Storing baby clothes in a suitcase with mothballs?
My baby has been growing and growing, and rather than giving her
old clothes away, I've been saving them in hopes of having
another baby in the near (but not too near!) future. I've been
doing this in a fairly basic way, neatly folding the clothes and
storing them in clean cardboard boxes in my attic. A friend
recently told me, however, that when she retrieved her similarly
stored baby clothes when her second baby was born, all of the
clothes had stains and spots on them. I'm concerned that my
baby's hand-me-downs will suffer the same fate. Has anyone
successfully stored baby clothes for more than a year? And
please don't recommend closets or dressers -- I live in a tiny
bungalow, and space is in short supply! Thanks so much.
My baby is currently wearing his older brother's handme downs.
They are three years apart. I stored them in my attic just as
you mentioned. Washed, folded, packed into clean boxes (Xerox
paper boxes). Some of the boxes were packed tight, some were
not. I haven't had any problems with spots, stains,
discoloration or bugs. Perhaps your friend's attic was damp.
If the clothes developed spots in storage, the cause is probably
mildew--caused by dampness. Attics are rarely damp in our clime--
that's more of a basement thing--but if yours is, don't put them
there. Make sure everything is scrupulously dry before storage. Or
perhaps you could try large quantities of silica gel?
I have successfully stored baby clothes for several years.
There are two aspects to it:
1) You must store them properly, in a clean, dry place. If
there is dampness (and in California this is unlikely, unless
you store them underground) you can get mildew spots: and
if they are in a plastic bag and not fully dry when you store
them this can happen too. Beware of moths and woolens,
It sounds like you are doing it exactly right, storing them
above ground in clean cardboard boxes. Other than mice or
some other pest getting into them you should be fine.
2) I was surprised, when I took out the baby clothes I had
saved, at how dirty they were. In my case, the baby had
stained her clothes and I had been so out of it I hadn't
noticed, so when I came back it was a bit of a shock. Also
when you live with a baby/toddler, your expectations of how
they look can get pretty low. So don't be surprised if they
don't look like you remember them!
Have you thought of using ''space bags''? These are airtight
clothing storage bags that are often used in suitcases: you put
the clothing in and then roll them up and the air goes out the
valve at the bottom. They have the added advantage of making the
total storage space required much smaller.
I successfuly stored my son's baby clothes for 4+ years with no
ill results. I washed the clothes, folded them neatly, then
stored them in those heavy plastic tubs you can buy at Home
Depot or other hardware stores. Some were the kind with tight
fitting lids, others had two plastic flaps (almost like a
cardboard box top) that fit together. It worked really well,
and I have not found any new stains, etc. on the clothes or
bedding. Good luck!
I stored all my clothes through 3 kids in plastic tupperware-
type bins in the attic (Target has sales after Christmas every
year). Some of the clothes came out with spots, but mostly just
the whites. For those I either used Soilove stain remover or
spot bleached them with liquid dishwasher soap and most of it
came out. However, unless money is really tight, don't bother
storing anything but your favorite clothes, because you
probably won't use them by the time you get baby gifts, do a
little shopping yourself, and look at clothes you didn't like
that much the first time!
I have two girls 3& 6 and have stored my older daughters clothes
all along the way without a problem. I recommend two things:
thoroughly wash the clothes (use stain remover when necessary)
and use large plastic storage containers with secure lids (mine
have handles on each side that snap down). Cardboard boxes don't
seem to preserve clothing real well especially long term.
Can anyone give me some advice about the best way to
store baby clothes so that they will last for a future
child? I want to keep things from my first baby for
my next, and am currently storing them in a suitcase
with mothballs in the garage. Is there any better way?
I have a cedar hope chest that belonged to my greatgrandmother. I have
been adding select items to it that i want to save for my children's children.
There are some nice ones avavilable and, even though mine was passed
down to me, I think it is a good investment. You could start the process of
passing down from one generation to the next.
I store my kids' clothes in my closet in either clear plastic bins with covers,
and that has worked well, except that the bins take up a lot of space. I've
recently converted to Space Bags - the bags you put things into and then
use your vacuum cleaner to remove all the air. These bags are great - you
don't need to worry about mothballs and they take up 1/3 of the space of the
plastic bins. You can find these bags at Target, or Bed, Bath and Beyond.
They go for about $6 each for the large size.
Try using those Rubbermaid (or other brand) bins that are plastic and have
tight-fitting lids. I have been storing them that way and the clothes stay
clean and dry AND the bins stack well on top of each other. You can also
label them with the sizes of clothes that are packed inside and only get out
what you need when the next baby arrives!
Do you have a lot of wool baby clothes? Clothing moths only feed on animal
products, not synthetics (like polyester) or plant fibers (like cotton). Pack
away any wool items or wool blends separately with mothballs, and put all
the rest into cardboard boxes. You might want to wrap the clothes in a
plastic bag first so that if the box ever gets wet or dusty (e.g. in your garage)
the clothes won't be ruined. Don't pack it all in mothballs--you're going to
hate trying to get rid of the smell of naphtha from all that stuff down the
road. Yuck! You don't want even a hint of that smell on your baby!
Moth balls contain dangerous chemicals, and are only effective if a complete
airtight seal is used. Unless your baby's clothes are wool and you have a
known clothes moth problem, I suspect mildew would be a bigger hazard.
Here's something from UC Davis on the moth balls: Moth balls, flakes, or
crystals containing naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene are also available
for protecting clothes in storage. These materials are toxic and must be kept
away from children and pets. They also leave an unpleasant odor on clothes
and other cloth objects. If placed in contact with plastic buttons, hangers, or
garment bags, they may cause the plastic to soften and melt into the fabric.
As these chemicals evaporate, they produce vapors that, in sufficient
concentration, will slowly kill insects. The vapors build up to the required
concentration only in an airtight container. If the container is not airtight,
the chemicals only weakly repel adults and any larvae already on clothes
continue to feed. This was copied from the following website:
Moth balls are known to be toxic, I wouldn't store baby clothes with them.
It's also difficult to get that moth ball smell out of clothes. I am storing all of
my baby's clothes in plastic storage containers that have lids that clamp on.
You can get them at Cost-Co, Target, office supply stores etc. The containers
are not cheap (approx. $7 each) but I figure I will always be able to use them
for storage of something if not baby clothes.
Try using those clear plastic storage bins with a tight fitting lid, that you
can nab at Target for about $5-$18 (depending on the size). I saved
everything from my first daughter's wardrobe and am I ever glad I did. It
was a good thing I used those bins, too because we had a rat invasion in our
storage basement area last winter, and they got into everything except the
Label the outside of the bins with the size you are storing away (it really
helps to just put one size in it's own bin and/or label it summer/winter
clothes really helps, that way you only bring in what you really needed). My
second daughter is growing at a much faster rate than my first did, so even
though they were born in different seasons (Jan and April), I am very glad I
had stored these clothes in an organized way (unlike the rest of my life!), it
makes it much easier to find what I need and really saves on my clothing
We store baby clothes in heavy-duty zippered plastic bags (the kind made
for storing comforters, etc.). If you are concerned about moth damage, put
some cedar blocks (avail. at better hardware stores & at closet stores) in with
the clothes. Whatever you do, though, immediately remove and safely
discard the mothballs! Mothballs have paradichlorobenzene in them, which
is VERY nasty (carcinogen & severe eye irritant) and not something you,
your first-born, or your potential child should have contact with.
I would really think twice about keeping mothballs in a house with
children, let alone putting them anywhere near baby clothes. They are
highly toxic, and a common cause of childhood poisonings (about 5,000
poisonings a year of children under the age of six)
Here's what the EPA has to say about mothballs (they have a very
useful website that lists many household poisons, including most
"Mothballs are a distinctive smelling, volatile solid used to repel
moths. Mothballs, which are classified as a pesticide, may look like
candy to a child. They are poisonous when eaten and seizures can
develop in less than one hour. Mothballs contain 100% of either
naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene. Both of these ingredients can
produce harmful effects when they enter your system through
inhalation. Irritation to nose, throat, and lungs, headache,
confusion, excitement or depression, and liver and kidney damage can
result from exposure to mothball vapors over a long period of time.
Mothballs containing naphthalene are of special concern because
naphthalene can promote a breakdown of red blood cells resulting in
hemolytic anemia. Hemolytic anemia in mild form may cause only
fatigue. In more severe cases, it can cause acute kidney
failure. Young children are at particular risk. Poisonings have been
reported following dressing infants in clothing that was stored with
naphthalene mothballs, suggesting that absorption of naphthalene may
occur through the skin.
The warning label on mothball products reads "avoid prolonged
breathing of vapors." This label is at odds with the normal use of
mothballs. By the very nature of their ingredients, mothballs give off
strong odors (vapors which you can smell). These vapors tend to fill
the entire home, making it nearly impossible to avoid prolonged
breathing of vapors unless you live outdoors. The situation is
complicated further when mothballs are placed in closets or rooms with
poor ventilation, where the vapors build to high
concentrations. Vapors are absorbed by clothes, blankets, and sheets
resulting in direct exposure when you are around these items."
Toxicology info on mothballs, including what to do in case of
exposure, can be found at:
I store outgrown baby clothes in plastic bags inside a cardboard
box. If you're really worried about moths (which only eat wool) use
cedar chips or a cedar chest. But make sure to give those mothbally
clothes a good laundering first!
You can find good info about alternatives to household toxics at:
I've stored clothes in vacuum-seal bags (Space Bags) that are designed
for long-term storage of clothes, linens, towels, etc... In the bag
they are sealed against moisture, dirt, and creepy crawlies plus its
amazing how little space things take up when all the air is taken out
of the bag (they come with a one-way valve to attach your vacuum
cleaner to create the seal).
They are for sale on TV and at mall stores (As Seen on TV). I bought
mine at a store in NewPark Mall. They are not cheap but you can buy a
set of four of them for about $20. One word of caution, you do need
to be careful of how you handle/store them as puncturing the bag
removes its effectiveness (small punctures can be easily repaired with
this page was last updated: Jun 6, 2004
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