What Not to Store in the Garage

What’s safe in your garage — and what should be kept elsewhere.

Skis. Bikes. Sports balls of all sorts. A lawnmower. Old toys.

It’s easy for a garage to turn into a catchall storage unit. For most items that’s fine, but some things simply don’t belong in a garage, and they can even become a home hazard without proper storage protection. This list of common red-flag items can help identify what doesn’t belong in the garage.

  • Extra fuel. Stashing portable gas cans and propane tanks in the garage can be dangerous: Highly flammable fuel poses a leaking risk. If you store any fuel in the garage, do so only in dedicated, leak-proof containers out of the reach of children and pets and away from potential sources of ignition such as water heaters or power tools. A shed away from your home is a better storage spot.
  • Paint or home-improvement chemicals. Some liquids, such as latex, freeze at the same temperature as water. Others may need a temperature-controlled environment. Check the manufacturer’s directions for guidance.
  • Furniture. Unless your garage is climate-controlled, its interior is subject to wild swings in heat and humidity. This, in turn, can warp wood, and pests such as rodents may root (and ruin) upholstery, fabric or mattresses. If the garage offers your only option for furniture storage, find a clean, dry spot that’s elevated off the floor. Then thoroughly clean and take apart furniture before wrapping or covering.
  • Clothing. A better spot for out-of-season clothing is a sealed container in an attic, basement or the back of a closet. In a garage, clothing may soak up fumes and dust and be at risk of insect or pest damage.
  • Food. This means any food — food for birds, for pets and for humans. Perishable items are far too tempting for rodents and vermin, and canned food may spoil more quickly in temperature extremes. And think twice about that extra fridge in an unheated and un-air-conditioned garage: The appliance may struggle to operate efficiently as temperatures fluctuate.
  • Anything fragile or valuable. Photographs, artwork and electronics: These are just a few of the items that need the stability of climate control so expensive or delicate elements aren’t damaged. Remember: If you couldn’t bear to see it lost or destroyed, then it probably shouldn’t be in the garage.

Items safe to keep in the garage:

  • Lawn care tools and equipment
  • Gardening supplies
  • Plastic storage bins (rather than cardboard boxes)
  • Hoses (after draining)
  • Sports equipment
  • Cars, of course