Here's what you need to do when you take your winter clothes out of storage
Otherwise, prepare to kiss your warm clothes goodbye.
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The days of wearing shorts and sandals are over in many parts of the country. It’s time to unpack the cozy sweaters and toasty jackets that have spent the summer in storage. We hope you took the time and effort to store them correctly when you put them away last spring. If not, don’t be surprised if a musty odor greets you when you open the box (or moths have been munching your cashmere).
Here’s what you need to do to your clothes as soon as you unpack them, along with a few tips on how to make sure you put away seasonal clothes the right way next time.
1. Check for funky smells
You may notice a musty smell when you unpack your stored clothes, especially if you put them away in plastic bags or containers. That smell could be mold or mildew, which can develop if any of your clothes were damp when you packed them up.
As soon as you unpack, hang the clothes outside to allow sunlight and clean air to freshen them. If that doesn’t remove the odor sufficiently, you’ll have to wash them.
Always make sure clothes are completely dry before storing them. Pack dried lavender or cedar blocks with your clothes to leave them with a pleasant scent. Instead, you can put in a sock filled with baking soda or even coffee grounds, which are good at absorbing odors.
2. Look for stains
Summer heat could have set stains that weren’t visible to you when you put your clothes away, so if you put away your clothes without washing them first, you may see stains that you didn’t expect. When you see them, act quickly.
You can try pre-soaking washable white and light-colored items in a solution of warm water and oxygen bleach. After soaking overnight, wash the clothes as usual.
Always clean your clothes before you pack them up for the season.
3. Look for moth holes
It can be heartbreaking to unpack your best wool, cashmere, cotton, or silk clothes from your storage box only to find them full of holes. It turns out that moths are attracted to any natural fiber, not just wool. An adult clothes moth can find its way into your storage container and lay eggs that develop into larvae, which munch on your clothes. They are especially drawn to fibers that have sweat or food stains on them.
You may have to discard a sweater with lots of holes, but you’ll also have to take care of the other garments it was stored with as soon as they’re unpacked, whether or not they have any obvious holes. Slip clothes into sealed plastic bags and freeze them for three days at 0°F to kill any bugs.
If your dryer has a rack, you can place a favorite sweater on it for a heat treatment that will also help do away with moths. Don’t bake your sweaters in the oven, though—any buttons or decorations could melt.
Before you store the clothes, have them washed or dry cleaned. Avoid using mothballs, because although they can work, they also contain the pesticide naphthalene.
Long-term storage tips
When you have to store clothes for prolonged periods of time, here are some pro tips for keeping them safe while they’re put away.
1. Always store clothes in a cool, clean, dry place
Your basement might not be the best option—it’s probably too damp. An attic could be too hot in the summer. A high shelf in a bedroom closet is ideal if you have space. And under the bed is also a good option. The Sterilite Ultra Storage Box is our favorite.
2. Seal clothes in vacuum bags
Bags like the highly-rated Spacesaver Premium Reusable Vacuum Storage Bags can be your friends when storing clothes because they save space and are relatively impervious. But although they can be effective for storage, use them only short-term to avoid damaging your clothes.
3. Avoid using cardboard boxes for storage
Rodents like to nibble them and once they break through, they can chew through your clothing.
4. Store heavy clothes on the bottom and lighter clothing on top
This will prevent your more delicate items from being squashed.
5. Wrap stored clothes in acid-free tissue paper
Although it seems like a lot of trouble, packing clothes in tissue paper can keep them from getting crushed and wrinkled. Fragile clothes are good candidates for this treatment. Use a couple of sheets between and around the folded clothing. Since tissue paper is cheap and easy to work with, take the extra time to use it. Your clothes should look much better the next time you need them.