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5 Ways to Keep Pests Out of Your Storage Areas

A man closing the door on a storage unit.
Sean Locke Photography/Shutterstock.com

From the attic to the basement, most of us store a lot of stuff in our homes. Unfortunately, it’s always at risk of getting pests. If you’re sick of your belongings being bombarded by critters, here are some tips for keeping them out.

Whether you’re storing family heirlooms, out-of-season clothing, or stuff you’re just not ready to get rid of yet, it’s important to protect it. Pests can be a problem in the attic, basement, garage, or even in closets and under beds. Here are five things you can do to keep bugs and other pests out of your storage spaces.

Try to Keep Your Home Pest-Free

Whether you store a lot of items in your home or not, it’s essential to watch out for pests. The type of pests you might encounter will vary depending on where you live. Some of the most common include ants, bed bugs, cockroaches, and mice. If you spot any, deal with the problem immediately.

Check your storage area for any signs, like droppings or dead bugs. Set up traps when you spot ants or mice. If you have problems with insects and rodents often, consider calling in an exterminator to deal with the problem before you start building up your storage space.

If you’re thinking of renting a storage facility, ask them what precautions they take to keep pests out. Tour the business inside and out, and not just your potential unit, and look for the same signs you would at home. You can use a lot of the same tips and tricks in a storage unit that you would at home, including traps and mothballs.

Pack Your Items in the Right Containers

Office supplies packed in a plastic Joyeen bin.
Joyeen

What’s your go-to container for putting stuff in storage? Many people opt for cardboard boxes because they’re cheapest—you can just reuse shipping boxes for free. They’re not the most reliable storage containers, though. They’re much easier for pests to get into and are also at a greater risk for water damage.

Cardboard also attracts a menagerie of pests, no matter what you store in them. Mice like to chew on cardboard because it helps grind down their always-growing teeth. They also use it to make nests for their babies

The following insects actually eat cardboard and will chew through the contents, as well:

  • Cockroaches
  • Termites
  • Carpet beetles
  • Moths
  • Silverfish

You also don’t want to rely only on airtight plastic bags as your only means of storage for your out-of-season clothing. Most pests can chew right through those if they’re determined enough. They’re helpful for extra protection inside a plastic storage bin, though, which brings us to our next point.

Because you’re passing on the cardboard, you need something that’s still affordable, but more secure, and plastic bins are the solution. While it’s true that mice can also chew through plastic, it will take them longer to get through than cardboard.

The bins with lids offer far more protection than cardboard. We particularly like those with lock-tight handles so bugs can’t sneak inside. This set of six from Joyeen is particularly nice because they’re transparent so you can see what’s inside. To save money on plastic storage bins, look for deals and sales, especially after Christmas.

Check Your Storage Spaces Often

Don’t just put your stuff into storage, and then forget about it. At least once a month, head down to the basement, out to the garage, or to your storage and look over the contents. Check for chew marks on storage boxes and totes. If you’ve set any traps, check them. Replace ant and other bug traps, and check the bait on mousetraps.

Look for any dead bugs or mouse droppings. Move some bins around to make sure there aren’t any signs of pests hiding behind them. You can also check for any heat or water damage to your items in areas that aren’t temperature controlled, like the attic.

Be Careful What You Pack

If you want to keep pests out of the stuff you put in storage, do your best not to pack things that attract them. This means you definitely want to keep any food out of your storage bins. If you’re packing plates and kitchen items, clean them thoroughly before packing them—you don’t want any food residue left behind.

Clothing also attracts bugs and mice. Moths will chew holes in clothing, and mice will build nests for their babies in them. If you ever dig out a box that’s been infested with mice, even if there are none in there, your clothing and other items will be covered in their excrement. Fun!

Make sure you wash any clothing before you pack it away to make it less attractive to pests.

Protect Your Items with Pest Repellents

A Brison Pest Repellent plugged in next to a bed.
Brison

If you’re worried about rodents, it’s helpful to pack a repellent, like Fresh Cab, in your bins, especially if you’re storing clothing.

Some sounds also repel rodents, so something like the BRISON Ultrasonic Pest Repeller might be the ideal solution for your home.

Two of the cheapest and most commonly used insect repellents for storage items include cedar chips and mothballs.

Mothballs have a powerful scent that keeps away pests, but the smell also clings to your clothing. They work better outside of bins, so use them around the attic or your storage unit rather than packing them with your stuff.

Cedar chips need to be uncoated, allowing their natural scent to keep away the pests that might invade your storage items. Cedar chips are far more pleasant smelling than mothballs, so feel free to toss them right in with your stuff.

You can also use them in closets and drawers to keep your clothes smelling fresh longer, and also to keep pests away from all areas of your home.


When storing your belongings, you want to make sure your stuff will still be in good shape when it’s time to use it again. These tips and tricks will help you protect your belongings from pests and ensure you don’t have to replace anything later.

Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow is a professional writer with two decades of experience. She has written and edited for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and more. Yvonne is a published poet and short story writer, and she is a life coach. Read Full Bio »

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