Attack of the Mold

Lubabah Memon |

Mold can grow anywhere, and it’s most likely to grow in enclosed spaces like your storage unit.  Identifying this substance is not too difficult, because you’ll see fuzzy blotches of brown, green, black, white, or some variation of orange.  As soon as you see something like this in your storage unit, you have a big problem.  Mold can pretty much devour your stuff and damage it beyond repair.  If it gets into your unit, it’ll spread like wildfire and you’ll have to dispose of everything.  They say mold can be found everywhere, so how can you prevent it from getting into your storage unit?

The Fight Against Mold

The number one way to reduce chances of mold in your unit is to reduce the amount of moisture in the air.  Mold thrives on humidity, so you have to rid your space of it.  Humidity and the accumulation of excess moisture can cause mold to grow within 24 to 48 hours, and once it’s there, there’s no turning back.  Be sure to rent a climate controlled unit to help reduce humidity.  Keeping humidity below 50% will decrease the chances of mold growing and spreading, and it’ll also prevent rust, rotting, and mildew growth.  It can definitely help to have a dehumidifier in your unit as well, but this isn’t necessarily the most cost effective solution.

When you select your unit, check for leaks or potential areas where leaks can start, like cracks in the walls or ceilings.  This is especially important in outdoor units.

Also, never move in on a rainy day because the moisture that gets packed in during the moving process is almost impossible to get out.

Preventative Measures

Before getting into how to prevent mold from developing and spreading, let’s take a quick look at the types of things that are most susceptible to mold:  photos, electronics, wood, mattresses, clothing, soft plastics, leather, paper products, and upholstered furniture.  You’ll have to be very careful with storing these things so you don’t lose them to mold.

In order to prevent mold from developing, make sure everything you are putting in your unit is clean.  Use disinfectant wipes to clean things like your refrigerator, stove, and other appliances that store food or may have food residue on them.  Having any type of food in your storage unit, as little as it may be, is enough to ruin everything you have in there.

Also, be sure that the items you are storing are not wet or damp before you store them.  Regular plastic keeps in moisture, increasing the chances that mold will grow, so do not put things in plastic unless you are going to vacuum-seal it.

Next, pack all of your belongings to protect them from moisture.  Wrap furniture and mattresses with furniture blankets and then cover them with plastic sheets—as long as the plastic isn’t directly touching the furniture and there’s a layer of fabric, there shouldn’t be a buildup of moisture.  Put any clothes inside wardrobe boxes.  If the floor is concrete, put your stuff on top of slabs of wood because this will keep your stuff away from condensation.

Cost Effective Ways to Prevent Moisture

Besides renting a unit with a dehumidifier or putting one in yourself, there are a number of things you can do to prevent excess moisture from accumulating in your storage unit.  One thing you can do is to put silica gel packets in your storage unit because they absorb 40% of their weight in moisture.  These work great, but after some time they need to be regenerated.  They can be reused if you bake them for about three hours at 300 degrees Fahrenheit to dry them out.

Charcoal is another great moisture absorber.  Simply place an open box of charcoal in your storage unit, but make sure you replace it every 30 to 60 days to continuously keep out moisture.

Another thing you can use is clay cat litter.  Place it in a bucket and put it in your unit.  The clay will absorb moisture and is very effective in preventing the growth of mold and mildew.

Lastly, if you live in a city in which the climate is very humid, you should use a vapor barrier, which is a polyethylene plastic or foil coating used to eliminate moisture in a room.  This should be put on the warm side of the storage unit’s wall to block out moisture and on the floor to prevent moisture from seeping up from the ground.  You can easily find vapor barriers at most home goods stores.

What Can You Expect From the Facility?

There’s actually not too much that facility managers actively do to prevent mold in storage units.  However, there are some things that can be done, so check to see if the facility that you’re planning to store at does any of these things.  For one thing, managers could go open everyone’s storage unit once a month to let some air in and moisture out.  Sometimes units can get really stuffy and all they need is some fresh air.  Privacy concerns do come to play here though, so chances are that this won’t be something that you’ll commonly find.  For managers of facilities that are located in cities that have a very humid climate, they can have humidifiers available for you to rent along with your storage unit.  This way, it won’t be a hassle for you to go get one, especially if you only need it for a few months.  Lastly, managers can ensure that the units are insulated so that moisture doesn’t make its way into the unit.  Insulated units are actually quite common, especially in cities with high humidity, so it should be fairly easy for you to find one.

Proof and Claims

After you have put everything in your unit, make sure you take pictures or make a video of the unit as you leave it.  If you decide to purchase an insurance policy from the storage facility, be aware that it probably doesn’t cover damage caused by mold.  Storage facilities do not accept responsibility for damage caused by mold, so make sure you get insurance for the things in your storage unit from elsewhere.  Homeowners or renters insurance is probably your best bet.  If your stuff loses the battle to mold, you’ll have your pictures ready to get the value of your stuff, and can hopefully be financially compensated for your loss.