What Can (And Can’t) I Store in a Storage Unit?

At a glance

From parking your boat in January to stowing your Christmas decorations in July, you can use storage units for a whole host of reasons—but not everything will get the green light.

We’ll explain more about storage unit rules and regulations below, but here are some things you can’t stow away in a storage unit:

  • Flammable or combustible items
  • Hazardous materials
  • Items that will attract pests
  • Items that are susceptible to mold or mildew
  • Anything living (e.g., plants, animals, people)

The whole picture

Whether you need to hang your fishing rods away for the winter or stash outgrown baby clothes until you’re ready for your next kid, you can use your storage unit to house most household items.

But before you pack away your prized possessions, get familiar with your storage facility’s rules so you know what can and can’t sit in your unit.

Items that can be stored in a storage unit

Furniture

Unused and extra furniture are some of the most common items placed in storage units. Just be cautious: Without proper care, your wooden bookshelf may get moldy, or rats may chew up your best oriental rug. Opt for a climate-controlled unit (best climate-controlled storage companies list), store items off the ground to increase airflow, and cover furniture with tarps to help combat potential damage.

Seasonal items

Looking to stash your Halloween haunted house trappings or those holiday lights you finally get around to taking down in February? Storage units are useful for keeping seasonal decorations you need to drag out just once a year.

Household goods

Boxes of photo albums, your kids’ trophy collections, and that overpriced china set you’ve never had the right occasion to use are all A-OK to put in storage. If you only need access to household items once in a blue moon, use your storage unit to free up garage or attic space.

Appliances

Your storage unit is a perfect spot to secure and protect appliances, like your extra washer and dryer set or that old microwave from your college dorm room, while they’re not in use.

Clothing

Clothing, including shoes, should be packed in airtight boxes or bins—you don’t want pests to chew through those Anthropologie sweaters you splurged on all those years ago. We also recommend going with climate-controlled storage to avoid damage from mold or mildew.

Books

Books are similar to apparel and furniture: pack them in airtight boxes to protect them from humidity and pest damage. If your first edition copy of Macbeth warped while in storage, Shakespeare might roll in his grave.

Electronics

As long as electronics are in a climate-controlled unit, they’ll be safe and sound (and protected from extreme temperatures). Make sure you carefully wrap them and pack them in boxes to prevent scratches, dents, or dust from clogging up vents. You never know when you might want to pull out that extra TV.

Cars, boats, motorcycles, and RVs

Most registered vehicles are fine to sit in storage—though some facilities also require that the vehicle is insured and operable. If you’re a car aficionado and need a home for your vintage 1970 Datsun 240Z, check your facility’s policy on non-operating vehicles.

Tires

If you have snow tires you swap for your standard tires in the winter, stash your extra set in storage when it’s not in use. Keep in mind: Most facilities won’t let you store more than four tires in your storage unit at a time. Tire recycling is pricey, so this rule exists in case you bail without claiming your belongings and the storage facility has to handle tire disposal on your behalf.

Alcohol

Stashing beer, wine, and spirits in a storage unit is completely acceptable. In fact, some facilities even specialize in wine storage and come with built-in wine racks and shelves. (Your storage unit is also a great place to hide your alcohol from your teenagers.)

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PACKING TIP

PACKING TIP

Make the most of the space in your storage unit by removing the legs (when possible) from your dining, coffee, and side tables—this will make them easier to stack.

Items that can sometimes be stored in a storage unit

Some storage facilities restrict certain items or require that your belongings be packed in a certain way. To find out more, contact your facility directly.

Taxidermy

Taxidermied items can attract pests, which is why not every storage facility allows them. Check your facility’s rules before you drop off your mounted moose heads.

Registered firearms and weapons caches

If your storage facility allows guns, they likely do so under strict guidelines. Most facilities require that customers store their guns unloaded and provide a firearm permit.

Certain nonperishable foods

Canned goods, MREs (Meal, Ready-to-Eat), freeze-dried foods in airtight packaging, and dry pasta, wheat, rice, beans, milks, and other grains are usually OK to sit in storage. Just don’t store anything that isn’t sealed or that will attract vermin.

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HEADS UP

HEADS UP

Generally speaking, insurance policies for self-storage don’t cover cash, so we recommend you don’t stash any in your unit (even if you hide it super well).

Items that can’t be stored in a storage unit

Rules and regulations vary from facility to facility, and your state may also have laws about what you can and can’t store in your unit. Always check with the staff at your storage facility if you have questions.

In general, though, there are a few major categories of items that are never allowed in storage.

Scented or wet items

Steer clear of wet items, like an umbrella—they’re breeding grounds for mold, mildew, and bacteria. Also, be cautious of items with strong smells—these can attract insects and rodents and might make your storage neighbors unhappy, too.

Perishable food

Don’t plan on storing meat, cereal, dairy products, produce, or any other type of food that can spoil. Even your dog’s kibble is a no-go.

Combustible and flammable items

Flammable items put your storage unit at risk of catching fire. If there’s a spike in temperature, combustible materials could explode. Here’s a full list of things to avoid:

  • Propane tanks
  • Aerosols (e.g., hairspray and cooking spray)
  • Jerry cans (fuel cans)
  • Gasoline or anything containing gasoline
  • Lighter fluid
  • Linseed oil
  • Paint
  • Explosives
  • Fireworks
  • Kerosene lamps
  • Fertilizer
  • Asbestos or anything containing asbestos
  • Acid (car batteries and drain cleaners may contain acid)
  • Propane tanks
  • Biological waste (e.g., syringes and needles)
  • Toxic or corrosive waste (e.g., old batteries and leftover paint)

Hazardous materials

Combustible liquids and hazardous chemicals aren’t allowed. Here’s the full list of these prohibited items that will get the boot:

  • Cleaning products
  • Ammonia or bleach
  • Insecticides
  • Roofing tar
  • Pesticides
  • Paint, paint thinner, and paint remover

Garbage

This may seem obvious, but garbage belongs in the dumpster. Trash attracts bugs and vermin—plus, it’ll stink up the place.

Plants

Plants can’t survive without daily sunshine and regular water; they also attract insects and other pests and therefore aren’t allowed in storage. Gardeners, you can stow away your shovels, pots, and other tools in your unit, just not your live plants.

Animals (dead or alive)

Don’t have enough space in your current pad for your turtle terrarium or 75-gallon fish tank? Thinking of setting it up in your storage unit instead? Think again. For ethical reasons, you aren’t allowed to leave pets in storage.

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PRO TIP

PRO TIP

Invest in space bags or other airtight storage containers to protect your belongings from humidity and pests.

One last thing

It’s illegal to live or work in a storage unit. In other words, you can’t turn your storage unit into your home or office. If you get caught for either, you’ll likely forfeit your unit (and get in trouble with the law).

Recommended resources

If renting a self-storage unit is the right move for you, kickstart your research with our best self-storage companies lists.

About Julia Campbell

Julia Campbell
Julia Campbell is a full-time writer who knows the tricks of the trade when it comes to planning a hassle-free move. Having moved seven times in the past five years, she draws from her own experience and industry expertise to help you avoid her biggest mistakes (like that time she thought she could get away with packing her dishes without wrapping them first).
  • Amy Winters

    Thanks for pointing out that cleaning supplies can’t be put in a storage unit since they’re usually combustible or hazardous. My husband and I want to use a storage unit to clear out our guest bedroom so my sister can stay with us for a few months. I have some cleaning products in that room currently, so I’ll make sure to find a place for them other than the storage unit. https://northstarministorage.com/locations/minneapolis/

  • Daphne Gilpin

    I’m glad you mentioned the importance of checking with the staff at the specific storage facility we’re considering because rules about what can’t be stored can vary by facility and state. My sister and her husband will be moving soon, and I know they want to put some of their old furniture in a storage unit. I’m grateful that you shared this advice because it should help them avoid any issues as they find a storage unit and move their things into it. http://www.kochstministorage.com/our-services

  • Darrien Hansen

    You make a good point when you mention how storage facilities are able to store your seasonal decorations until you need to retrieve them each year. My wife likes to purchase fragile Christmas ornaments every year, and she is worried that our new child might accidentally damage them if he plays in the garage. I’ll let her know that we should consider finding a storage facility for her ornaments.
    https://stadiumstoragewa.com/