How to Safely Store Valuables and Breakables

The best place for storing valuables such as antiques and collectibles is right in your own home, and learning how to store these precious items safely is easy when you follow our tips below. From that antique dresser you inherited to your fine dinnerware and collectibles, all it takes to properly store and protect your valuable items is some planning and preparation.  

Storing Valuable Furniture and Antiques

When you’re storing valuables in your home, remember that extreme temperatures, humidity and light are the enemies. That means most attics and basements just aren’t suitable for storing antiques and other delicate valuables—plan on storing these items in an extra room or other out-of-the-way space away from windows and vents. Climate and light issues aside, safely storing breakables and valuables comes down to preparation and protection.

Before you begin wrapping things up, take the time to clean them. Start by removing any dust and dirt. Next, treat wood with furniture polish, treat any leather with a conditioner, vacuum upholstery and apply a light layer of oil to metals to prevent rust. To prevent mold, make sure everything is completely dry before you start wrapping. Unstable or heavy pieces of furniture should be disassembled, and any hardware should be stored in a plastic bag taped to the back of the furniture. Wrap chair legs, arms and railings with bubble wrap for added protection.

Once your prep is done, wrap them up with a sheet and then blankets to cushion them. The sheet will keep the dust off and won’t damage finishes, while the blankets protect your furniture from knicks and dents. Take extra care to protect any corners and don’t wrap things too tightly or in plastic wrap. You want your furniture to be able to “breathe,” and plastic can trap moisture which can cause mold and other damage. Find a storage spot away from doors, windows and vents to keep your furniture safe from the elements and accidents.

Storing Artwork Like a Pro

Professional art dealers recommend not wrapping art for storage. That’s because wrapping, especially with plastic, can trap damaging moisture. Artwork needs to “breathe” and avoid contact with acids, so the best solution is to use crescent board. Designed as a medium for artists, crescent board is perfect for protecting delicate artwork because it’s acid-free and rigid. Prep wooden frames with furniture polish or oil to prevent drying and cracking, then secure your crescent board to protect the front, back and corners. Always store your artwork on end rather than flat. The optimal climate for storing valuables like artwork is 40-50% humidity and 70-75℉. Most home environments should be in these ranges, so you don’t have to worry about the climate. Modern art, like encaustic works with wax, can be sensitive to heat and other factors and may require special considerations for proper storage.

Storing Valuable Textiles and Fabrics

Storing valuables like textiles rugs, upholstered items and vintage clothing safely means avoiding light, moisture and acidic packing materials. Stored textiles should never be exposed to light for long periods and should be stored in a climate of 65-70℉ and between 40-50% humidity. Wool and other animal-based textiles should be dry cleaned and vacuumed before storage to deter carpet beetles and moths. Be aware that other deterrents, like mothballs, can actually damage sensitive fabrics and textiles.

Valuable textiles and fabrics should never be stored in contact with metal, wood, tissue paper or anything acidic and should optimally be stored laying flat. If storing rugs and other large pieces laying flat isn’t an option, you can roll them up loosely with cotton sheets, but they should never be stored folded. Never wrap textiles in plastic to avoid damaging fumes and the potential for trapping moisture. If you’re having trouble finding space to store these valuables, you may want to declutter to make more room.

Like other valuable textiles, clothing made from animal-based fabrics like wool or silk should be dry cleaned and stored flat whenever possible. If you can’t store clothing laying flat, garments can be folded safely as long as you fold along natural body lines like seamlines and waistlines. A third alternative is to hang clothing on well-padded hangers and storing them, so they aren’t crushed by other garments.

Storing Valuable Books, Photographs and Documents

When storing valuables like books, documents or photographs, remember that light, moisture and acid are paper’s natural enemies. For books, choose sturdy plastic containers with lids to avoid moisture and pests. Ideally, most books should be stored upright in single layers, but larger, heavier books can be stored flat. The goal for your book storage is to keep stress off of the spines and avoid excess weight which can warp books.

Before you pack your books, prepare them for storage. Use a soft brush to remove any dust or dirt from the covers and pages and check for signs of pests while you’re dusting. Don’t wipe them with anything damp to avoid the introduction of damaging moisture. If a book smells musty or feels damp, let it air dry before packing it. If you see signs of bugs or eggs, don’t use a pesticide because it will damage the book. Instead, gently sweep the bugs and eggs out.  

Photographs and paper documents should be stored in plastic containers with lids. Don’t try to get your containers air-tight to avoid the build-up of moisture. The best way to store photos and documents is laying flat in containers that don’t allow a lot of room for them to shift around. Photos should also have an extra layer of protection by placing acid-free tissue between them. Store your containers away from light and moisture and avoid stacking whenever possible. Be sure to label your storage containers for easy retrieval.

Storing Valuables Like Fine China, Sterling Silver and Collectibles

Fine China and collectibles are valuable and fragile, so you have to take extra care when storing valuables like your prized antique ornaments. Dishware and collectibles should be gently cleaned before storage and completely dry. For the best protection when storing valuables that are breakable, each piece should be individually wrapped with bubble wrap before packing. You can use heavy-duty boxes and make your own inserts from cardboard or use specially designed containers made specifically for storing these items.

Plates and bowls should always be stored on their sides and should never be packed too tightly. Avoid using containers that are too large to prevent heavy pressure on your breakables and for keeping your container weights manageable. If you’re using boxes, be sure to use inserts between the pieces. Your goal should be to pack your containers fully but avoid packing so tightly that it puts too much pressure on your breakables. Be cautious of stacking your containers to prevent crushing.

Storing valuables made with silver like flatware requires a little more protection from the elements. Your objective here is to prevent tarnishing and avoid physical damage. Moisture and acid cause tarnish. To protect your silverware, using acid-free tissue, wrap each piece and place in a ziplock bag. Be careful to avoid contact with the potentially harmful plastic. Using small boxes, carefully pack your individual pieces securely but not too tightly. For added protection against moisture, wrap a piece of chalk inside a piece of cheesecloth and put it inside each box.

Off-Site Storage

If you have to use off-site storage for storing valuables, here are a few things to keep in mind. Choose a storage facility with climate-controlled units, tight security and easy access. Put down pallets before you start loading your unit up to keep everything off the floor. Don’t stack too high or stack where heavy boxes can crush the ones beneath and leave yourself “hallways” to find items and labeled boxes easily.

Once you’ve gotten all your valuables stored safely, let The Maids® come over and get your home back in shape.


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