How To Store Winter Clothing

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Many people make seasonal clothing storage part of their Spring Cleaning tasks. This guide explains the steps to protect your winter wardrobe from mold, pests, and stains when you put it away for the offseason. 

Female hands holding a pile of neatly-folded sweaters ready for winter storage

Steps to Store Your Winter Clothing

Need some motivation to put away your cold-weather clothes for the season? There are good reasons to store winter clothing instead of just shoving it out of the way. For one thing, you’ll free up space in your closet and dresser drawers. But more importantly, properly storing your winter clothes will protect them from pests and permanent stains.

Step 1: Set aside some transitional pieces just in case.

Spring can be fickle and it’s not uncommon for temperatures to plunge below freezing a few times before finally warming up for the season. So, unless you’re waiting until the middle of summer to put your winter clothes away, it’s risky to stash all of your cold-weather clothing. Choose a few items that can transition

Step 2. Clean everything, even if you don’t see dirt. 

You should always wash or dry-clean clothes before storing them long-term. If left untreated, perspiration will cause yellow stains near armpits and collars. These and other stains may become permanent. Body oils and lotion residue also attract insects like silverfish and moths that can damage fabrics.

When laundering clothing to put it in storage, use the hottest setting permitted by the care label so you completely remove oils and other grime, and skip the laundry additives because fabric softener residue can attract bugs and promote mildew during storage.

Step 3. Repair damaged items before storage. 

If you’re not handy at fixing garments, a tailor or even your dry cleaner can help. Many will repair zippers and sew buttons back on if you point them out when dropping off your clothes for cleaning. Repairing clothes in the offseason is less expensive, and you’ll know they’re ready for wear when the seasons change again.

Step 4. Use the best way to store each type of clothing

Your clothing needs more space in storage than most plastic bags provide, including dry-cleaner bags, which aren’t intended for long-term storage. Crammed into a bag, air can’t circulate and your clothes will develop mold and mildew. Vacuum seal bags are the exception to this rule since the sealing process also removes moisture that could damage fabrics.

• Bulky coats and jackets. Zip and button fastenings, and hang them on sturdy plastic or wood clothes hangers inside garment bags if you have enough closet space. (I use these.) If not, fold them carefully and pack them in plastic bins. Vacuum seal bags are the exception to the rule since the storage sealing process removes air along with moisture that could damage fabrics. (Do not use vacuum seal bags with down or fur coats, since the compression can ruin them.)

• Sweaters and wool or cashmere scarves. Fold gently and put them in a plastic bin or an old suitcase. Do not store sweaters in cardboard boxes that moths and other pests can eat through to get to the wool. Add cedar or lavender sachets to keep items smelling fresh. (Those scents naturally keep away most household pests, too.) If you live in a humid climate, add silicone desiccant packets (the kind you find in the box when you buy new shoes) to absorb moisture, too.

• Boots and shoes. Always clean your footwear well before storage. Make sure you’ve removed any salt stains and deodorized your shoes, then store them on their sides in plastic bins or a storage bin under your bed. To prevent permanent wrinkles in tall boots, stuff them with acid-free tissue paper or a boot form. 

• Delicates. Hang delicates in a garment bag with a sachet to repel pests, or fold them in acid-free tissue paper. You can store them separately, or add them as the top layer in storage containers or suitcases filled with other items from your winter wardrobe.

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• Other clothing and winter gloves. Fold your winter athletic wear, jeans, t-shirts, and other casual clothes before storage. Stash them in luggage, storage containers, or plastic bins, or tuck them into pillowcases to protect them from dust and keep them on your closet shelf.

Step 5. Store them in a dry place

The best place to store your out-of-season clothing is in a cool, dry spot that’s not exposed to direct sunlight. Attics, basements, and garages are popular spots for clothing storage, but they can actually be the worst place for offseason clothes. All of these spots are prone to temperature swings, which can damage clothing. Basements and garages are often humid locations, too, which means your clothes are more likely to develop mold and mildew problems in storage.

If you’re short on space, here are some creative ideas for places to stash winter clothing:

  • Stash plastic bins or suitcases of off-season clothes under your bed.
  • Make a side table by stacking a couple of bins and covering them with a tablecloth.
  • Put a row of tall, vertical storage bins behind your sofa and cover them with a plank of wood to serve as a console table.
  • Use heavy-duty curtain clips to hang vacuum-sealed storage bags from closet rods.
  • Look for vintage trunks and luggage to use as decorative storage pieces. Put your vacuum-sealed bags or plastic bins inside of these, since older items may not be enough to protect against pests.

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