Funny, I don’t recall that sweater being monogrammed. That’s what I thought last fall when I unpacked a box of cold-weather clothing that I’d stowed away in the attic the previous spring. Sure enough, my favorite blue sweater wasn’t monogrammed, though moths had done a pretty good job of carving out something that looked like my initials.
Improperly storing clothing between seasons can actually be tougher on garments than daily wear and tear. And since the average American household spends about $1,700 per year on apparel and related clothing services, according to the 2012 Consumer Expenditure Survey, it pays to keep your expensive duds in mint condition as you pack away your summer wardrobe to make room in the closet for your winter wear.
Consider these tips:
- Launder First: Always wash and thoroughly dry clothing before placing it in storage. For that final washing of the season, be sure to add one-half cup of baking soda to the wash cycle to help the detergent break up lingering bacteria cells in the fabric. Check out this video for more thrifty laundering tips.
- Location, Location, Location: Ideally, store clothing in a dry, cool and dark location. Most attics and garages tend to get way too hot during the summer, and basements are often damp and musty, so avoid those options if possible.
- Opaque Totes: Since most clothing should be stored flat and folded (as opposed to hanging), rubberized plastic totes with tight-fitting lids are preferable to cardboard boxes, which provide easy access for moths, rodents and other fabric-destroying pests. Choose opaque totes instead of translucent ones to prevent sunlight damage.
- Add Fabric Softener Sheets: Place a few fabric softener sheets in clothing-storage boxes before you seal them up to help reduce mold and mildew and to keep clothes smelling fresh. Fabric softener sheets also help to curb the smell of mothballs, and the sheets provide some extra protection against moths and other insects.
- Speaking of Mothballs: Placing mothballs in clothing-storage containers is still a tried-and-true method of deterring not just moths, but also silverfish, carpet beetles, bedbugs, fleas, mites, rodents and other fabric-loving pests. In order to be effective and prevent health risks to humans and pets, storage boxes containing mothballs should be tightly sealed and stored in a safe location. While mothballs definitely provide effective pest protection, they also leave a strong scent on clothing. To eliminate the smell, air out clothing in fresh air for a couple of days after you unpack it and then wash garments with one cup of distilled white vinegar added in the wash cycle.
- Mothball Alternatives: You can also make a natural moth repellent to use in storing clothes by mixing three ounces of whole cloves with two cups of dried lavender blossoms and four cups of cedar chips (the kind used for pet bedding); tie off in sachets made from lengths of worn-out pantyhose. Including pieces of plain cedar in clothes-storage boxes will also help deter some pests and make your clothes smell great; however, it’s not as effective as mothballs or the homemade repellent described above.
- Footwear Storage: Particularly with leather shoes and boots, moisture from condensation can cause mold and mildew, which can permanently damage the leather. Apply polish or oil to leather footwear before storing it, and stuff crumpled-up newsprint into all footwear to wick up moisture and help shoes and boots maintain their shape. Also, place a few briquettes of charcoal in a spare sock, tie it off, and place it in the shoe storage box to absorb additional moisture and help eliminate odor. Bonus tip: If you have a tall pair of boots, stick an empty wine bottle in each boot to help it keep its shape in storage.
Also of Interest:
See the AARP home page for deals, savings tips, trivia and more
Photo: Liz Marie_AK/flickr