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7 Tips for Properly Storing Your Furniture in a Self-Storage Unit

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Keeping your furniture pieces in a self-storage unit can be a practical solution whether you’re downsizing, renovating, or simply needing a bit of additional space. However, storing them improperly can lead to unexpected damage, wear and tear and other headaches. In this guide, we’ll walk you through our firsthand tips on properly storing different types of furniture — including wood, upholstered and leather — and bulky items like mattresses. From cleaning and wrapping to finding climate-controlled units for temperature-sensitive items, you’ll learn everything you need to know to ensure your furniture stays in excellent condition while in storage.

In This Article:
  1. Clean Your Furniture Before Storage
  2. Disassemble Furniture When Possible
  3. Measure, Measure and Measure Again
  4. Find a Climate-Controlled Storage Unit
  5. Use the Right Packing Materials
  6. Arrange Furniture Strategically
  7. Regularly Check on Your Stored Furniture

1. Clean Your Furniture Before Storage

Even if your furniture doesn’t look visibly dirty, always dust and clean it before you put it in storage. While you’re doing this, take some time to inspect the condition of your piece — lift your sofa cushions and look into the corners of dresser drawers. This will allow you to double-check for crumbs, hair strands and other bits of debris that can attract pests in storage. Wiping off your furniture is also important because things like skin oils and sweat can degrade it over time.

Different types of furniture require different cleaning methods, so make sure you check the care label (if applicable) for each piece or follow these general guidelines:

Wood Furniture

Start by dusting the surface of your piece with a soft cloth. Use a mild wood cleaner to remove any dirt or grime, then apply a wood conditioner or polish to protect the finish. This helps prevent drying and cracking during storage. Avoid using vinegar or harsh chemicals on wood, as they can strip the finish and damage the surface.

Upholstered Furniture

Vacuum upholstered furniture thoroughly to remove dust and debris. Spot clean any stains with a fabric cleaner (or a gentle mixture of Dawn soap and water) and wait for your piece to completely dry before storing it so mold and mildew don’t grow. Throw in some herbal sachets to keep moths and other pests away. Don’t use excessive water or steam cleaners, which can leave the upholstery so damp that mold/mildew starts to grow before it can completely dry.

Leather Furniture

Clean leather surfaces with a damp cloth and a mild soap solution. After cleaning, apply a leather conditioner to keep the material supple and prevent it from drying out or cracking. Avoid using alcohol-based cleaners or ammonia, as they can dry out and damage the leather.

Mattresses

Ideally, you’ve used a mattress protector to keep your mattress free from spills and dust. Either way, vacuum both sides of the mattress to remove any particles that might be on the surface. Use a fabric cleaner to spot-clean any stains. Ensure the mattress is completely dry before storing it to prevent mold and mildew and avoid using bleach or harsh chemicals, which can degrade the fabric. If you own a mattress that contains a fiberglass interior, do not unzip the mattress or puncture the lining (this can result in all the fiberglass spilling out and creating a mess that’s near-impossible to clean).

2. Disassemble Furniture When Possible

Larger furniture, especially irregularly shaped furniture, can take up a lot of storage space. To maximize space in your unit and make it easier to transport your pieces to the facility, disassemble anything you can before stowing it away. (Disassembling also reduces the risk of breaking or damaging parts during the move.) Make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions for taking your furniture apart, and keep any loose, small parts like screws, bolts and other hardware in plastic bags to ensure nothing gets lost en route to the storage facility. Label each bag with the name of the furniture piece it belongs to and tape it to the corresponding part to avoid a confusing hassle when it’s time to reassemble your furniture piece.

3. Measure, Measure and Measure Again

When it comes to renting a storage unit for your furniture items, the adage “measure twice, cut once” is especially true. The last thing you want is to find out that you can’t fit everything you want to store while you’re loading them into your unit. Once you know which pieces you’re going to store, you can use our Size Guide to get a rough idea of what unit size you might need. Then follow these tips:

How to Measure Your Furniture

  • Measure Whole Pieces: For furniture that you won’t be taking apart before storage, use a tape measure to record the height, width and depth of each item. Be sure to measure the widest and tallest points to get accurate dimensions.
  • Measure Disassembled Parts: If you’re planning on disassembling any furniture items, measure each component separately — this includes legs, tabletops, bed frames, etc.
  • Consider Crowding: When choosing a storage unit size, factor in additional space for padding and protective coverings. You’ll also want to leave room for a walkway between items and some breathing room between pieces.
  • Account for Odd Shapes: Some furniture items may have irregular shapes or protruding parts. Measure these carefully and consider how they will fit together with other items in the storage unit.
  • Create a Layout Plan: Once you have all the measurements, sketch a layout plan for the storage unit to help you arrange everything efficiently.

4. Find a Climate-Controlled Storage Unit

Even if you have open storage space at home, it’s best to save those areas for non-furniture items. Furniture, especially items made with wood or leather, is particularly sensitive to heat/cold and moisture, which can lead to warping, cracking and mold growth. Home storage areas, particularly attics, garages and basements, can experience extreme fluctuations in temperature and humidity levels, no matter what climate you live in. Climate-controlled self-storage units, on the other hand, are designed to maintain a stable temperature and humidity level. If your furniture includes items made with solid wood and genuine leather, or items that are fragile and valuable (like pianos, fine art and heirlooms), a climate-controlled unit is critical to maintaining your pieces while they’re in short- or long-term storage. On the other hand, outdoor furniture, camping gear and other hardy, weather-resistant items don’t necessarily need to be stored in a climate-controlled unit.

Ready to find a climate-controlled unit near you? Use our Storage Locator.

5. Use the Right Packing Materials

While you’re getting your furniture ready for storage, be sure to use the right packing materials to protect your pieces from any accidental nicks, scratches and dents that might occur during the moving/storing process. 

  • Use furniture pads or moving blankets to cover wooden surfaces for wood furniture. Wrap the pieces in plastic wrap to secure the pads and keep out dust and moisture.
  • Cover upholstered furniture with fabric or old sheets to protect it against dust and dirt. Avoid using plastic directly on the fabric as it can trap moisture and cause mold.
  • For leather furniture, use breathable covers specifically designed for leather. These covers protect against dust while allowing air circulation to prevent moisture buildup.
  • For mattresses, use mattress bags to shield them from dust, dirt and pests. Ensure the bag is sealed tightly to maintain cleanliness during storage.

Remember to take extra precautions to protect fragile or delicate furniture. Use furniture pads or blankets to wrap things like glass tabletops, mirrors and intricate woodwork, then secure the padding with tape or stretch wrap to ensure it stays in place. Wrap glass and other breakable parts with bubble wrap for additional cushioning, and use corner protectors for items with sharp edges to prevent chipping.

 

Tip: Some storage facilities offer packing and moving supplies to help protect your furniture in storage.

 

6. Arrange Furniture Strategically

Organizing your furniture is key to maximizing space and making sure your items stay in good condition. Place larger, heavier items at the back of the unit and lighter, more fragile items towards the front. While you may be tempted to stack items, avoid this, especially if you plan on storing your pieces long-term. Stacking your furniture can lead to the items underneath being crushed, disfigured or damaged over time, even if the items you place on top don’t seem heavy.

You should also leave small aisles between items to allow easy access and proper air circulation. Keep your pieces a few inches from the wall — and, if possible, on elevated platforms like wooden pallets, cinder blocks or shelving units to keep them off the ground. Storing your pieces too closely together can lead to moisture buildup, which may result in mold and mildew growth. 

7. Regularly Check on Your Stored Furniture

Even if you’ve followed all these steps to store your furniture, don’t forget to check on your pieces regularly. This will allow you to identify and tackle any issues — like moisture buildup or damage — before they get worse. Examine your furniture for signs of mold, mildew, pests and any damage, especially on fabric and wood surfaces. Double-check covers to make sure they’re secure. If you notice moisture, add silica packets or moisture-absorbing products to keep things dry. If you need to add more furniture pieces to an already crowded storage unit, you can always upgrade to a larger unit at the same facility. Similarly, if you end up selling or taking furniture out of your unit, you can easily downsize to make sure you’re only renting the amount of space you need.

Ready for more storage and organization tips? Head to the SmartStop blog.

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