Linens are often mistreated when it comes time to place them into a long-term storage unit. Unlike expensive electronics or heavy furniture, linens are relatively lightweight and unbreakable. Even so, you must avoid the temptation to quickly toss them in a garbage bag for storage. Instead, store your linens correctly so they look good when you are ready to retrieve them.
Dirt and dust in the fibers of linens, including sheets, napkins, towels and drapes, can provide a feast for microorganisms and insects. As these they feed, they may damage the cloth fibers or leave behind stains. Even without pests, dirt can quickly turn into a difficult-to-remove stain during storage.
Washing everything before you pack it for the storage unit it is the safest course of action. This includes dry cleaning items that you can't wash, such as drapes. Make sure the items are completely dry and neatly folded, otherwise moisture can cause damage during storage.
Choose the Right Packing Materials
One of the keys to successful linen storage is packing in the right materials to avoid damage and stain. White and light colored linens can yellow during prolong storage. Prevent this by wrapping the linens in acid-free paper. Don't use plastic bags, because these can trap moisture.
Store your wrapped linens in a box, not loose or in a bag. If you use cloth linen bags for storage, place the bags into the box. Boxes with a few slits or holes allow air circulation, which further minimizes damage.
Drapes, especially those with pressed pleats, are best stored hanging up. Remove them from the dry cleaners plastic and drape them with a white or undyed sheet of muslin fabric. The fabric protects the drapes during storage.
Battle the Storage Woes
Linens don't require temperature-controlled storage units, but moisture is a problem. In humid climates you may want to consider a climate-controlled unit to minimize moisture issues.
Store the boxed linens off the ground. Avoid stacking the boxes on pallets or wood shelves, because acids in the wood can speed yellowing. Rust-free metal or plastic shelving and pallets are a better choice.
If insects or moths are a concern, you can use mothballs, bay leaves or bug repellent granules to protect your linens. With the exception of bay leaves, these materials are toxic and should be used with caution.
Linens that are stored for longer than one year will require annual maintenance so they don't discolor during storage. Take the time to inspect the linens and their wrappings for damage. Wash them once a year before returning them to storage to further prevent discoloration.