17 Things You Should Never Store in Your Basement
Yes, it's right there—but that doesn't mean you should use it.
If you’ve got an unfinished basement, you’re probably using it for one reason: storage. However, keeping any prized possessions or little-used items in a damp, dark, temperately fluctuating dungeon might not be the piece-of-cake solution you think it is. In fact, keeping all that stuff in your home’s lowest level can irrevocably tarnish your valuables and—in some cases—even put your home at risk of major disaster. So, read on to learn all about the items you should never store in your basement.
Your beloved family photo albums won’t be long for this world if you’re keeping them in the basement. “Your photos will not survive humid environments and over time, even dryness will make them brittle,” says Karin Socci, a Master Certified KonMari Consultant and owner of The Serene Home. “It’s far better to transfer the media to cloud-based formats so that you will have images that are easy to share.”
The deed to your house, your car title, and your tax return should be stored somewhere safe—but your basement isn’t that place. “Documents should not be kept in either the attic or the basement,” says professional organizer Susan Santoro, founder of organizing website Organized31. Instead, keep them in a home office (or desk).
If you’ve got family heirlooms you’re hoping to pass on, it’s never a safe bet to store them in the basement. “Your basement may have never flooded up until now, but that’s no guarantee it will never happen,” says Socci. “A pipe could burst or unusual weather activity could cause unexpected flooding. If you have ever witnessed the aftereffects of a flooded basement, you know that water and mildew spare nothing.”
Humid environments, like basements, are prime real estate for mold and mildew, meaning you won’t want to store bedding down there unless it’s well-sealed. After all, you probably don’t want to press your face and body against something that’s been invaded by potentially-harmful mold spores, which can cause everything from headaches to respiratory distress.
Your children’s or grandchildren’s beloved toys have no business in your basement. Firstly, there’s the ever-present risk of mold and mildew. Secondly, basement storage means you’re risking water damage courtesy of burst pipes. Thirdly, the brutal cold and intense heat you may find in a basement without an HVAC system can also cause the batteries inside electronic toys to burst. And lastly, two words: pest damage.
Putting your bike in the basement may keep it out of the way, but it can also make it unusable when you need it. The temperature fluctuations in your basement can cause your tires to lose pressure, so it’s best to store it in a more climate-controlled space when possible.
If you’re storing pet food in your basement, you’re asking for pests to make it their home. Bags of dog or cat food can easily be opened by mice and the humidity in your basement may even shorten the shelf life of bags of kibble.
Those cans may not need to be refrigerated, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need a climate-controlled environment. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, cans that accidentally freeze in a basement have the potential to cause health problems for those consuming them, and cans that have been frozen but have subsequently thawed outside of a refrigerator are no longer safe for consumption.
Brass and Woodwind Instruments
While you may want your kids’ instruments to stop cluttering up the living room, the basement isn’t the right place to store them. “The basement is the worst place to store an instrument,” says Lucas Workman, a brass repair technician at Siegfried’s Call, a New York-based horn outfitter. “The big enemy when it comes to storing instruments is humidity. That moisture just stays and it can even affect the finish of the instrument. The residual water in them can grow into mold. The pads and the fabric in woodwinds can start to crack.”
If you want to keep your wine delicious and drinkable, your basement—with its fluctuating temperatures—isn’t the place to do so. Temperature changes and humidity can cause your wine to change dramatically in terms of both color and flavor, so it’s better to keep it in a drier, more consistently cool part of the house.
If your basement is home to your furnace, it’s probably a good idea to keep spare gas cans somewhere else. As a general rule, anything combustible, like gasoline, should be given wide berth from potential fire hazards like furnaces.
Surprisingly enough, cat litter is yet another product you’re better off keeping out of the basement. In addition to potentially clumping when it’s exposed to moisture like the humidity in your basement, if you’re actually letting your pet use your basement as a bathroom, the ammonia in their urine becomes potentially combustible when stored too close to your furnace.
That pricey cord of firewood won’t do much good to keep you warm if it’s kept in your basement. In addition to potentially attracting pests, the humidity in your basement can make that wood damp—and less than ideal for starting a fire.
The temperature fluctuations in your basement make it a poor choice for storing propane. Propane tanks can explode if left in extreme heat, so if your basement gets unseasonably warm, they could potentially explode. In one notable 1983 incident, in Buffalo, New York, six people—five of them firefighters—were killed and 70 more were injured from a fire and explosion caused by illegally stored propane.
If you’re storing your DVD collection in the basement, let’s hope you’ve got streaming subscriptions, because those discs won’t last long. The temperature fluctuation in your basement can easily cause those DVDs to warp and become unplayable.
Can you store your records in your basement? Sure—if you don’t care if you can hear the songs when you’re ready to play them. Not only are their cardboard sleeves a picnic for pests, that vinyl can warp and crack in your basement’s extreme temperatures.
That signature scent may not smell so sweet if you’ve been storing it in your basement. Temperature fluctuations and humidity can affect your perfume or cologne’s fragrance and cause it to lose its potency over time. And for smarter ways to keep your life in order, check out these 20 Genius Ways for Having a Perfectly Organized Desk.
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