The Right Way to Store Your Clothes
Updated: May 13
Shakespeare wrote "All the world’s a stage," which means all we players have costumes for our various roles. Storing clothes properly means we can play our roles better throughout the year, with more style. After all, clothes make the man (and woman).
So how should you best manage your personal costume department? Here are guidelines and tips.
Reasons for Storing Clothes
First, consider the reasons you are storing clothes. You might be putting away seasonal items like winter coats or summer dresses. Maybe you are painting or remodeling your home’s interior and want to keep your garments safe. Or, you have keepsakes items like wedding dresses or military uniforms that you want to preserve.
The reason for storing clothes will influence the type of storage you want and how long a storage period you'll need. Short-term storage items should be easily accessible for frequent access. These are probably best kept at home. Long-term storage items and keepsakes can be stored off-site in a storage facility, preferably one that offers security and climate control.
The amount of clothing you are storing matters, as well. For example, if you have just a couple winter coats to put away until next year, those won’t take up much room and are easily transported.
On the other hand, if you live in a place that requires a full winter wardrobe, you'll need room to properly store all those outfits plus a way to easily swap them as the seasons change. You don’t want to make multiple trips hauling clothes between your storage facility and home.
How to Store Clothes Properly
Because we're talking about our personal costumes, let's check with some costume experts about properly placing clothes in storage.
The University of California system operates multiple theatre departments across their 10 campuses. They offer a Performing Arts Safety Manual with tips on storing clothing:
Storage shelves should be equipped with some means of preventing items from falling off the shelves, such as shelf guards, cargo netting, or bungee cords.
Stored items should not extend beyond the edge of the shelf.
Heavy, awkward, and frequently accessed items should be stored on shelves within the optimum lift zone, which is between the knees and shoulders.
Use a ladder to reach items on high shelves.
Stored clothing is subject to damage from moths and insects. Frequently used and cleaned clothing is less likely to be damaged because the damage to the clothing is actually done by the insect larvae that are destroyed during the cleaning process.
Do not use mothballs or crystals containing naphthalene to deter or kill insects. (Use natural items like pieces of cedar.)
Once your clothes are cleaned and ready for storage, you want to pack them away so they don’t have wrinkles when you retrieve them later.
What causes clothes to wrinkle, anyway? Friction. Clothes that rub against themselves, other clothes, or containers build up wrinkles. Fight wrinkles by reducing friction.
Hanging clothes storage is the best way to prevent wrinkling. Wardrobe moving boxes or a rolling clothing storage rack can be a great solution. But, hanging storage may not be available or practical. If you must pack clothes for storage, follow these guidelines:
Roll clothes if possible, instead of folding them.
Layer items in a flat stack inside a box. The box doesn’t need to be airtight. Place a sheet of tissue paper between each item.
When folding items, use tissue paper to prevent parts of the garment rubbing against each other.
Retrieving Clothing From Storage
All the work of properly storing clothes leads up to the moment you retrieve your item(s) from storage. That moment can be like finding a great deal when shopping or even meeting an old friend again.
When you pull a garment from storage, first inspect it. Despite your best efforts, it might have stains or damage which means you can’t use it right away. Clean or mend it on your own if you can, or take it to a professional.
Because of the possibility of stains or damage, retrieve your clothes from storage before you actually need them. You don’t want to be caught at the last moment with nothing to wear.
If your stored clothes are in good condition, they might need just a little freshening. Here are some tips:
Hang your garment outside in the sun to air out.
If you can’t hang clothes outside, hang them inside where there is good air circulation.
Some clothes and garments benefit from brushing.
Use a fabric freshening spray like Fabreeze.
Use a fabric steamer.
Storing your clothes like a pro means you’ll look like a pro, no matter your role. Plus you can spend less on clothing and enjoy your old favorites for many seasons.