Storing things in any part of the country must be done carefully but especially so in Louisiana. Our high humidity levels, extreme heat and huge assortment of varmints and critters make for some pretty challenging conditions. Best advice? Don’t.
Ok, I realize we all have to store things sometimes. So when you do, take as many precautions as you can to prevent any problems. One of the biggest challenges we have here is high humidity. More moisture in the air means things mildew very quickly. It’s important to understand that anything can mildew, even furniture. When wood is stored in a closed space with no heat or air conditioning, there is almost a 100% chance it will be ruined if not taken care of regularly. Taking care of it means going in and wiping it down with cleaner/furniture polish. If you already see mildew, use white vinegar to wipe it away and then use furniture polish. Do not use bleach, Pine-Sol, or any product containing bleach. Vinegar will kill the mold spores without damaging the wood. (Just pour a little on a soft cloth, don’t pour it on the wood directly.) Check for mildew at least every month while furniture is stored.
Clothing should be stored for as short a time as possible and should never be packed in tubs or boxes. Hang clothing so that air can circulate around it. It should be covered to protect it from dust and such but not with plastic! Don’t use the dry cleaning bags, use clean cotton (like a sheet) or in a pinch you could use tissue paper.
The high humidity also causes metal to rust; kitchen utensils that aren’t stainless steel will ruin quickly as will patio furniture, picture frames and costume jewelry.
Temperature changes also affect wood. The temperature in a closed building with no AC can quickly reach 120+ degrees during our summer months. That kind of heat will cause veneers to buckle, wood will expand and drawers no longer open smoothly, and small pieces of trim and decoration will become brittle and crack.
Try leaving a fan to circulate air if electricity is available. There isn’t really much else you can do except get things out of storage as quickly as possible. Furniture isn’t the only thing affected by extreme heat; books will become dry and brittle, paint will flake, and anything made of plastic, rubber or wax will melt.
Finally, you have to contend with pests when storing things for long periods of time. Roaches, mice, earwigs, wasps, dirt dobbers (daubers if you’re fancy), spiders, rats and even snakes will all invade storage facilities and make themselves very comfortable. They can get in plastic tubs with lids, boxes that are taped shut, bags that tightly tied, and any other thing you might try to use!
You can’t keep them all out all the time but some helpful deterrents are mothballs, insect sprays or bombs, Borax powder and peppermint oil. Be sure that whatever you use is safe for use with the items you have stored and won’t harm any pets that may ingest it accidentally. Don’t ever bring things that have been in storage for any length of time into your house and leave it. Unpack outside and shake out the contents before bringing them inside. Otherwise, you are just moving the little creatures in with you! Books are especially bad, leave them outside for several days and inspect them carefully before bringing inside. Also, don’t stick your hands down into containers without knowing what is in there…empty the contents if possible or take things out from the top, one at a time. Spiders, snakes and all kinds of scary stuff love burrowing down in dark places. Be careful!
I know this post is probably raining on some people’s parade and I’m sure sorry if it’s yours! But I’m even sorrier when I do a sale and find wonderful things that are ruined because they were stored in an attic or outside building for years with no regard. I’m sure it isn’t intentional, but the items are ruined just the same. I hope this information will help you make hard decisions. Many people tell me they stored things because they didn’t know what to do with it, or they didn’t have room for it, or it belonged to a deceased loved one and they didn’t want to part with it…the reasons are all valid, but if it ruins while you have it stored, you might just as well have thrown it away and saved yourself the trouble of packing it up. Ask family members if they would like to have it, sell it, give it to charity or replace a piece you already own with it, but please don’t let it ruin while in storage.