How Do I Protect My Belongings from Moisture Damage?

Prevent your keepsakes from turning into one big, soggy mess with these tips.

basement-storage-water
Photo by Peter Oumanski

“My only storage spot is the basement. What can I do to ensure that my stuff is protected from moisture?”

Karen Martinek, via e-mail

The fix: A chronically humid cellar can be functional storage space if you add a dehumidifier, says Meryl Starr, a personal organizer in New York City. Not sure whether you need one? Tape 12-inch squares of aluminum foil to the floor and walls, then revisit them three days later. If they're covered with beads of water, it’s time to bring in the dehumidifier. Also worried about basement flooding? Keep your possessions out of harm’s way by stashing them in airtight plastic containers (like Clear Watertight Totes; in six sizes, $11 to $22, containerstore.com) at least three feet above ground. (Invest in durable metal shelving or cement blocks for this purpose.) To stow a piece of furniture, cover it with an old sheet, then wrap it, including the feet and the legs, loosely in plastic (12-by-50-foot plastic sheeting, $11, lowes.com). And remember: Above ground is the safest place to store mementos, so find space upstairs or at the top of a closet for anything that you would be heartbroken to lose.