Best way to store a mattress in a shed?
April 30, 2019 6:42 AM   Subscribe

What is the BEST way to store a queen size mattress/box spring in an outdoor storage shed without totally ruining it? Details inside.

We have a small house. My father in law from out of state comes to visit us periodically, probably once a year. When he comes, in the past we have borrowed family members extra beds to use while he visits. We set up the bed in my son's bedroom and throw his small twin bed in our master bedroom with us while he is in town.

This past time, no one had any beds available so we went ahead and bought a queen size mattress and box spring set.

We have NO ROOM in our home to store the set when he isn't visiting. We do, however, have a large 25x25 storage shed in our backyard. I'd like to be able to store the mattress without it getting destroyed so that when he comes to visit again, we can pull it out and use it.

I bought two plastic mattress covers from Amazon. The kind for storage. But I am afraid of mold, mice, etc so anything else heavy duty or ideas would be great.

Bonus: We live in Florida. Humidity/Some moisture could be present in the shed.
posted by Sara_NOT_Sarah to Home & Garden (43 answers total)
At the very least I would think you'd need a large mattress-sized "bag" of extra-heavy-duty plastic. Something like this might be available from a moving company or storage company. If you slide the mattress into the bag and seal the top (or roll the top closed and secure it somehow) it might be okay. You might also consider putting a bunch of moisture-absorbing thingamabobs in the bag with the mattress, as well as some kind of insect-and-varmint repellent. For optimal security, double-bag the mattress. Put the moisture absorbers in the inner bag and put the repellents in-between the inner and outer bag. This should increase the chances that the mattress will stay in decent shape, but I wouldn't say it's a guarantee by any means. If the mattress ends up getting screwed up, I'd recommend a high quality inflatable mattress as a better solution for the future.
posted by slkinsey at 6:53 AM on April 30, 2019 [3 favorites]

It seems crazy to me to keep a non-portable bed in a shed for a once-a-year visit. This is exactly the scenario where people have a sofa bed, a folding camp bed, an inflatable mattress or some other solution.

I wouldn't store a mattress in a shed unless I could be sure that it was fairly dry and pest-free. Ideally, you shouldn't store a mattress on its side for any length of time - it'll just end up distorted and lumpy. Having said that, if you have no other options, slkinsey's advice seems solid.
posted by pipeski at 6:58 AM on April 30, 2019 [11 favorites]

I really have to say I think you have the perfect storm of 1) pulling it out once a year 2) storing it outside 3) in a humid climate of this leading to a potentially unpleasant discovery and a need to buy a new bed again when your FIL visits again.

My number one, strongest recommendation would be to return/sell the queen mattress and box spring set and pick up an airbed that is ideal for situations like this where you have an occasional guest. They're extremely comfortable and I've never had a guest complain about it, even with those who have back problems, and store extremely well. For guests that needed a lighter touch about the bed situation, my wife and I just gave up our bed for them and slept on the airbed ourselves happily.

If that's out of the question, if I was in your situation I'd start with a fully encased sealing bag , then a mattress bag and put in dessicant packets, then maybe vacuum seal it and put it in a box. The other issue is how you store it - you want to make sure the bed is getting sufficient support during storage (i.e. ideally laying flat on the floor, elevated off the ground, e.g. on pallets) so it doesn't develop weird sags over time.
posted by Karaage at 6:59 AM on April 30, 2019 [11 favorites]

Fellow Florida resident here. My advice would be...don't do this. My in-laws have an outdoor storage shed and everything inside gets ruined. The heat/humidity/moisture/critters are going to win.
posted by gnutron at 7:04 AM on April 30, 2019 [12 favorites]

If you do do this, remember to rotate the mattress several times a year. This can negate some of the worst effects of storing a mattress on its side.

Would you consider swapping all the family beds down so that you keep all the biggest ones in the house, in use and only have to store the smallest, cheapest one in the shed? You would have to have room in your bedrooms to do this. Best case scenario, if you swap the beds down and only have to store your son's twin mattress in the shed, it might even be possible to store that twin in the house instead of the shed.

Also possible consider if you have a queen sized bed, of storing the mattress on your own bed so that it is eight or so inches higher, and only storing the box spring, which is less vulnerable to damage. You might need to get a footstool for climbing into bed.

During expected damp weather you might bring the stored mattress temporarily into the house. It might not be awful to have a twin mattress on the floor in front of the TV during monsoon season, if it were only for a month. Failing that you might want to place a heater, on an extension cord in the shed and heat it during the damp season, to dry it out.

To avoid mice make sure there are as few potential food sources on the property as possible. Bird feeders are a common feeder for large mouse populations. Get your neighbour to bring their small yappy, terrier type dog into your shed as often as you can convince them to do so, for instance by providing a receptacle for them to drop of a poo bag, so a stop inside every time that Rowdy goes walkies. Providing a home in your shed for a feral cat is not recommended, although there will be no mice you could end up with a faint (or eye-watering) redolence of cat.

If you can't enlist any animal pest control for the shed, inspect the mattress and the shed often, say weekly, looking for mousy-droppings and put down traps if you see anything that looks like chocolate dragees. Rodent repellent might be helpful.
posted by Jane the Brown at 7:22 AM on April 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

When my parents were in this situation, they put the guest in my small twin bed and me on the floor of their room on a foam mattress that I loved because it was so blissfully soft. I'd sell that queen-size mattress, stat. You and I both know that Florida will turn it into stanky soup, like it does everything.
posted by Don Pepino at 7:23 AM on April 30, 2019 [4 favorites]

Why not just set up the queen in your sons room and let him use it?
posted by tman99 at 7:25 AM on April 30, 2019 [17 favorites]

...or you could wire the shed and throw a window unit in it and then slowly add features until you turn it into a sumptuous home office/garage apartment?
posted by Don Pepino at 7:28 AM on April 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

Ughhh, this sounds like a huge PITA. I assume you have good reasons for doing it this way, but man.

I'd either put the queen in the kiddo's room and have him crash on the floor during FIL's visits, or try to find someone who could adopt the queen bed into their home and let me borrow it back as needed. Someone who wants to set up a guest room of their own?
posted by anderjen at 7:31 AM on April 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm agreeing with everyone saying outdoor storage of a mattress just isn't a workable idea, due to the near-certainty of ruin by rodents and/or moisture. I'd either rent a storage unit in a climate-controlled facility or get rid of the mattress and purchase something small enough to be stored in your house. Such as this folding foam twin mattress. That should be fine for occasional use.

I'm building an outdoor daybed that will hold a twin mattress, so I've faced this very same dilemma: where/how to store the mattress for most of the year? I decided to go with a folding mattress similar to the one above, because a standard mattress stored in my shed or garage will become a damp rodent haven, but I can easily move the folding mattress inside and store it in a closet for the winter.
posted by Lunaloon at 7:34 AM on April 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Just to add: My father in law is an amputee. He also brings his wife, my husbands step mom, when he visits. So I need the queen bed for these reasons. The suggestions of a smaller bed it's really workable in my situation.

Also, keeping it in my son's room IS an option, but the room is small and essentially there is no other room for playing/toys/storage etc - which isn't feasible on a normal basis :(
posted by Sara_NOT_Sarah at 7:38 AM on April 30, 2019

What size is your bed? Is there any way to put it under or double it? That isn't ideal for reasons (matresses aren't designed to be doubled like that) but I've definately done it because I needed too

Outside shed and Florida is a terrible idea, and the amount of worry and precaution you'd have to take took ensure it would survive is way less than the effort of just buying a cheap mattress once a year.
posted by AlexiaSky at 7:45 AM on April 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'll add one more vote for not storing it outdoors. Climate controlled storage would work, but that would turn into a really expensive bed. Assuming you can't return it, the best option might be to sell it and then figure out a better temporary option for next year.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:49 AM on April 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

If sleeping at bunk bed height is not an issue for your son, maybe you could loft the queen bed and have play space underneath, and then un-loft it during visits.
posted by Poogle at 7:50 AM on April 30, 2019 [9 favorites]

Can you make the storage part of your sons room. Put the mattress against the wall, then the box spring to the good side is out (and the bottom is against the mattress). Push your son's bed up against that. A piece of cork board over the box spring, and you've got an awesome display area for kid's artwork. Fairly easy to take apart too.

Instead of a queen, you could go with another twin bed that can be set up as needed (use a mattress pad, and sheets to make it one big bed). Store the extra mattress under the other bed.

For the garage, I'd probably wrap in multiple layers of heavy tarp plastic, and then throw in a pile of those silica dry packages. Can you put it in the rafters of the garage so its not on its side?
posted by Ftsqg at 7:51 AM on April 30, 2019 [3 favorites]

Wrapping a comfy rodent home in plastic is not much better than nothing. If you're 100% towards storage, then a solid box needs to be build for the mattress (which will be sealed in a bag against moisture).

I agree with the anderjen; gift your child the queen bed, lose the twin bed, and get an air mattress for this once a year thing, or let your kid sleep on the couch. I slept on the couch for situations like this when I was young, and it was almost like a sleepover in my head. I.E. fun - not just grumble grumble kicked out of my own bed.
posted by nobeagle at 7:54 AM on April 30, 2019

Another ex-Florida resident here. There is no way you can store a mattress in a non-climate controlled space and not have it ruined. Either you wrap it in plastic so the bugs don't get it and it will be eaten by mould, or you leave it unwrapped so it doesn't get funky (it will probably get funky anyway) and then the bugs and critters will turn it into a condominium.

Thinking ... maybe ... the only conceivable way it would survive is if you bought an enormous bucket of silica gel packets and spread them on the mattress, then wrapped it in like 6 mil vapour barrier plastic and taped it up completely with Tuck Tape. That would probably work, if you bought enough silica gel. But you'd need to replace the desiccant every time you used the mattress. And the critters might gnaw a hole in the plastic anyway, and then you'd be done.

But I still think it's a terrible idea. Find another solution for the mattress and your guest.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:56 AM on April 30, 2019

Just Googled - places like Rent-A-Center and Aaron's appear to rent mattresses. Maybe worth looking into this?
posted by markslack at 8:05 AM on April 30, 2019 [4 favorites]

Can your child upgrade to the queen, with storage of his twin mattress perhaps under the queen bed? Storing the twin frame in the shed is less horrible in potential bad outcomes than storing the queen mattress. Vague possibility of the twin bed being trundled under the queen depending on potential sleeping arrangements across other visits.

Is it also possible that the child is old enough to have special couch fort bed when these visits happen? Maybe the need to keep twin bed is not super strong?
posted by bilabial at 8:13 AM on April 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

Potentially an option here would be to move your own bed into the kid's room when your in-laws visit and for you and your spouse to use a high-quality air mattress. That would be less risky, less expensive and less hassle than unpacking and repacking a traditional mattress and box spring from storage and setting up a bed in your kid's room every time they visit.
posted by slkinsey at 8:31 AM on April 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

Florida/Southern Alabama person here.

Don't do this. It is not going to work.

You need to have a climate controlled storage solution (either your own or you pay for it by the month down the road) for this to be in any way tenable.

Or you need another bed solution, which is a bit outside the scope of this question so I won't mention murphy beds, lofted beds, or air mattresses.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:38 AM on April 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

Also, keeping it in my son's room IS an option, but the room is small and essentially there is no other room for playing/toys/storage etc - which isn't feasible on a normal basis :(

This is the type of situation where daybeds can be useful. Most of the time it's twin-size , but when you need it to it pulls out to 2x twin-size (so, the length of a full/double bed, but as wide as a king-size, I think?). This could let your son have a twin size bed and bedroom play space when your in-laws aren't visiting and would let your in-laws have an adult-size bed to sleep on when they visit. You could get a twin-size air bed (or some other compact option) for your son to sleep on in your room during those visits.

Here's an example of an IKEA daybed, with pictures of it as a twin and pulled out to accommodate two sleepers. IKEA has a variety of models, but I imagine there are other retailers who sell them as well.
posted by Secret Sparrow at 8:40 AM on April 30, 2019 [8 favorites]

an enormous bucket of silica gel packets

"Crystal" cat litter is made of silica gel beads, and you can turn endless quantities of that into an excellent desiccant by baking them on a shallow tray in your oven for a couple of hours (low heat - 90°C is about right) and then putting them into a sealed container to cool (I pour my hot silica gel into a room-temperature cast iron dutch oven and seal the lid with duct tape until it's all cooled). This process also re-activates silica gel that you've previously used.

So if you built a plywood storage box with a close-fitting lid to keep things with mouthparts out, and then shoved a pillow case or kraft paper sack full of baked crystal cat litter inside the box spring to suck up all the humidity already in the mattress, then wrapped mattress and box spring together in a couple of layers of black builder's plastic to stop more humidity entering, then encased the whole affair in its rodent-resistant plywood box, that should work.
posted by flabdablet at 8:48 AM on April 30, 2019

I will follow up RolandOfEld's mention of a murphy bed to say that I lived for a while in an old building that still had an original murphy bed in one closet. It was surprisingly comfortable, and since I could park a movable couch in front of it, I had a comfortable guest bed in a tiny efficiency apartment. I somewhat frequently look at the hardware as an option for putting in a second guest bed in my house.
The bedding and pillows tucked up into the bed when it went up, so your son could have a queen-sized bed at night and even more place space for playing during the day than he does now.
posted by past unusual at 8:50 AM on April 30, 2019

You can also buy a little tub of desiccant material, or hanger-packets. One brand is Damp Rid. This doesn’t help with critter exclusion, though.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 9:14 AM on April 30, 2019

You own it. It's probably not returnable. Mice are said to dislike mint, so douse liberally with peppermint oil. Put out on the hottest room in the house and turn up the heat to dry out as well as possible. Get some dessicant packets and bag it with a lot of them. Seal well with sturdy plastic tape; duct tape comes off, I'd use packing tape. More peppermint oil and dessicant, bag it again, seal, repeat a 3rd time. Build a rack for it so it can be stored horizontally near the ceiling of the shed where it's hottest. I'm not optimistic, but if I felt compelled to try it, that's what I'd do.
posted by theora55 at 9:33 AM on April 30, 2019

My former tenants installed a twin-to-king convertible trundle bed similar to this one in their tiny house.
posted by drlith at 9:37 AM on April 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

Another vote for a trundle. Works great and saves space. Our bottom mattress support raises up to regular bed high when pulled out. We put a good quality mattress on it.
posted by gryphonlover at 10:22 AM on April 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

Does the shed have exposed ceiling beams? I'm thinking you could hang it horizontally (mattress on top of boxspring) from them with webbing straps. Two people each cinching a strap on either end would probably work to hoist it, then do another couple in the middle so it doesn't sag.
posted by teremala at 11:19 AM on April 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

Can you somehow attach the mattress to the ceiling of son's room for when it's not in use? (Riffing off the previous suggestion.)
posted by wyzewoman at 1:10 PM on April 30, 2019

Another vote for twin with trundle. I have a daybed like this in my guest room. The trundle raises to full height, and you have something like a king sized bed. You can even buy a foam thingamajig to fill in the gap between mattresses. Mine came with thin, bunk bed type mattresses that I replaced with decent ones, and I haven't had a complaint in the ten years I've owned them!
posted by BlueBear at 1:31 PM on April 30, 2019

The suggestions of a smaller bed [isn't] really workable in my situation.

The suggestions don't necessitate a smaller bed. Kaarage linked to a queen-size airbed, which would be the size you want.
posted by JimN2TAW at 1:48 PM on April 30, 2019

Just wanted to point out the “try storing it, you already own it, what can it hurt” solution: when your guests arrive in a year and you find the mattress is boned, you now have an emergency and no time to decide what to do. Better to figure out something with a good probability of success now, even if it costs more up front.

As for rental mattresses, that sounds unpleasant to me. Like rental underwear. Probably not everyone’s reaction, but I am thinking “ewww.”
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 2:08 PM on April 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

Yeah, seconding Gilgamesh's Chauffeur - at a minimum, you'll want to set the bed up a week or so before the visit, so that you can make sure it's in usable condition and execute an alternative strategy if necessary. This advice is brought to you by my EXTREMELY NON-FOND memories of opening up a sofa bed at a relative's lake house well after midnight with the intention of immediately going to sleep and finding several generations worth of mouse nest in the mattress.
posted by mskyle at 3:53 PM on April 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

I'm guessing that you want a proper bed because your father-in-law needs a bed at a specific height to be able to comfortably get in and out of it? (I am also guessing that he's unable to access your bedroom for the same reason -- otherwise, yeah, just swap out with him and bunk with your kid or in the living room while they're visiting!) If that's the case, what about this:

- queen-sized air mattress that can easily be stored inside
- Sturdy metal frame that can be stored in your existing outdoor space, either in one piece or broken down. It should have high enough sides to keep the air mattress in place, but this can easily be jury-rigged with some thin boards, I think.
- risers to make up for loss of height from the box spring. (Or I guess the box spring, but I'm not confident of how steady an air mattress balanced on a box spring could be.) This may be optional, but I feel like your f-i-l can best answer how high his bed needs to be to be comfortable.

If you truly don't want to eat the cost of the mattress, I second hoisting it somewhere in the house, just making really sure that you install pulleys or eyebolts or whatever so that they can definitely support the weight of the mattress. You could even put a cool tapestry or something on the bottom side, so your son has a neat thing on his ceiling!
posted by kalimac at 4:18 PM on April 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

Is there a reason you cannot store the mattress under your own bed, using risers or similar? Seems like the most obvious solution to me. The box spring is another thing entirely but many/all mattresses can go on slats instead of a box spring, especially for once a year use.
I personally would not be comfortable sleeping under a queen mattress hoisted above my head (sorry, mom and pops, even more deadly than a ceiling fan) and think it's kind of a weird suggestion to impose on your son (maybe ok for your space?).

Otherwise I think lofting the queen would be the best bet, leaving a play/desk space underneath, assuming your kid would go for it (top bunk only!). It would be pretty easy to pop the mattress and/or box spring down once a year and put into the space normally occupied by playtime.
posted by love2potato at 5:07 PM on April 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

Get a complete cover for bedbugs for both mattresses. elevate it off the floor enough to prevent rodents form digging in. If you think it will be a problem lay traps.

Cover loosely with a tarp or plastic to drape to the floor, get some buckets of damprid and put 'em under the covering.

Check weekly if super humid or bugs/rodents are everywhere.
posted by Max Power at 5:23 PM on April 30, 2019

Just a thought about hanging the mattress overhead: there is a reason it is expensive to buy hardware and equipment rated for overhead lifting. I have an 80 lb kayak hoisted overhead in my garage and I have a chain you could tow a car with around it in case the hoist fails ... and I spend very little time under it. I would certainly be nervous if there were a heavy thing over my child's bed while they slept.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 6:43 PM on April 30, 2019

On reflection, Gilgamesh's Chaffeur makes a good point. Either hire a really good contractor to design and install something to hold a mattress up, or don't hoist it over your child's bed.

(I was thinking of some (very handy, know how to install such things) friends who have a kayak hoisted in their living room, but then I also remember I don't sleep under the thing.)
posted by kalimac at 10:00 AM on May 1, 2019

Response by poster: Update: We're screwed. We tried to put the mattress under our bed, but our mattress is a KING and we couldn't fit the queen under our bed without ours becoming... a seesaw.

We do not have the capacity to store it above or on a wall. Essentially, after much arguing, we double wrapped the mattress and the box spring seperately and stored it elevated on a table in our shed.

Pray for future us lol!

Thank you guys for all the suggestions. We absolutely shot ourselves in the foot purchasing it instead of finding other things first. We panicked and made a rash decision and now may or may not have a rat house in our shed.
posted by Sara_NOT_Sarah at 6:34 AM on May 6, 2019

It’s not that bad. You’ve already spent the money.

Give yourself a week or so advance notice for next time, to check to see if the mattress is still OK. If not, they sell queen-size air mattresses at Target or Walmart. It’s another $50-$100, but you can pick one up day-of.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 8:39 AM on May 6, 2019

Essentially, after much arguing, we double wrapped the mattress and the box spring seperately and stored it elevated on a table in our shed.

I would strongly strongly recommend getting a decent quantity of desiccant inside that wrapping if you haven't already done so. Mildew sucks.
posted by flabdablet at 9:45 AM on May 6, 2019

And on the rat house thing: if your wrapped mattresses are on a table and the only way a rat could get at them is via the legs, especially if they overhang the edges of that table, then a quick visual check for chew holes every week should be enough to tell you whether or not you need to be charging rodents rent.
posted by flabdablet at 9:47 AM on May 6, 2019

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