solutions and green living, we're here to guide you on a journey towards a more eco-conscious, stylish, and intentional lifestyle.

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