Discovering a 15-Year-Old Crawl Space Food Stash: The Worst Items to Store

Storing any food that rots, gets moldy, or can be eaten by rodents or insects in a crawl space is a waste of time, energy, and money. This includes anything that is not canned, sealed, or close to airtight.

This 15 year old stash of canned food I found in my crawl space from the house’s previous owner
“This 15 year old stash of canned food I found in my crawl space from the house’s previous owner” – Reddit.

Foods To Keep Out of Crawl Spaces

Canned food like soup and vegetables are safe to store in a crawl space. Here is a partial list of the types of food to keep out of crawl spaces.

  • Sugar and flour.
  • Rice and noodles.
  • Dog food, cat food, and kitty litter.
  • Tea and coffee in bags.
  • Bread and baking.
  • Fresh vegetables and fruit.
  • Laundry detergent.
  • Paper products–tissues, etc.

Any of these products stored unprotected can be damaged or destroyed if stored in a crawl space. Pests are attracted to food smells and mold grows in the right conditions.

Crawl Space Food Storage Problems

Most people think of pest problems when storing food in crawl spaces. There are other considerations.

1. Pests

Rodents–mice, rats, squirrels–will chew on almost anything to wear down their incisor teeth. Cardboard, plastic bags, wrapping, or even wood containers do not keep them out for long. Cockroaches and ants do not chew through plastic bags but will feast on any of the spilled contents.

2. Humidity

Many crawl spaces are very humid due to leaks, water infiltration, and condensation. The moisture from humid air penetrates some types of plastic and is absorbed by cardboard and paper. Humidity over 60% encourages mold growth on any organic material including food, cardboard, wood, and dust.

3. Storage Containers

The best food storage containers are factory-produced cans. The food stays fresh and the cans resist moisture and pests. Five-gallon pails with tight lids keep out moist air, water, and all but the most determined pests like raccoons.

Cardboard boxes are the worst choice for storage containers–whether original packaging or not. Pests can easily get into them. They attract and hold moisture. Mold grows on them.

4. Rotation and Access

Food stored in a crawl space is less handy than food in the cupboard. So it tends to be neglected. Sometimes well past its “best before” date. Any type of food with short expiration dates stored in a crawl space is in danger of spoiling. Stored food has to be checked regularly.

Crawl spaces with difficult access such as trap doors, are another deterrent to consistently rotating and replenishing stored food in crawl spaces. Unless properly prepared and maintained, crawl spaces make poor root cellars.

How To Store Food In a Crawl Space

Insulated crawl spaces or encapsulated crawl spaces with easy access can make good food storage locations. They are clean, dry, usually pest-free, and make organization fairly simple.

Any food stored in crawl spaces needs to be in factory-made cans or heavy plastic pails with tight lids. Plastic lockers provide extra protection against pests and humidity for food in sealed plastic bags or cardboard boxes like cereal. Well-sealed glass containers also eliminate pest and humidity problems–although they are more difficult to handle.