Furniture storage is a necessity in a variety of situations. For example, you might be moving, and you need to put your belongings in storage short term until the new home is ready. Or you’re downsizing and not sure what to do with your extra furniture, so you’re keeping it in storage for now. College students also benefit from putting their mattresses and other small furniture in storage over the summer.

If you’re a collector, you probably know that expensive and delicate antique furniture is best protected in a climate-controlled storage unit. However, for best results, especially when it comes to long-term storage, it’s important to pack and protect your furniture properly. Here’s everything you need to know about furniture storage and about putting your furniture in a storage unit:

How to store furniture in a storage unit

There are several factors to consider, such as selecting the furniture that’s worth storing, renting the right unit size and deciding on the type of amenities that you need.

  • Decide what’s worth storing

The first step is to make sure that your furniture is truly worth storing. This means that it’s good quality furniture, in good shape, and that you are certain you’ll be needing and using it again in the future. Otherwise, it’s better to sell or donate your extra furniture rather than cluttering your new home or storage unit.

The next step is determining how big of a storage unit you actually need. If you plan on storing a twin or queen mattress and some small furniture, like, for example, a desk and a few chairs, a 5×10 unit is large enough – that’s the ideal size for college students storing furniture over summer. In case you’re planning to store the equivalent of a large living room or two bedrooms worth of furniture, you should get a 10×10 unit. Those who are in the process of moving a 3-bedroom home should consider getting a 10×20 unit to make sure that you have enough space for everything.

  • Climate controlled units are best for long-term furniture storage

Choose climate-controlled units for long term storage. Furniture is easily damaged by humidity, heat, and temperature variations. That’s even more important if you’re storing vintage, expensive furniture, leather furniture, and upholstered furniture.

How much does furniture storage cost?

Renting a 10×10 storage unit costs around $124 at a national level, and the price can go up and down, depending on where you live. A storage unit in San Francisco, for example, rents for a little over $200 per month, while the street rate for the same type of storage unit in Columbus, Ohio, is around $90 per month. Self storage prices vary not only based on location but also on the size of the unit you need and on amenities, such as climate control.

Check out self storage costs in other major US cities:

How to protect furniture in storage

From cleaning it to wrapping it and arranging it in the unit properly, there are several steps you must follow when preparing your furniture for self storage. Here’s how to make sure that your items are well protected while in storage:

  • How to clean your furniture for storage

The first step is to make sure that the furniture is thoroughly cleaned before putting it in storage. Dust, fingerprints, stains and dirt can cause serious damage to your furniture while in storage. Wipe all the surfaces (inside and out) with a soft piece of cloth, to remove dust.

If there are many visible stains on the furniture, wash it with warm water and some mild soap – but make sure you also dry it properly after. Then, use a surface polishing product. That will help seal off the surface and keep it clean and shiny for longer. In case you are storing upholstered furniture, gently vacuum it, then clean the upholstery with a spray or soap made for cleaning upholstery. It’s very important to let the upholstered furniture dry off completely before wrapping it for storage. It’s also a good idea to add mothballs to this type of furniture to keep the pesky moths away from your pretty chairs or sofa. Leather furniture needs the same amount of attention before putting it in storage – you need to clean and polish the leather very well, otherwise, the grime and stains will become permanently set in, and it will be virtually impossible to remove.

  • How to wrap your furniture for storage

Start by disassembling the furniture, if possible, especially if you are planning to store long-term. It’s easier to wrap it that way, and it also saves space in storage. However, if that’s not an option, you must ensure that all the sides and the corners of the furniture are well protected from potential damages during transportation and storage.

There are different materials you can use as furniture covers for storage: packing paper, old sheets, plastic wrap, bubble wrap, moving blankets,  and so on. Use furniture corner protectors too, especially for transportation, as corners are more exposed to bumps and dents than other parts of the furniture.

  • How to store furniture in a storage unit

It’s important to rent the right unit size for your needs, as we already discussed – but the way you arrange your furniture in the unit also counts. It’s a good idea to have your furniture raised on pallets – this way, air will circulate around it and will prevent issues with excess moisture or mold affecting your furniture.

Arrange the massive, heavy pieces of furniture against the walls of the storage unit and save the center for smaller pieces of furniture. Make sure you still have space to reach and inspect each piece of furniture – in case of long-term storage, you should drop by the unit every few months or so to ensure everything is in good order.

Don’t pile heavy furniture on top of other furniture – you will damage it in the long run. It’s okay to store some boxes with stuff on top of a table, or on top of a chest drawer, as long as it’s not a lot of weight.

Outdoor furniture storage

Good quality outdoor furniture can be quite expensive and should be kept in storage during the cold season – otherwise, the snow and the freezing/defrost cycles will inevitably damage it after a few years. Clean it from the dust and the dirt it accumulated after using it for the entire summer – you could use a pressure washer for the job, as it will remove all the grime easily. Allow your outdoor furniture to dry off completely and dismantle it as much as possible before wrapping it for storage. If your furniture also has pillows and cushions, store them separately in plastic bags or vacuum bags.

How to store wood furniture

Climate-controlled units are a good idea when storing wood furniture, as humidity and temperature variations can really affect wood, potentially causing cracks, loose joints, or even rot and mold. Before putting your furniture in storage, clean and polish it, preferably with a product containing wax, as it will protect the surface of the furniture. Avoid plastic covers on wooden furniture, as it could trap moisture and cause mold issues – instead, cover it with breathable materials, such as old sheets or soft blankets.

Don’t place the furniture directly on the floor – raise it on pallets or, at least, put some plastic sheets on the floor. Make sure that air circulates all around the furniture – leave a small distance between the unit’s walls and the furniture. Try not to put boxes with stuff on top of wooden furniture. Even if you use furniture covers, in case of long-term storage, there’s a risk that items placed on wood furniture could damage the varnish and cause stains and discoloration. It’s very important to check your stored wooden furniture regularly, to make sure it stays in good shape and it’s not affected by environmental factors.

How to store leather furniture

Leather furniture is another type of item for which climate-controlled units are strongly recommended, as it can be easily damaged by moisture, variation in temperatures and even dry air. Before storing your leather furniture, clean it thoroughly and condition it with a leather conditioning product. That will prevent it from drying and deteriorating during storage.

Cover your leather couch or chairs with cotton fabric – it will allow them to breathe while keeping dust and dirt away. Also, make sure you are covering the floor with a tarp of plastic sheets before bringing in the furniture. Don’t place boxes or other items on top of the furniture – it will deform it, causing bumps and creases on your beautiful leather cushions.

How to store a mattress in a storage unit

Good mattresses can be quite expensive, which means you should take good care of the ones you own. In case you’re planning to store your mattress, here’s what you need to do.

  • Clean your mattress before storage

Leave your mattress uncovered to air out for at least a day prior to putting it in storage. It’s ideal if you can put it in direct sunlight for at least a few hours. Treat any stains or dirt with suitable cleaning products and allow the mattress to dry off completely. Vacuum it thoroughly on both sides. Then, you can sprinkle some baking soda on it to wick away moisture and odor-causing particles. Leave the baking soda for a few more hours, then vacuum it once more. Now, your mattress is ready to be packed for storage

  • How to wrap a mattress for storage

It’s important to seal off your mattress completely on all sides. The best solution is to purchase a mattress bag – they come in all sizes, are easy to put on, and will cover your mattress properly. Also, some mattress bags also have handles, which makes moving it around a lot easier. If you don’t plan on purchasing a mattress bag, you can use plastic wrap and tape, or even old sheets, to protect it.

  • How to arrange your mattress in storage

It’s essential to lay your mattress flat while in storage – particularly if you are planning to store it for longer than a month or so. Propping it on its side, against the wall, might be tempting, as it saves space – however, you’ll end up with a damaged, deformed mattress. It’s equally important to avoid putting boxes and other items on the mattress – it will create uncomfortable dents and creases. Put your heavy furniture in the storage unit first, then lay your mattress on top of a flat surface – such as a table, for example. The weight of the mattress won’t damage the furniture, as it’s distributed uniformly, while the mattress itself will be in a proper position for long-term storage.

  • How to clean a mattress that has been in storage

As long as you cleaned it and wrapped it properly before storage, you shouldn’t have big problems in getting it ready for use. However, it might require a bit of freshening up, particularly if you stored it for several months.

The first step would be to unwrap and vacuum it, then allow it to air out for a day or two. Depending on the situation (if you notice strange smells or stains), you should treat those issues individually. You can get rid of stains using upholstery or carpet cleaners. Unpleasant smells are usually solved with baking soda or by lightly spraying the mattress with distilled water mixed with essential oils (tea tree, eucalyptus, rosemary). If you want complete peace of mind, you can disinfect it using a touch of bleach – combine one part bleach with 10 parts cold water and spray the mixture on the mattress. Then, wipe it well with a clean, damp cloth, and allow it to dry completely before use.

How to put dorm furniture in storage

Self storage is the best solution for college students needing to keep their belongings somewhere over the summer break. From your desk and fridge to your mattress, those items will be perfectly fine in storage, as long as you prepare them properly. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Dismantle your desk and chair and wipe, then wrap all the pieces. Put the screws and bolts in plastic bags and stick them to the furniture pieces to avoid misplacing them.
  • Wash your fridge inside and out and allow it to dry completely. Put some activated charcoal inside the fridge to prevent bad smells. Seal the door off with tape to prevent damages during transportation and wrap the fridge in plastic or bubble wrap.
  • Vacuum and clean your mattress properly, use a mattress cover, and make sure to store it flat on a solid surface.
  • Duvets, pillows and such can be stored in vacuum bags – not only it saves space, but it also keeps them protected from dust and other environmental factors.

How to prevent mold on furniture in storage

There are two main causes of mold on furniture while in storage – the unit you rented is not climate-controlled, and the variations of humidity and temperature create the right conditions for mold to grow. That problem can be prevented by renting a climate-controlled storage unit. The second cause is not cleaning and drying the furniture properly before storage. Here are the things you need to do to prevent mold on furniture in storage:

  • Inspect your furniture carefully for mold – it might already be there, particularly if it’s vintage or antique furniture or if you’re living in an area with high air humidity. If you notice any black spots that might be mold on the furniture, spray it liberally with an anti-mold solution.
  • Allow your furniture to dry off completely before packing and wrapping it for storage – this step is essential. Otherwise, the moisture remains trapped with your furniture and will cause mold growth.
  • Leave an inch between the unit’s walls and the furniture. The walls are made of metal, so condensation can occur occasionally, and you don’t want it to affect your furniture. Also, it’s better if the air circulates around the furniture.
  • Raise the furniture on pallets – storage units usually have concrete floors, and concrete can pull moisture in from the ground, creating the perfect conditions for mold to develop.
  • Inspect your furniture regularly – at least every couple of months or so. This way, you’ll be able to prevent issues such as mold damaging your belongings.

By following our advice, tips, and tricks, you’ll be able to protect your furniture properly while in storage and enjoy using it again in the future.

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Maria Gatea is a creative writer for StorageCafe and RentCafe with a background in Journalism and Communication. After covering business and finance-related topics as a freelance writer for 15 years, she is now focusing on researching and writing about the real estate industry. You may contact Maria via email.

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