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How to Protect and Store Books in a Storage Unit

Do you have an overflow of books that you would like to store in a self-storage unit? Perhaps your toddler has outgrown some of her storybooks and you want to save them for the next child. Or, your son is off to college and you want make space for other things. Keeping books clean and dry is the key to protecting them from the damage that dirt, water, and heat can impose.

Kids reading a Book

Dirt and Mildew

The first step is to review your books to identify any that are already damaged from dirt, mold or mildew. Plan on cleaning those books thoroughly before storing them away. Dirt can be dusted off with a soft cloth, while removing mold and mildew takes more effort. Check out this article from Biblio.com on how to Identify, Prevent, and Remove Mold and Mildew from Books."

Climate Control and Silica Gel

It is best to store books in a climate-controlled storage unit to keep them at temperatures below 70 degree Fahrenheit and humidity between 35 and 55 percent. If a climate-controlled unit is not available in your area, take into consideration your local climate. If you live in an area with weather that produces conditions close to those mentioned above, then silica gel packets can help preserve your books by absorbing excess moisture.

Also consider how valuable the books are to you and how long you plan to keep them. Will you toss those storybooks after child number three has grown or will you save them for your grandchildren to read? Then decide if climate control is required.

Acid Free Boxes

To keep chemicals from leeching into your books, use boxes that are free of acid and lignin. These boxes are often heavy corrugated cardboard with reinforced corners plus lids, which allow the books to breathe.

Some people do use Polyurethane plastic tubs, however, they can trap moisture, so be sure that they are clean and dry before sealing them up. As a test, you can leave a tightly sealed plastic box in your unit with a single piece of paper inside. Then, check back in a week to see if moisture or mildew has formed on that paper.

Stacking Books

Stacking books with their spines upwards will cause them to warp. It is better for the books to be stacked standing on edge as on a shelf. Place them close enough to keep them from falling over but not so close that they crimp and tear when you remove them later.

Shelves or Wooden Pallets

When it rains, water sometimes finds its way into a storage unit. To prevent water damage, protect your books by placing the boxes on shelves or wooden pallets, keeping them off the floor.

No Direct Heat or Sunlight

While your storage unit will not have windows, it might have a south-facing wall that can heat up during the day. Temperature changes from day-to-night can make books brittle, while actual sunlight will fade them. See if you can rent a unit that is not subject to extreme temperature changes.

Rodents and Bugs

Remember to avoid any boxes that are dirty themselves or that have odors that will attract rodents and bugs. Rodents can eat through the cardboard boxes and ruin books.

Silverfish, cockroaches, some beetles love to snack on glue and paper. Don’t invite them in! Keep your books away from perishable foods, crumbs, etc. at all times. As perishable foods are one of the items listed in our "What Not to Store in Your Storage Unit" article, this shouldn’t be an issue, but we thought we would mention it anyway.

Old and Rare Books

If you own very old or rare books or collector’s items, you would be better of storage them in a conservatory, not in a self-storage unit. Remember to handle them with clean hands and/or gloves to prevent oils from building up.

If you have questions on how to protect and store books in a storage unit, contact a facility manager.

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