How To Properly Store Your Paintings In Self-Storage

Whether you're planning a move or you simply need a place to keep your paintings for a while, renting a storage unit can be the perfect solution. But you don't want to just toss artwork in the trunk and haul it to the closest facility. There are a few key things you need to know to protect your prized possessions from damage. Here's how to keep your paintings and pictures in good condition while they're in self-storage.

Clean First

If you're a cleaning fanatic, you'll love this first step. If not, consider it a small but worthwhile investment of your time. It's likely you have the necessary tools around the house, but if not, once again, it's worth the few extra dollars to get what you need.

Using a small, soft, artist's paintbrush, dust the surface and the edges of the painting. Move the brush in one direction as opposed to back and forth, as that could potentially dull the painting (this is only a danger if it's done hard over a long period of time).

It's also recommended that you use a brush that's made of animal hair as opposed to a synthetic one made from nylon or polyester. Those tend to be scratchier. You can use any size brush you wish, so long as it's dry and clean.  

Things to avoid include feather dusters, cleaning products, and water.

Prepare for Packing

If at all possible, apply cardboard corner protectors to the edges of framed paintings before storing to protect them from damage. These can be purchased online and at most office supply stores, and they come in various sizes.

Pictures and paintings that aren't framed should be protected by glassine. This is a type of paper that looks similar to wax paper, but it's great for storing photographs, stamps, and other valuables that need to remain air- and water-tight. Be sure the glassine you purchase is pH neutral.

Try to avoid rolling up unframed paintings, as this could lead to creasing and make the paint chip away over time.   

Pack for Storage

Framed artwork should be carefully wrapped in something that will keep it from getting damaged. The best materials to use are blankets, bubble wrap, or even felt wraps. Next, tape the material so that it stays put. You may need to use a strong tape like duct or mechanical tape on fabric wraps.

Unframed art is best protected when layered between cardboard or foam. Paintings that are shielded by glassine can even be sandwiched between plywood if you have some lying around. But cardboard is lighter and takes up less space if you have a lot of pictures going into storage.

Lastly, place the artwork in plastic bags and seal them shut.

Prepare the Storage Unit

Most artwork will do better in a climate-controlled unit because rapid fluctuations in temperature and humidity can cause paintings to warp and crack.

Experts recommend storing most artwork where the temperatures don't swing more than 20 degrees in either direction within 24 hours. Humidity swings of 20% or more should also be avoided.

Climate-controlled units may be a little more expensive, but they're better in the long run when it comes to protecting your valuables. No matter what type of unit you go with, here are a few tips to keep your paintings safe:

  1. Try not to stack the paintings on top of one another. Instead, use shelves that allow you to slide the artwork in on its side.
  2. Keep all artwork off the floor and walls, where moisture can accumulate.
  3. If storing your artwork on the floor is your only option, lay down boards or plastic to keep your paintings dry.
  4. If you end up with a facility that lacks climate control, try to choose one that's more likely to remain dry, like an end unit at the top of a hill.
  5. Avoid placing your paintings near windows and heating and cooling vents.