Why You Should Not Store Outdated Electronics in the Basement

Everybody saves old electrical devices–just in case. The jumble of wires, phones, cameras, floppies, remotes, keyboards, routers, etc. are often tossed in a box or two and shoved into a basement corner. Is this really a good idea?

Why You Should Not Store Outdated Electronics in the Basemen

Basements are a convenient storage area for seldom-used items including electronics. Unfortunately, many basement environments can damage contents–especially electrical devices.

Risks in Basement Storage for Old Electronics

1. Moisture

Most basements are more humid than the rest of the house. Excess moisture causes rust and corrosion on metal parts–especially batteries that have not been removed. (Even “dead” batteries retain enough electrical charge to attract moisture.)

Moisture in the air adheres to any dirt and dust left on devices. Even plastic becomes sticky and gums up–needing time-consuming cleaning when and if the device is ever used again.

Humidity and moisture can make some electronic devices useless or cause malfunctions and short circuits. Modern chips are very sensitive to moisture and are easily damaged.

Basement humidity over 60% encourages mold growth. Mold does not grow on plastic but on the dirt on and in the devices. It grows on any organic material. Cardboard boxes and some types of packaging grow mold. Unchecked mold growth eventually destroys electronics.

2. Temperature

Electronics are also sensitive to extreme temperature changes. Some basement or crawl space temperatures vary between near freezing and very hot. This type of environment will eventually cause permanent damage.

3. Flooding

All flooding around a house eventually ends up in the basement. Most plumbing leaks and sewer backups also happen in basements. Very few electrical devices survive a good soaking. Even cleaned and dried, they are prone to continuing or intermittent problems.

4. Pests

Basements tend to attract more pests than other parts of the house. Easy access, moisture, and warmth invite bugs and rodents. Most invaders ignore electronics. Some don’t.

Mice and rats do not eat plastic but they gnaw on almost anything to wear down incisor teeth. Unprotected wires and plastic components will be permanently damaged or destroyed if chewed on.

A few insects have evolved to eat and digest plastic. Fortunately, they are not common–yet. Insects that get into basements might hide and lay eggs in electronic devices. Predators like spiders will follow and add webs and young.

Better Basement Storage

Electronics can be stored safely in basements with some precautions.

  • Humidity Control. Best humidity for electronic devices is between 40% and 50%.
  • Temperature Control. Temperatures should be kept between 50 degrees F and 80 degrees F.
  • Containers. Use original packaging if available. Wrap in plastic or bubble wrap. Store in plastic containers with tight lids. Ensure all packaging is tightly sealed to keep out dust, bugs, and moisture.
  • Location. Keep the boxes or containers off the floor and away from concrete walls–especially if using cardboard containers. (Cold concrete attracts condensation.) On a shelf or in a cupboard is best.

Inspecting stored electronics at least once a year is a good way to spot problems like moisture, mold, and pests. Fixing problems early increases the longevity of electronics.