What Can and Can’t You Store in a Storage Unit?
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Whatever your reasons for needing storage during your move, you should know that there are simply some things that you should not keep in a storage unit for any amount of time, whether it is a week or six months. Such items should either be kept with you, sold, given away, or disposed of when you move out of your previous residence.
To avoid complications with the storage facility and to keep all of your belongings safe, we’ve compiled a list of five things you should never put in storage while you are moving:
Generally, non-allowable articles include –
- Explosives and flammable (combustible) items
- Guns and ammunition
- Noxious and corrosive chemicals (hazardous materials)
- Food and other perishable items
- Living things like plants, pets, and aliens
- Irreplaceable items like photo albums and trophies
- Stolen items
- Pesticides and insecticides
- Aerosols and solvents
- Biological waste
As a rule of thumb – You can’t store similar to those that professional movers can’t move.
Before jumping in, you’ll need to think about how to get your items into your new storage unit.
Fear not, the 5 Best Interstate Movers Of 2021 can help.
What can I store in a storage unit?
Thankfully, most of what’s in your home or apartment, you can store in a storage facility.
Allowable items include –
- Boxes of normal household goods like clothes, books, and dishes
- Furniture and appliances
- Mattresses and box springs
- Sports and outdoor equipment
- Patio furniture and BBQ grills (no propane tanks)
- Tools and construction materials
- Seasonal clothing like sweaters and winter coats
You can also store boats, RVs, cars, and motorcycles at storage facilities with outdoor areas.
11 items you can’t store
1. Firearms and ammunition
Not surprisingly, most storage facilities prohibit guns and ammunition from being stored onsite.
They both come with big liability issues, and in many cases, how and where they’re transported and stored are governed by state and federal laws.
Ammunition can explode during a fire or when subject to prolonged heat. If the contents of your storage unit go up for auction due to non-payment, the company will have a heck of a time disposing of your firearms and ammo legally.
You’ll need to take them with you or find an alternative like keeping them safe in a friend or family member’s home.
2. Food and other perishable items
Though it probably goes without saying, we’ll say it anyway…
Fresh food like meat, fish, dairy products, fruit, and vegetables cannot be kept in storage units.
They’ll spoil, cause bug and rodent infestation, and grow mold and mildew, which can spread to other units.
Did You Know?
You should never store pet food, rice, oatmeal, or pasta, even if they’re unopened. They attract hungry pests that happily chew through boxes and bags to get at the goodies inside.
3. Hazardous materials
Due to their corrosive, volatile, and poisonous nature, hazardous materials can’t be stored in self-storage units.
Here we’re talking about –
- Gasoline, kerosene, and lighter fluid
- Paints and paint thinners
- Fireworks and dynamite
- Automotive liquids like oil, coolant, transmission, and brake fluid
- Propane and compressed gas tanks (even if they’re empty)
- Deadly chemicals like cyanide
4. Furs, live, and “stuffed” animals
As far as animals go, this should go without saying, but leaving any animal in a storage unit is considered cruelty and abuse. Dogs, cats, snakes and other pets are too frequently discovered inside of storage units, including 20 cats found at a Virginia Beach facility after the owner lost her home.
Many self-storage companies also prohibit storing furs, so if you’re planning on putting a mink coat away for the summer, you’ll have to check first.
You can store furs in some climate-controlled facilities, but you’ll need to pack them properly.
In addition, some units ban taxidermied or “stuffed” animals (like hunting trophies) because they also attract insects and rodents that consider them a convenient food source.
5. Living (and dead) things
Most of us wouldn’t consider keeping live animals in a storage unit, but even plants aren’t allowed because they and the soil you plant them in are often home to insects that can spread through storage facilities like wildfire.
In addition, you won’t be able to store medical samples, two-headed snakes in formaldehyde filled jars, or –
- Mulch or topsoil
- Trees, shrubs, plants, and flowers
- Seeds, leaves, firewood, or untreated lumber
- Ashes of deceased loved ones and family pets
It may be tempting to stash a few hundred grand in a book box in your storage unit, but in the fine print of your storage contract, it’ll say that currency isn’t permitted.
If you do store some greenbacks on the sly and the storage facility has a fire, flood, or break-in, you won’t have a leg to stand on when filing a claim.
Better yet, keep your money in a bank.
7. Stolen property
Self-storage units are popular with thieves because they’re more anonymous than homes and apartments.
That said, stolen property is off-limits pretty much everywhere because it’s, well…stolen property.
8. Priceless and irreplaceable items
At most run-of-the-mill storage facilities, you should not store priceless and irreplaceable items.
Of course, it’s OK to store photo albums and other precious family mementos.
Just remember that sentimental value doesn’t translate into monetary value.
On the other hand, items of extraordinary value like precious metals, coin and stamp collections, and Ming vases shouldn’t be kept at most storage units either.
However, some upscale storage facilities allow these items, and some cater to discerning high net worth customers.
If you’re well-heeled and have items of extraordinary value that need to be stored, make sure each piece is insured either through the storage company or a third-party insurer.
When vetting potential storage companies, ask lots of questions if you have any of the following items –
- Valuable antiques
- Original works of art
- Sports memorabilia like signed jerseys and baseball card collections
- Important documents like wills, passports, and medical records, and legal papers
- Jewelry, precious stones and metals, and valuable collections
- Historic documents and other artifacts
- Family heirlooms
Many self-storage companies specifically prohibit tires.
Generally, this applies to people or companies interested in filling up an entire unit with either new or used tires, which isn’t allowed.
However, it probably won’t be an issue if you have two tires along with your normal household items.
Tires are generally prohibited because they burn hot, fast, and dirty in the event of a fire, and if you abandon your unit, the storage company may have to pay pricy disposal fees.
As always, ask the facility manager about the company’s rules.
10. Machines and appliances
You can usually keep electronics and machines at storage units, but you can’t store either if you plan on actually running them.
In other words, it’s not OK to store a refrigerator or freezer and actually use it by running an extension cord from the hallway into your unit.
Likewise, you can’t run gasoline or diesel-powered generators while they’re in the unit due to safety issues, noise, and toxic exhaust fumes.
Did You Know?
You can store lawnmowers, weed eaters, and even small tractors in storage units, but you’ll need to first drain the gas and oil.
11. Scented and wet items
Though they’re not typically listed as non-storable, the following wet and scented items don’t do well in storage units –
- Soaps and perfumes
- Incense sticks
- Condensed aromatic oils
- Strong spices like cinnamon, pepper, and cumin
Though these items have a pleasant aroma, their scents can turn from lovely to downright disgusting when confined to boxes or dark storage units.
These mysterious new odors can also be absorbed into clothes, upholstered furniture, and bedding – sometimes permanently.
Technically you can store wine in a self-storage unit, but you may ruin your wine in the process. Wine should be kept within a very specific temperate range to avoid spoiling.
Even in a climate-controlled self-storage unit, temperatures can fluctuate and are likely not optimal for your vino.
Instead, drink up, or find a specialized wine storage vault near youto keep your bottles safe for you.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What happens if I get caught storing prohibited items?
Stashing prohibited items in your storage unit opens you up to tons of liability. Not only that but you could face criminal charges if people or their property sustain injuries as a result.
What should you not put in a storage unit?
Prohibited items generally include hazardous and toxic materials, food and perishables, explosives, dangerous chemicals, and irreplaceable and extraordinarily valuable items.
Can I store non-perishable food in a storage unit?
For short-term storage, it may be OK to store canned goods in storage units.
On the flip side, avoid storing jars of items such as mayonnaise and pickled herring (yum) because they’re more likely to spoil.
Can you store liquids in a storage unit?
Due to spillage and/or leakage risk, liquids like bleach, olive oil, and laundry detergent shouldn’t be kept in storage units.
Can you store perfume in a storage unit?
If it’s packed properly, you can store perfume, but you’re better off getting rid of it or taking it with you.
Can you put chemicals in a storage unit?
No, chemicals are strictly prohibited in storage units.
Can you store gas in a storage unit?
No, gas is never allowed in storage units, even if it’s inside machines like lawnmowers and generators.
Can I store canned goods in a storage unit?
Canned goods are usually OK in storage units.
Just make sure that you have a climate-controlled unit or that the temperature will remain between about 50 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
What kind of security should I look for?
Most storage facilities should have security fences and cameras, keyless entry, interior, and exterior lighting, ample parking, and alarm systems to warn staff of break-ins.
Can I live in a storage unit?
Sorry, you can’t live in your storage unit.
How can I keep my items dry while they’re in storage?
Fresh air is vital for items in long-term storage, so to promote airflow, stack your items on pallets instead of directly on the floor.
This allows air to circulate underneath and will decrease the likelihood of pest infestation and moisture absorption.
Can I store firearms in a self-storage facility?
No, guns and ammunition are off-limits in storage facilities.
Last Minute Storage Tips
- Storage locations in rural areas and suburbs are usually cheaper than ones in cities.
- If possible, visit each prospective storage facility in person to get a “feel” for its cleanliness and security.
- Get multiple quotes
- Avoid paying too much by only renting the storage space you’ll need
- Ask about discounts for teachers, veterans, and first-responders
- Ask if Covid-19 might cause any service disruptions
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