Never Store These Things In Your Basement

Basements make a convenient storage location. Nearby. Secure. Relatively warm. But some items do not do well in basements. Some things should never be in the basement. Some should only be stored with special packaging.

What Makes the Basement a Poor Storage Site?

Many basements have the same issues as crawl space storage and attic storage. Poor storage locations usually have one or more of the following conditions.

  • Humidity and Water – Most basements have chronic high humidity, leading to condensation, mold, and moisture on or in stored items. Basement humidity should be kept below 60% to inhibit mold growth. Humidity levels around 30% are better for almost all stored items. Floods, leaking walls, and plumbing leaks damage or destroy stored items and increase humidity.
  • Pests – Rodents and insects inside basements cause serious damage. Mice and rats chew almost anything. Roaches and silverfish eat almost anything including paper, bookbinding glue, cardboard, human food, pet food, etc. Mice can get through a hole the size of a dime. Insects only require small gaps and cracks to start an invasion. Unsealed basements invite pest infestations.
  • Temperature Fluctuations – Basement temperatures do not vary as much as attics, sheds, and crawl spaces. But they fluctuate enough to damage some types of items or even create dangerous situations.
  • Ventilation – Good basement ventilation is essential to reduce humidity and preserve stored items. Basements that are not dry and cool are often poor storage areas.

House basement storage

10 Things That Should Never Be Stored in Basements

Some things should never be stored in basements…period. They are dangerous. Others can be ruined.

1. Inflammable or Explosive Products

Gas, propane, and diesel are flammable and/or explosive. Many basements have open flames in furnaces and water heaters, or they have wood-burning appliances. Leaking fuel or even fumes can cause fires or explosions. Even the fumes are a health risk.

Do not store fuel containers or equipment like lawnmowers, weed whackers, or generators in the basement.

2. Batteries

Batteries can release harmful chemicals when exposed to too much humidity for too long. Humidity also corrodes the contacts. They can expand or burst if exposed to too much heat–making them useless.

3. Paint Supplies

Pain, paint thinner, Varathane, and other painting supplies are flammable. In case of fire, they can become an accelerant or even explode. Excess humidity can cause the separation of paint components–making it unusable.

4. Paper, Books, or Cardboard

Papers, books, and cardboard absorb moisture in humid basements. Mold grows on any organic material that is moist enough. Silverfish and roaches love eating the glue in book bindings. They eat anything, including paper and cardboard. Many insects nest and lay eggs in the corrugations of cardboard boxes.

Rodents gnaw on paper and use it for nests. Cardboard boxes do not deter them from getting to the contents.

5. Electronics

It is safe to store electronics in the basement but only if they are well-protected from moisture. If they are not stored properly in moisture-proof packaging they can corrode, rust, and become useless. It is best to store electronic equipment safely in warm dry locations.

6. Food

Food attracts pests. Unless stored in a dedicated root cellar, fresh fruits and vegetables attract pests and spoil quickly. Do not store food in the basement that comes in flimsy packaging. Humidity may penetrate it and ruin the contents or rodents will be attracted to the smell. Food can be stored in sealed plastic containers to extend its lifespan and deter pests.

Canned food can be stored safely in basements but temperature fluctuations may shorten its “best before” date.

7. Firewood

Firewood kept too long in humid basements absorbs moisture–making for poor fires. It provides food and nesting sites for insects and rodents. The wood may be infested with insects or insect eggs that hatch in warm humid basements. Mold grows on it and spreads if unchecked.

8. Pet Food and Cat Litter

Pet food stored in the basement attracts pests. If you feed your pet in the basement, remove uneaten food and water bowls every night. Open food attracts pests even quicker. Kitty litter in a humid basement absorbs moisture and clumps. The dust from cat litter has also been blamed for corroding furnaces.

9. Memorabilia and Antiques

Basement humidity discolors photographs. They stick together and tear. Wood items and fine linen absorb moisture and can become moldy. Wood can crack when it dries. Water from broken pipes and overland flooding always gets into the basement. Water ruins family heirlooms quicker than anything but fire.

10. Fabric, Clothing, Bedding, and Plush Toys

All of these items absorb moisture easily. They can become hosts for mold, mildew, and moths. Even after several washings that musty basementy smell is still in them. Pests may chew on them and/or build nests. Best to keep them out of the basement.

Never store anything dangerous or hazardous in your basement. If there are absolutely no other storage options for some of these items make sure they are in strong plastic containers with tight lids. Store them on shelves to protect them from flooding and inspect them regularly to reduce the chances of damage.