For most travelers, a suitcase is a big investment. Keep your suitcase working hard for years to come by following these basic tips for proper suitcase storage.
1. Control humidity
One of the fastest ways to destroy an expensive suitcase is by improperly storing it in an area that is exposed to very high humidity. Both fabric-exterior suitcases and hardshell luggage can be damaged by mold and mildew. If you store your suitcase in an area with high humidity and a mold-friendly temperature, you might have a surprise when packing for your next trip!
Thankfully, humidity is reasonably easy to control. If you have to store your luggage in a higher humidity area like a basement or attic in a humid part of the world, you can store your luggage near a full-size electric dehumidifier or invest in silica desiccant packets, which can be bought in bulk inexpensively.
Silica desiccant packets draw ambient moisture out of the air. When they are placed inside a suitcase they can help keep humidity under control. However, one drawback of silica packets is that silica has a finite capacity to absorb moisture. Silica may not keep humidity low enough in very humid luggage storage areas.
Most suitcases come with silica packets when they’re new. Although most shoppers immediately throw these packets away, it’s a good idea to start saving them. Find and keep the silica packet when you purchase new luggage, jackets, or other fabric goods. Tossing a handful of these packets into your suitcase’s pocket or suitcase liner before you put the case in storage can effectively reduce the risk of mold or mildew damage to your suitcase.
2. Don’t smash your luggage in storage
Suitcases are designed to withstand pressure when loaded, but stacking your empty suitcase under heavy items in storage is a quick way to wear it out. The hardware, fabric, zippers, and the internal structure of a suitcase that helps it stay rigid will hold up better if it’s not stacked.
3. Clean before storage.
Although most suitcases are designed to hide dirt, luggage gets really dirty during travel. Airport conveyor belts, cargo bays, and all that rolling over sidewalks and parking lots tend to build up dirt on the outside of suitcases. Both fabric and hard shell suitcases need a quick cleaning before storage.
Give your suitcase a little bit of love before storage so you’ll be ready for your next trip. When it’s time to pack and go, you’ll be looking great. Here’s a quick guide to how to clean suitcases.
4. Store suitcases inside each other.
While this tip is more about space-saving than caring for your luggage for the sake of longevity, consider how you can use the interior of your suitcase productively. For folks who live in tiny homes or ultracompact studio apartments (as many *digital nomads do, in order to reduce residential housing costs while traveling), suitcases can be used as an effective storage compartment.
Whether it’s storing other luggage or handbags inside or specifically travel products, as described below, storing items inside your suitcase can be a smart use of available storage space.
5. Store travel products in your luggage.
When you get home from a trip, you probably (eventually) unpack and find a home for everything you’d packed. Smart travelers, however, use their suitcases to store travel gear both on the road and off the road.
By storing travel essentials inside your suitcase, the next time you pack for a trip, it will be easier! You won’t have to chase down all the essential bits you need for the road, like travel toothbrushes, toothbrush protectors, international power adapters, portable hotel door alarms, etc.
6. Use an odor neutralizer
Sometimes, even a fresh-smelling suitcase comes out of storage smelling a bit funky. The bacteria living in dirty clothes (which is often temporarily stored in luggage, especially for one bag travelers who may hand wash clothing every few days) may remain in a suitcase long after your trip has ended and you’ve unpacked your luggage. To help prevent your suitcase from marinating in dirty clothes-stink, give your suitcase a little TLC on the odor control front.
One option for controlling odors in luggage is to use a chemical treatment such as Febreeze fabric refresher spray. However, I prefer activated charcoal for organic odor neutralizing. Activated charcoal captures odors from the air and traps them in the open pores of charcoal molecules.
Activated charcoal comes in many forms, from pills to shoe-deodorizing pillows, but my favorite method for putting the odor-neutralizing effects of activated charcoal to work in my suitcase is through inexpensive charcoal-infused litter box filters. Although technically designed for litter box lining, these paper sheets make it easy to tear off as much or as little odor-controlling action as you need.
7. Give the wheels a break
Although you may be tempted to toss your suitcase into a storage unit or closet and run, take time to store it carefully. Giving attention to the position of your suitcase in storage can help prevent unnecessary wear and tear to your suitcase. This can save money in the long run!
If your suitcase or carry-on has roller wheels on the bottom, be sure to tilt your suitcase onto its side before placing it into storage.
Resting the suitcase’s weight – especially if it’s loaded with smaller suitcases or your travel essentials- on its wheels constantly can cause premature wear. Laying the bag on its side – preferably on reinforced bumpers designed to support the weight of the suitcase – is an easy way to care for your suitcase in storage.
Best Places to Store Suitcases:
Best: Closet or under-bed storage
Okay: climate-controlled storage unit
Avoid: attics and basements
Some travelers, as an emblem of their aspirations to return to the road, actually store their suitcases in a prominent location. A suitcase sitting in an entryway may be an intentional reminder to live life every day s as a traveler. The daily reminder that a trip is just one choice away can be inspirational for some.
Lynli Roman’s unique approach to travel is informed by decades of experience on the road with a traveling family and, later, years spent as a solo international traveler. When she’s not writing about Seattle from her Pike Place Market apartment, Lynli writes on-location while conducting hands-on research in each destination she covers. Lynli’s writing has been featured by MSN, ABC Money, Buzzfeed, and Huffington Post. She is passionate about sharing information that makes travel more accessible for all bodies.