If you’re undertaking a relocation, often, you’ll need a place to store your possessions while you wait for your move-in date. Self-storage facilities are typically the most economical option, as they are far cheaper than storage containers — like 1-800-PACK-RAT — and moving companies. Unfortunately, while these facilities can save you money, they do carry a risk of pests. Because of this, when using self-storage, you’ll want to take every precaution to protect your possessions from pest infestations. In this article, we’ll go over our top 10 best strategies for pest-proofing your storage unit.

    Pick a Storage Facility With a Good Pest Control Policy

    The best method for preventing pests when storing your items is to choose a facility with a good pest prevention policy. There are a few ways to do this:

    • Check online reviews: If the facility has complaints about vermin or has an overall poor customer rating, you may want to steer clear. Good places to check reviews include Google My Business and the Better Business Bureau.
    • Ask about its pest control policy: Any good storage facility will work with local or national pest control companies. Beware of any company that states, “We don’t have a pest problem here, so we don’t worry about it.”
    • Ask to see the storage units: You should always do a quick walkthrough of a storage facility before signing up with one. While doing so, you can check for signs of pests and the general condition of the facility. Furthermore, if the units are in poor condition, have cracks and crevices, or the facility is not well kept, you might want to consider a different company.

    Use Plastic Tubs Over Cardboard Boxes

    Cardboard is typically the cheapest way to store your possessions. However, many pests can make quick work of these containers, with rats, roaches, moths, and other critters nesting inside them (especially those containing linens). Instead, we recommend using plastic containers with sealable, airtight lids. Plastic, sealed containers are harder for pests to get into, and they keep the scent of your items from leaking out. Furthermore, they stand up to stacking and weight for longer periods of time, making them better overall than cardboard. If you have to use cardboard boxes, we recommend buying new ones and avoiding secondhand ones from grocery stores.

    Don’t Store Food or Scented Objects

    Never store any food items, even canned goods, when using a storage facility. If you’re storing kitchen items like appliances, dishes, or cutlery, you’ll want to clean them thoroughly, removing any crumbs or food residue. Other items that carry strong scents, like potpourri, candles, detergents, oils, diffusers, and perfumes, attract insects like cockroaches.

    Raise Items With Storage Pallets

    Rats, roaches, mice, ants, and other pests are less likely to infest your boxes if they are not directly on the ground. Because of this, it’s always best to elevate your possessions off the ground with storage shelves or pallets. Elevating your boxes also protects them from moisture and leaks, making this a great tip for at-home storage.

    Protect Upholstered Furniture With Plastic Wrap

    Upholstered furniture can act as a calling card for pests. The cloth, padding, and stuffing materials in furniture make great nesting places for mice, with roaches loving the cramped, dark spaces. Some pests like moths and crickets will directly eat upholstered furniture, potentially destroying your expensive couch. To prevent pest damage, always protect your furniture with plastic moving wrap or furniture covers. We also recommend quickly looking over the furniture after storing it for a while, as small holes and tears in these wraps are common.

    Regularly Check In on Your Possessions

    Even well-maintained storage facilities can have the odd mouse or two, and the most well-packed possessions can accidentally carry in a few insects. Because of this, we always recommend checking your stored items once a month. When doing so, look over your unit and check for signs of mice, like holes, droppings, or loose packing material.

    Carefully Read Your Storage Unit Insurance

    Many self-storage unit facilities will require you to have homeowners, renters, or business insurance that covers stored goods, often called “off-premises personal property coverage.” These policies can be a huge help when storing your possessions long-term. However, most standard policies come with exclusions to some of the more common problems associated with storage units, including:

    • Water damage
    • Mold damage
    • Rodent damage
    • Insect damage
    • Neglect
    • Power failure

    Before signing up with a storage facility, you should always double-check your insurance policy and see what your exclusions are. To cover these types of damages, you can ask your insurance company about policies with extended coverage or purchase a stand-alone policy from your storage facility.

    Try Pest Control Options

    If you’re worried about unwanted pests inside your unit, you can always try some pest control options. We recommend avoiding commercial chemicals (like moth balls or bug spray), as these can potentially mix with pest deterrents used by the storage facility. Instead, we recommend mechanical traps and natural repellents, including:

    • Sticky traps
    • Snap-traps
    • Cedar blocks
    • Cotton balls soaked in peppermint oil
    • Small catch traps

    Use Mattress Wraps

    Much like upholstered furniture, insects and mice love to burrow inside mattresses. Worse yet, mattresses can also carry bed bugs, which can rapidly infest a storage facility. To keep your mattresses safe, use wraps or slips that specifically state that they are designed to keep out pests.

    Properly Pack and Manage Your Stacks

    If you’re using long-term storage for a major move, using all plastic tubs is not economical in most cases. By being clever with your stacking, you can mitigate the risk of pests getting into your cardboard boxes. You should aim to store your largest, bulkiest objects in large plastic containers, like these, placing them at the bottom of every stack of boxes. Then, place your lighter objects and possessions inside smaller cardboard boxes, stacking them on top of the plastic ones. By positioning your plastic containers at the bottom of each stack, you minimize the risk of pests getting to your cardboard.

    what not to do when stacking boxes in a storage facility

    Final Thoughts

    Overall, a storage facility is a great solution for storing your possessions long-term. However, pests can pose a serious threat, especially with larger facilities. To help keep your unit pest-free, you should always try to raise all objects off the ground and use plastic containers. For large objects, use plastic wraps or plastic mattress covers. Finally, checking what your homeowners or renters insurance covers for storage facilities never hurts.

    Editorial Contributors
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    Sam Wasson

    Staff Writer

    Sam Wasson graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in Film and Media Arts with an Emphasis in Entertainment Arts and Engineering. Sam brings over four years of content writing and media production experience to the Today’s Homeowner content team. He specializes in the pest control, landscaping, and moving categories. Sam aims to answer homeowners’ difficult questions by providing well-researched, accurate, transparent, and entertaining content to Today’s Homeowner readers.

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    Lora Novak

    Senior Editor

    Lora Novak meticulously proofreads and edits all commercial content for Today’s Homeowner to guarantee that it contains the most up-to-date information. Lora brings over 12 years of writing, editing, and digital marketing expertise. She’s worked on thousands of articles related to heating, air conditioning, ventilation, roofing, plumbing, lawn/garden, pest control, insurance, and other general homeownership topics.

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