Have you ever opened a container that’s been in storage for a while and been overwhelmed by a musty smell?
That smell is because you didn’t use a waterproof storage container and excess moisture got in your storage tote.
This can be condensation from warm moist air, as well as spills or leaks from fluids we keep in the garage.
We’re currently cleaning out a few of our closets and putting the items in storage totes in the garage. But we want to make sure that we’re packing up everything the right way.
It’s easy to throw your seldom-used items in a storage tote and forget about it. However, storing your stuff in a humid garage could lead to moisture build-up inside the totes, ruining the things inside.
In this article, we’ll cover how to keep moisture out of storage containers, totes, and storage boxes.
We’ll start by preparing the right area in your garage for storage, then work on how you can reduce the risk of moisture damage inside the totes themselves.
First, let me tell you about my favorite waterproof storage containers that I use in my garage.
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My Favorite Waterproof Storage Containers
Waterproof storage containers are the best way to keep moisture out of your storage containers. They’re specifically designed to prevent water, moisture, and other elements from entering the container, protecting your belongings from damage.
We looked at several waterproof storage totes from different manufacturers like Rubbermaid, Sterlite, and Craftsman.
However, we ended up choosing the Iris Weathertight Totes, and we love them!
They’re incredibly durable, easy to use, and come in twelve different sizes and shapes. They can be used for anything from organizing your garage to storing food and other items outdoors.
Each tote has six heavy-duty latches on the lid and a foam gasket that helps make them waterproof. During my initial tests, I sprayed them with a garden hose, and the contents inside stayed nice and dry.
The Iris storage totes stack really well, too. Each bin’s base sits snugly into a groove on the lid of the one below.
Iris makes the Weathertight in different sizes and colors for The Container Store, Lowe’s, and Home Depot. However, the lids are interchangeable, so you can mix and match them if you like.
Although I didn’t experience this, it’s worth noting that some people found the Iris waterproof storage containers became brittle in cold temperatures. If your garage drops below freezing in the winter, you may want to try a different brand of storage container.
How to Keep Moisture Out of Storage Containers
If your totes are exposed to moisture, anything you’re storing in them could become exposed to mildew, mold, or corrosion. It’s not uncommon for metal tools to rust inside a garage, even when the homeowner thought they were well protected.
Let’s take a look at five ways to prevent that from happening.
1. Control Humidity in your Garage
Temperature differences and humidity in the room are one of the main reasons moisture forms inside your storage totes.
Condensation forms whenever the temperature changes from hot to cold.
You’ve probably seen this process when water forms inside a window when it’s cold outside. The warmer water vapor touches the cold window and instantly becomes a liquid again.
This occurs most often when you store food items in your storage totes. However, dry goods like books and clothing will encourage condensation if you store them someplace with high humidity.
To prevent condensation in your storage totes, keep them where the temperature and humidity levels are generally constant.
Ideally, this would mean keeping them in an insulated, air-conditioned space. If that’s not feasible, use a dehumidifier in your garage to keep the humidity below the dew point in your room.
The dew point in your garage depends on its relative humidity.
For example, if your garage has 45% humidity, the dew point is between 42° – 50° F (6° – 10° C). You can compute the dew point for your garage using this calculator.
2. Ensure Adequate Ventilation and Airflow
Once you start storing several totes in one place, it can reduce airflow in your garage. Without that air flowing, the temperature inside the totes can rise considerably, increasing the chance of condensation forming.
Keeping open space between your totes, even as little as 12″, can help stop the buildup of heat. Without heat, condensation and moisture will have a much harder time forming inside your storage totes.
Stacking your totes away from the wall also helps. In addition to limiting air circulation, totes touching an exterior wall could be affected by weather changes outside.
Installing electric fans in the back corners of your garage is a great way to circulate the air in your garage.
I have a wall-mounted Air King fan in my garage, and I love how it keeps the air moving and cools down the room in the hot Florida summers.
Even if you go with a different fan than I did, there are a few things to make sure you look for when shopping. I wrote a great buyer’s guide for garage fans that highlights these and offers tips on what models I would choose in my garage.
3. Store Totes Off The Floor
Anything on the floor will be susceptible to flooding or accidental water spills. That can lead to moisture inside your storage totes.
Even in areas where spills or flooding are extremely rare, ground moisture can still get into your storage totes. Concrete is porous, which means it holds moisture unless it’s sealed.
With this in mind, keep your totes as far away from the floor as possible.
4. Be Sure The Items Are Dry
If the items you’re packing contain moisture, it will eventually create condensation in your storage tote.
This is why you must ensure that your items are completely dry before you pack them away.
If you’re storing clothes in your garage, it can be as simple as letting them sit in your room for a few hours after washing them before packing them in the tote. The dehumidified room will help eliminate any excess moisture trapped in the fabric.
Food is a little more complicated.
You need to ensure they are as dry as possible before storage and avoid storing hot food before it has had a chance to cool to room temperature. The steam coming off the food will form condensation on the container lid.
Let it sit for 15-20 minutes to adapt to the room temperature for a few hours before you store it.
This eliminates any differences between the internal temperatures of the storage tote and the external temperature in the storage area, preventing condensation from forming.
5. Add Moisture Absorbents or Use Waterproof Storage Containers
Another great way to eliminate moisture and condensation inside your storage totes is to add moisture absorbents before sealing up the container.
Moisture absorbers, also called desiccants, are small chemical packs that help absorb moisture in the air. They’re relatively inexpensive and usually made from silica gel.
You can also make your own desiccant packs by buying silica gel in bulk from your local store. It costs around $20 for approximately 5 lbs (2kg) of gel. Then, cut some fabric to make some small square pockets, fill them with the gel and sew up the pockets.
You can also use lumps of charcoal if you want to avoid buying silica gel. The charcoal will also remove unpleasant odors, but there is a risk of staining the items in the tote from charcoal dust.
Either way, remember that you can’t throw desiccants in the tote and leave them there. They have to be monitored and replaced once they’ve accumulated moisture.
For charcoal desiccants, you need to replace the charcoal inside. On the other hand, silica gel pockets can be dried in the oven and reused.
Depending on your humidity levels and how often you expose them to air, you may need to replace your desiccants every six to eighteen months.
Finally, several companies make waterproof storage containers that seal against outside air. This, combined with a moisture absorber, will help keep your items safe.
Wrapping It Up
It’s easy to prevent moisture from getting in your storage totes, but you’ll need to be proactive.
Start by setting up the area in your garage or storage unit to reduce the risk of moisture. Ensure that the items you’re storing are as dry as possible. Use silica gel packs, desiccants, or some form of moisture absorber for storage containers as a backup.
Finally, waterproof storage containers and totes are the most effective method I’ve found to protect your valuables as much as possible.
I’ve shopped around and found the cheapest places to buy storage bins and totes. Learn more here!