The attic is a common storage area. All too often, however, when hired to clean out, reinsulate or sanitize an attic space, we see all kinds of stored items that should never have been there. If your attic serves as a personal storage unit, it’s essential that you learn which items should never be stored in the attic to keep you, household occupants, and the stored items safe and secure.
We also recommend reading our post, Good or Bad: Using Your Attic for Storage, for professional recommendations on how to safely prepare your attic to be used as a storage space.
Here is a list of the Top 10 items that should be stored away from the attic.
Regardless of how well they are sealed, toxic household cleaning or maintenance products should never be stored in the attic. In addition to being potentially flammable (see next), toxic products constantly off-gas into their environment. These fumes make their way unnoticed into other living areas and can be blown into bedrooms and living spaces via the HVAC’s air ducts (which often run through the attic).
Store anything toxic outside of the home, preferably in a detached storage shed. Studies show that households that store toxins in attached garages have worse indoor air quality than those that keep them in completely separate buildings.
Click Here to read FEMA’s Guide on Keeping Your Household Safe From Toxic Chemicals.
Anything that is considered flammable should be stored outside or in an area of the home where fire/smoke would be more quickly detected. The attic is usually a completely open space which means the fire has the ability to quickly spread up into the rafters, roofing materials, and down the exterior walls, causing rapid fire damage.
Holiday decorations are only used once per year, so the attic makes a logical storage place. However, delicate fabrics and painted decor can be heat and moisture-sensitive. If your attic tends to be hot in the summer months or is prone to dampness, you might want to keep more delicate items stored in a location with better year-round temperature and humidity control.
As with the above, painted items, art should never be stored in the attic. Unless you have a completely finished attic, the fluctuating heat and moisture levels will slowly deteriorate art. If pests have been an issue, you may also find they’ve done damage to art via chewing or staining/ruin as a result of their urine and feces.
Art should be displayed or stored in a moderated climate. If you’re holding on to things you don’t technically like but are sentimental, this is a good time to find someone who will appreciate them and put them on display.
Old saddles, an antique leather chair or couch, and other leather goods can be ruined by the seasonal changes in humidity. Eventually, leather will either mold or dry out and crack, which can make it impossible to repair.
If you’re storing things in cardboard boxes, keep an eye on storage tote sales at your nearby hardware or home goods store. It only takes one leak or moisture issue in the attic to completely destroy cardboard. Cardboard wicks up moisture like a sponge so even a small pool of water can ruin an entire box and its contents.
Cardboard also makes great fodder for mold and mildew, so even if the initial water damage doesn’t destroy it, the mold/mildew rot will, and then the colonies will make their way to the box’s contents. Swapping cardboard boxes for sealed plastic totes is a quick and easy solution.
If you’ve had a mold/mildew problem in the past or have noticed your attic’s cardboard boxes look warped or have evidence of moisture damage, visit our post, Eliminate Toxins in the Home with Attic Cleaning and Ventilation.
Most instruments are made from wood, animal hair/fibers, or a combination of both. They are incredibly susceptible to changes in both temperature and humidity, as well as mold/mildew infestations. Wood and string instruments are the most susceptible to damage in an attic, especially if they are stored in cases that contain fabric (mold- and pest-susceptible), which many older cases do.
As with art, we recommend storing instruments in cases with humidity control packs elsewhere in the home, or loan/donate/give them to someone or a school who can use them and take good care of them for good or until you have a better storage alternative.
Wool, silk, linen or other natural fabric blankets, antique clothing, jackets, etc., should not be boxed up or stored in an attic. In addition to being susceptible to rats, moths, and carpet beetles, which can gobble fabric up in a single season or before you even know they’re around, wool can rot fairly quickly if it is damp for too long and doesn’t have a chance to air out.
We’re focusing on wool, but all natural fibers are susceptible to damage if stored too long without airing or regular inspections for damage.
Consistently high temperatures, even without a flame, can melt wax into unusable or unrecognizable lumps. If you store storm or blackout candles in the attic, swap them out for something more durable and keep the wax in a more temperature-controlled environment.
Also susceptible to moisture and mold are books and paper documents. The attic can seem like a safe place but you are better off storing books and paper items in an area where moisture issues would be noticed before permanent damage can be done.
Other items that are sensitive to heat, moisture, and pest damage include:
Notice a theme on this list? Temperature, moisture/humidity, and pests can damage the majority of items homeowners typically store in the attic. The best way to keep everything safe is to ensure your attic is adequately insulated, sealed, and ventilated and to store vulnerable items elsewhere in the home or in a climate-controlled storage area.
Need help cleaning or updating your attic space or insulation? Contact us here at Attic Solutions to schedule a free estimate.