Can I seal furniture in plastic to prevent mold?
January 20, 2008 11:44 AM   Subscribe

Is it possible to "seal" furniture in a plastic bag to protect it from mold while stored in a basement? Please help me protect my inheritance until I have a bigger house!

I have inherited some nice furniture but have no space in my current house. Climate controlled storage is too expensive for the 2-3 years that I'll need it until we get a bigger house. And I've got a basement, so if only I could store it down there ...

The basement is what they call "an improved crawlspace", under a 1930's bungalow. It's not open to outside air, but there is bare dirt crawlspace in half of the plan and standing room with rough concrete in the other half. I do have drainage properly worked out so that rainwater doesn't come in. There's no climate control in the basement, in the system that handles the living spaces of the house is not big enough to handle the basement too. I do have a dehumidifier to remove the worst of the humidity but it's not enough.

Other furniture I've stored in the basement has quickly been consumed by mold. I've already taken all other reasonable steps to keep the dampness down, but it's still damp enough that the furniture will quickly be ruined if I put it down there unprotected.

I'm thinking that there must be some solution to this, something like a plastic barrier that you can seal the furniture in, or even have a professional come out with their fancy Seal-O-Matic and do it onsite. Alas, googling on that leads nowhere so perhaps it doesn't exist.

Does such a product or service exist, or can anyone suggest any other solutions?
posted by intermod to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I suspect that you probably cannot wrap a piece of furniture tightly enough to prevent all water ingress, but two thoughts come to mind:

1) You could in theory construct your own vacuum sealed bags by using plastic sheet heat welded together and then evacuated with a shop vac; essentially a large version of the commercial products sold for smaller home storage. If you do something like this, I would definitely use desiccant (like "Dry-Z-Air") inside the bag.

2) Easier and probably more practical would be to adapt one of the products collectors use to store classic cars in adverse conditions. These bags require electricity to keep the contents protected but apparently work pretty well. In your case you'd have to figure out if you have the floor space for one. There are several manufacturers and I've never owned one, but there was a big deal made when they were first introduced a few years back, one of the original manufacturers put a pristine car in one in a pretty horrible location for a year with no deterioration of the car. Here's an example of the concept, do not know if this is a good manufacturer/price, etc.

Note that they are several hundred dollars, which might go a long way towards just paying to store them in a climate-controlled storage unit.
posted by maxwelton at 12:19 PM on January 20, 2008

I can suggest silica gel packs, plus decent packaging. The packaging will keep the moist environment out, and the silica gel will get rid of the moisture that was packed with the furniture and deal with the environment if some breaks in.

I live in 70-80% humidity without climate control, so need to bring that down to keep my guitar from warping.

If I were you-- wrap the furniture in blankets, put some silica in and wrap it, or box it and heavily tape the box. you probably don't want direct contact between the plastic and the furniture, hence the blankets. Should deal with anything the enviroment can throw at it. Check the furniture after a month or two, and check the silica card to see that the humidity is under control. If it is, recharge the silica, and leave the next check for a longer period.
posted by Static Vagabond at 12:22 PM on January 20, 2008

I used to know a guy who was a car capsule dealer. He said they were awesome and he'd never run into a problem with them. If reliability is your main concern, I'd go with the capsule.
posted by stefanie at 12:37 PM on January 20, 2008

Taking a lesson from your other furniture you've stored there that went mouldy, don't bother. You need some air circulating as well as dehumidifiers.

Possibly, if you vacuum seal w/lots of silica packets may work. Ask yourself if it's worth the experiment. It had better be properly vacuum sealed. No oops, punctures...Can you be 100% certain it's completely sealed¿ Not really.

If you really like this furniture and want to keep it, it's time to toss what you are currently using and replace it with said inherited furniture.

If you still don't really have the space, consider friends with larger homes you could ask to store for you. Say, a fine bottle of wine per month rate...

I wouldn't advise a blanket under plastic wrap, those blankets are going to hold moisture and basically sweat under a plastic wrap and will sog out and mould the furniture, for sure, over time. Yeah, blanket and cardboad may be better with the silica cards... worth checking out in a pinch. As Static suggested, you'd need to monitor — which means maybe fresh blanket and cardboard, repacking... often.

Remind yourself, you've already lost furniture to the crawl space, how much do you want your inherited furniture, especially if it's monetary value is worth more than it's sentimental value.
posted by alicesshoe at 12:58 PM on January 20, 2008

I wouldn't put anything down there! Why not rent a non-climate controlled storage space? You can fit a lot of furniture in even one of the smaller spaces if you (carefully) stack it. It depends on where you live but in much of the country furniture would not get mold in a storage space.

If you really want to try one of the other options you could test it on a piece of yard sale furniture first.
posted by LarryC at 1:03 PM on January 20, 2008

I've done this. I stored a beautiful old patterned raspberry wool couch and overstuffed chair in a very damp basement for 3 years (before giving them away, sadly) and they came out of the bags in perfect condition.

I bought a roll of twenty 5ft.X 5ft.X 9ft., 4mil gusseted polyethylene bags from National Bag Co. (terrible website, you can't see a tenth of their products, including the ones I'm describing), for about $140. I put each piece in 3 bags, along with half a gallon of dried activated carbon and dessicant in a pillowcase. I closed each layer of bag with a large cable tie.

It was a lot harder to do than I thought it would be. I chose to put the pieces in the bags before taking them to the basement to avoid exposing them to mold and then locking them away with it. It was hard to get them in the bags without puncturing or tearing the bags, and then everything was so slippery it was almost impossible to carry them down there.
posted by jamjam at 1:04 PM on January 20, 2008

Could you let someone borrow the furniture for a couple years?
I'd imagine the wear and tear would be less than the destruction of living in the basement.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 1:05 PM on January 20, 2008

Damp Rid should help keep the area dry. It chemically sucks water out of the air, and you need to replace the material every so often, but it should keep things dry.
posted by delmoi at 2:31 PM on January 20, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks all for the responses so far!

Just to answer two specific proposals: I've had poor experiences with Damp-Rid, and I'm not going to loan the furniture to anyone :)

Further responses are very much appreciated until I decide what to do.
posted by intermod at 3:24 PM on January 20, 2008

Put an ad on craigslist and see if you can rent someone's (sunny) garage for cheaper than storage space. Once that icky mildewy smell gets in to wood, it is impossible to get rid of the smell. I had to throw away a really cool dresser because the wood in the drawers had that smell. I tried bleaching it, putting it in the sun, everything...clothes in the drawers would smell like that awful mildew. There was no getting rid of the smell even if the mildew wasn't visible. Public Storage has drop off crates (like PODS) and they will come pick it up and store stuff also. It is cheaper than conventional storage because you don't readily have access to it like a drive up storage facility.
posted by 45moore45 at 3:58 PM on January 20, 2008

One thing to consider: is there a chance that creatures (with plastic-piercing claws and/or teeth) might get into your crawlspace and climb on, or even try to nest in, your furniture? This might be a risk if your crawlspace is, well, a crawlspace. Think stray cats, or even mice.
posted by amtho at 4:58 PM on January 20, 2008

if you're going to try storing it in the basement, at least buy a few more dehumidifiers (heavy duty) and empty them frequently.
posted by buka at 4:59 PM on January 20, 2008

I had forgotten about PODS even though we used them. You could get at least two years' rental out of them for the price of the bubble thing, I bet. Plus they drop off and pick up.
posted by maxwelton at 5:17 PM on January 20, 2008

As maxwelton and jamjam suggested you could put the furniture in large plastic bags. Rather than buying expensive bags you can easily make your own. Just by a roll of polyethylene sheeting from your local hardware store like this or this.

Fold the sheet over in half then seal the edges by ironing them. Place one old towel under and on top of the edge you want to seal then run the hot iron over it. Seal the edges to make a large bag. Make the edge seals about three inches. You will quickly figure out the correct heat setting and time required to make a good seal. Leave one end open to insert the furnitures. Slip it over the furniture and twist tie it closed with some desiccant inside. Keep in mind the circumference of the furniture that you need to wrap. The plastic sheet needs to be at least that wide plus some to make a big enough bag.
posted by JackFlash at 8:46 PM on January 20, 2008

You could store it with PODS and have it sent to a city where things don't tend to get moldy in storage.
posted by yohko at 11:06 AM on January 22, 2008

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