How to store winter clothes during the warmer months

Coats, boots, and other winter gear is expensive. Store it properly to avoid bad smells, bugs, and preventable damage.
a pile of white and brown sweaters
Protect your wools from bugs and funks. DepositPhotos

Spring is upon us, and with the changing of seasons comes a change of wardrobes. For many, that means tucking away winter clothes to make room in closets and drawers for warm-weather items. But improper storage could result in funky smells at best and serious damage at worst, leaving you to re-purchase pricey winter staples come next year. Taking care to store your warm clothes correctly can increase their lifespan and make it easier to break them out when needed. 

Get rid of clothes you no longer want or need

Since you’ll be going through your clothes anyway, this is a great time to do some spring cleaning in your closet. There’s no sense prepping clothes or gear for storage if you don’t wear them. So, as you prep your items for hibernation, take time to get rid of items that you no longer want or need. Items that no longer fit or don’t suit your style can be donated, sold to consignment shops, or listed on secondhand websites and apps. Virtual services like Poshmark and even the venerable eBay work like online thrift stores for selling higher-priced or desirable items. For pieces that are worn out, cut them up and use them for rags, or look for clothing recycling options near you.  

If you’re donating clothes, dropping them in the donation bins or even at stores like Goodwill doesn’t necessarily ensure that the clothes will go to people. Many get items get recycled or shredded, but many also end up in landfills. Look for local programs that provide clothes directly to the community.

Start with clean clothes

Once you’ve edited your wardrobe, you’ll want to prepare your winter staples for storage. That means washing everything so that you aren’t storing dirty items. Starting with clean clothes will help prevent any unpleasant odors from building and soaking in, as well as prevent pests. It’s always best to treat stains as soon as possible in general, but that’s especially true if you are about to put that item aside for many months. Stains that are left to sit that long could end up impossible to get out, so do your best to remedy them before tucking things away for the season. 

You should wash and dry your clothes as you normally would, depending on the care instructions for each item. Now would also be a good time to wash your winter jackets, which typically don’t get cleaned very often. If you have heated clothing items, be sure to remove any batteries and read care instructions extra closely. For snow boots to store, you’ll also want to clean off any dirt or salt stains and make sure they are totally dry. 

Choose the right container

After your items are clean, it’s time to choose the right containers and storage method. First things first, though. Items with stretch should be folded and stored flat, as hanging them for long periods could result in misshaping. Clothing items that are prone to wrinkling, on the other hand, should be hung, as folding and stacking them could result in creases that are next to impossible to remove without using a steamer or even dry cleaning. 

If space is at a premium, vacuum seal bags will be your best friend. These come in a range of sizes, and some even feature built-in hangers to store things vertically. They allow you to compress items significantly, saving loads of space for storage. They also keep items fresh and clean since they are fully sealed off from outside contaminants and pests. Keep in mind, though, that some bags only work with specific types of vacuums, so be sure to do some research based on whether you have a household vacuum or shop vac before purchasing your bags. 

Some items, such as down jackets or heavy wool clothing, should not be stored long-term in vacuum seal bags, as it can cause permanent misshaping or damage to the loft inside. Instead, feather-filled clothing needs to be stored loosely. That could mean hanging them up in a garment bag or placing them in airtight plastic totes. The same holds true for wool or other natural fiber clothing items. Just keep in mind that if you opt for a tote, you should avoid packing things tightly, or you’ll run into the same issues as vacuum sealing. 

If you have extra delicate or vintage items, these require special care. Wrap them in acid-free tissue paper to protect the garments. The acid in regular tissue can break down fibers, so be sure to invest in acid-free paper. These materials also don’t handle plastic as well, so instead, consider an archival storage box for the most protection. 

Plan for pests

It’s always extremely disappointing to pull your favorite sweater out of storage in the fall only to discover holes from moths. We’d recommend skipping mothballs, which can leave an unpleasant smell. Instead, to prevent those pesky pests from wreaking havoc on your clothes, place lavender sachets or pieces of cedar in with your clothes. You could also use charcoal bags to help absorb odors, which could be especially helpful when storing boots and shoes. 

Choose a storage location

The final step in storing winter clothes is choosing where to stash it all. Of course, many of us are limited on options in terms of storage locations, but where you keep your winter clothes can have a big impact on their longevity. 

It’s important to choose a location that is cool, dry, and away from sunlight to protect your clothes. You’ll also want to avoid a spot that experiences large temperature variations. Direct sunlight can fade colors, so it’s especially important to avoid the sun if you use clear containers. Humid locations, such as a garage, can result in mold or mildew forming, destroying your winter wardrobe. If you are worried about moisture, whether in the environment or lingering in items when you store them, consider throwing in some desiccant packs. It’s not a bad idea to save them from packages throughout the winter so that you don’t have to purchase any. 

If you don’t have a temperature-controlled attic or basement, under a bed is a great option. There are even many totes designed to fit in such a space, or you can opt for a bed frame with drawers to hide it all away.