12 Items You Shouldn’t Keep in a Storage Unit

Many modern moves include the use of a storage unit, sometimes for a few days and other times for a few months, depending on the conditions of the move.

As you pack up your life and prepare it for a stay in a storage unit, it’s important to know that not all items can be kept in a storage facility. Some items are dangerous to the facility itself, while others may be damaged just by being in storage, even if you are renting a climate-controlled unit.

No matter which of our best self-storage companies you have decided to use during your move, there are just some things you shouldn’t keep in a storage unit. Read on as we dive into what to keep and what not to keep in your self-storage unit so you can make alternate arrangements.

12 items you can’t put in storage

While the exact rules of your self-storage facility may vary, in general, you can’t store any of the following in your storage unit:

  • Food (even non-perishable items)
  • Stolen or illegal items
  • Hazardous materials
  • Living things (even if they are no longer living)
  • Weapons and/or ammunition
  • Delicate and valuable items that cannot be replaced
  • Money
  • Furs
  • Unregistered vehicles or motorcycles
  • Tires
  • Wet items
  • Strongly scented items

1. Food (even non-perishable items)

A storage unit is not a bomb shelter. While it might seem like a good idea to prepare for a pending apocalypse by putting food items in your storage unit, these items attract pests like rats or other vermin and can easily go bad. That includes pet food, which also attracts bugs and rats. An infestation of any of these pests can lead to damage to other items — like clothing, appliances, and art — in your unit.

Even if you book a climate-controlled storage unit, grains and boxed food can grow mildew quickly and become inedible.

2. Stolen or illegal items

Storage unit employees are required by law to report any suspicious behavior or items in their facilities. Although you might have seen it done in a movie, in the real world, you will never be able to get away with it, so keep your storage unit free of illegal items.

3. Hazardous materials

Items that are flammable or combustible are on the list of prohibited items. Not only are these items dangerous when kept in enclosed spaces, but you can be fined if something in your unit becomes corrosive and damages an item in someone else’s unit.

Hazardous materials can hide in plain sight, including:

  • Paint or paint thinner
  • Fireworks
  • Propane tanks
  • Fertilizers
  • Oil
  • Chlorine bleach
  • Acid
  • Large aerosols (like butane torches)
  • Radioactive materials
  • Kerosene
  • Gasoline

In most cases, there is no way to safely store these items (and moving companies won’t take them either), so you’ll need to dispose of them safely before your move.

4. Living things (even if they are no longer living)

Live animals, plants, or people cannot be kept in storage units. Even if they were once alive and are now preserved, they still aren’t allowed, even for short-term storage, because they attract pests and can emit unpleasant odors.

This includes human and animal ashes. If you need to store something like this, we recommend checking with a family or friend to see if they will keep them safe while you move.

5. Weapons and/or ammunition

Storing weapons and/or ammunition in your storage unit is a legal issue. Even if you store your items properly, there’s a chance that someone else won’t, and therefore it is prohibited for anyone using a storage unit.

Additionally, there’s the issue that storage units are frequently auctioned off in the case of a delinquent payment, and in that instance, a weapon could end up in the wrong hands.

6. Delicate and valuable items that cannot be replaced

If you have something you can’t live without, this is a sign that you shouldn’t be placing it in a storage unit. Even though most storage units are secure, there is always the chance that something could happen, such as a flood, robbery, or fire. Plus, if you accidentally miss a few payments (even if it is a mistake), your priceless items could end up at auction.

We aren’t talking about an expensive Ming vase here, as you can definitely put that in your storage unit when you are downsizing. We mean documents like your birth certificate and last will and testament or photos of your grandmother, who passed away 10 years ago. These are best kept with you or in a safe deposit box during your move.

7. Money

It is never a good idea to store cash in your storage unit, as money can actually mold, especially in dark and damp conditions. And there is the security issue we mentioned above.

We recommend any money you need to store be kept in a safe deposit box at the bank, which is a much more suitable storage space for cash and important documents.

8. Furs

Fur clothing and pelts are delicate and can be affected by extreme temperatures and light exposure. While furs aren’t prohibited by all storage companies, they are something movers should arrange specialty storage for to preserve their condition and value.

9. Unregistered vehicles or motorcycles

It is required by law that all vehicles and motorcycles stored in storage units are properly registered. In fact, you may be required to show proof of registration and insurance when you bring your vehicle for storage.

10. Tires

This might seem like a strange item to prohibit, but most storage companies prohibit any tires that aren’t attached to a vehicle because of their steep disposal fees. Plus, tires are highly flammable and could cause a problem if they come in contact with flame.

11. Wet Items

Placing wet items in your storage unit is just asking for mold and mildew to grow. But we need to be clear — it’s perfectly fine to store seasonal items that do get wet, like kayaks and surfboards. Just make sure they are dry before you place them in your unit.

12. Strongly scented items

Your storage unit won’t get a whole lot of fresh air, even if it is a climate-controlled unit. For this reason, many facilities prohibit strongly scented household items in storage units.

Not only can these items cause a scent that leaks into neighboring units, but many strongly scented items are also flammable and, therefore, illegal to place into long-term storage.

What can you store in a storage unit?

It might seem like there is a long list of things you can’t store in your public storage unit but don’t worry — there is an equally long list of things you can store.

Here’s a list of all the items that are acceptable to place in your storage unit:

  • Antiques and collectibles
  • Vehicles
  • Sports equipment
  • Appliances
  • Electronics
  • Musical Instruments
  • Books
  • Artwork
  • Seasonal home decor
  • Extra furniture
  • Mattresses
  • Clothing (properly packed)
  • Extra boxes
  • Small vehicles like motorcycles, ATVs, and golf carts

FAQs about what not to put in a storage unit

Is it okay to store a bicycle in a storage unit?

It is permissible to store a bike in your storage unit. Most storage unit companies recommend using bike hooks to keep your bike in the best shape possible while in storage.

Is it safe to hide money in a storage unit?

It is not safe to store money in a storage unit. Money can be damaged by a fire or flood or stolen if someone breaks into your storage unit. Money is best stored in a safe deposit box.

Will electronics get ruined in a storage unit?

Electronics can be sensitive to both temperature and humidity, so the best way to store them is in a climate-controlled storage unit.

Is it safe to keep important documents in a storage unit?

Important documents should not be kept in a storage unit because they could be damaged by a fire or flood or auctioned off in the instance of missed payments. For best results, store important documents in a safe deposit box.

What kind of security should you look for in a storage unit?

When looking for a storage facility, you should find one with an onsite manager who regularly monitors the facility for potential problems or issues. You should also choose a facility with 24/7 security cameras, a wall or gate protecting the units, and a keypad entry to ensure your items stay safe and secure.

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