What You Can and Can’t Put in a Storage Unit

Sometimes you might not be able to move your belongings to your new place immediately. Maybe you had to make an emergency move or there were some delays in getting your new apartment ready. Whatever the reason, you’re scrambling for a storage solution in NYC. Unfortunately, you can’t just stash everything into a storage unit. While you probably already know you can’t store pets, stolen items, or explosives in storage, you might be surprised at what falls under certain categories.

Whether you need a long- or short-term storage, you’ll want to double check your items to make sure you’re not accidentally storing some of the prohibited items. What’s on the prohibited list varies by company, so you should check first before packing away everything for storage.

What Not to Store

While all storage companies have their own rules, there are 11 items you most likely can’t put in storage regardless of what company you use:

  • Perishables
  • Hazardous materials
  • Living (and dead) items
  • Weapons, explosives, stolen items
  • Wet and/or scented items

Read further to see what you need to know about each item and why they are included on this list.

  • Perishables

You probably don’t like to have spoiled food in your fridge or trash, so why would you want it in your storage unit? Besides the smell, perishable food also attracts pests, mold, and mildew even in climate-controlled units. Even shelf stable items like rice or beans could be an issue as they can attract rodents or bugs. On the other hand, canned foods are at risk of combustion and could potentially leak.

Even if you don’t see perishable food on the list of prohibited items, you should assume that it isn’t allowed. Canned foods are a bit different so ask the storage company about their policies. You might be able to store some shelf stable items so long as they are stored in a tightly sealed container.

  • Hazardous materials

Any items that are toxic, flammable, or combustible will generally not be allowed in storage units. After all, they want to make sure their building doesn’t go up in flames should something happen. The list of hazardous materials can be long, but it generally includes gasoline, propane, oil, grease, chemicals, cleaners, aerosols, and paints.

When packing up your items for storage ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you packing art supplies? If so, that means you won’t be able to store mineral spirits or paint thinners.
  • Are you packing up your bathroom or kitchen? You’ll want to avoid anything that has an aerosol spray. That includes hair spray and cooking spray. Also, no storing any kind of oil including vegetable oil or olive oil! Don’t forget to leave off other hazardous items like nail polish remover and any cleaning supplies that might have chlorine in them.
  • Do you garden? Ditch the fertilizer and weed killer.
  • Do you need to store lawn equipment? Drain all equipment of oil and gasoline before storing.

As a note, most NYC moving companies won’t move these items either so it’s good to clear these out beforehand. If you’re not sure how to dispose of these unwanted materials, you can reach out to the NYC sanitation or waste management agency.

Even if you’re storing non-toxic cleaning supplies, paint, or beauty supplies, make sure to store them in an airtight container so they don’t spill or leak. In general, it’s better to be safe than sorry and toss any hazardous liquids that have already been opened to avoid any potential issues.

  • Living (and dead) items

You’ve probably heard stories of some people who have turned their storage unit into a tiny home. This is very much illegal and you can end up in serious legal trouble if you try to live in a unit. This extends to other living things such as pets and plants. While most people can’t imagine storing dogs or cats in storage units, you cannot store any living creature…period. That includes smaller animals in tanks and cages like hamsters, snakes, lizards, fish, etc. All of these animals require consistent care, feeding, a light source, and fresh air. So even if there’s only a couple of days when you’re in-between apartments, don’t put your pets in storage!

Plants are similar to pets. While they won’t be moving around, they still require proper care, which includes sunlight and water. Since the soil attracts moisture, it can lead to mold, mildew, and pest issues, which is something you don’t want to deal with when you’re moving your belongings into your new apartment.

  • Weapons, Explosives, and Stolen Goods

While most people probably won’t have a lot of these items, it’s still good to know that you cannot store anything that falls under this umbrella. That includes small fireworks like poppers or sparklers. Obviously if you’re storing any stolen or illegal goods, you likely will get caught. Top storage units in NYC all have 24/7 monitoring so you’ll be caught quickly.

Falling under this umbrella are vehicles. If you plan on storing any kind of vehicle whether it’s a boat, motorcycle, truck, etc. they should be fully registered, insured, and operable. Before storing, make sure you drain the oil and fuel!

  • Wet and/or Scented Items

This somewhat ambiguous category covers a lot of items. Essentially, anything that has a strong scent or has even a hint of moisture should not be put in storage. This includes:

  • Soaps
  • Incense
  • Perfume
  • Lotions
  • Scented candles
  • Aromatherapy oils

While these might smell nice in small doses, no one enjoys the overwhelming smell of a broken bottle of perfume. Scents can easily travel to other units and while you might like the smell, it might be an allergy trigger for other people.

Wet items are a bit trickier. You can store things like kayaks, canoes, etc. in your unit, but you don’t want to store them wet as it can attract mold and mildew. Instead, take the time to wipe any moisture off the surface. If you’re moving on a rainy day, take the extra time to wipe down everything. That includes your boxes!

If you know you need storage, plan ahead and invest in some shelves or pallets to keep your belongings off the ground. Also stash some desiccants in the corners of your unit and throughout your furniture, drawers, etc. to keep things nice and dry.

What Can You Store

So long as your belongings don’t fall into any of these categories, you can store it. Storage units are perfect places to put your old book collection, seasonal decorations, clothes, toys, and more. While you can store valuable items, it’s not a good idea. While security in top NYC storage companies is great, it’s not worth the risk especially for high value items such as jewelry, artwork, and antique furniture. You never know when something might happen: a water line might burst and flood your unit or your unit could become infested with pests.

Speaking of storage, some of your items might require a climate-controlled environment. Things like wine, non-scented candles, musical instruments, paintings, electronics, photographs, medications, basically anything that does not do well in high heat and moisture. If you’re not sure whether something should be stored in a climate controlled environment ask yourself the following questions:

  • Can it get mold or mildew?
  • Can it warp, crack, or deteriorate from interactions with moisture?
  • Would high heat make it expand or contract?
  • Is it meant to be stored at a specific temperature?
  • Is it sensitive to heat or cold?
  • Is it rare, sentimental, and/or valuable?

Store with Your Moving Company

While there are dozens of storage companies dotted around NYC, why not decrease your moving stress by using storage solutions provided by your moving company? You can even ask them to pack for you and let them know the items will be put in storage. That way, you don’t have to worry about what items you can and cannot store as the movers will separate those for you. More importantly, you won’t have to worry about moving your stuff in and out of storage. They will move your items into a storage unit and on the date you specify will move everything into your new place.


How much does storage in NYC cost?

The pricing varies based on the size of your unit. Smaller units are cheaper. Most storage companies will charge a monthly fee though some might give you a discount in 3-6 month increments.

How long can I store my stuff?

You can store your items for as long or as short as you need so long as you pay the monthly rental fee. If you get a unit from a moving company, they generally have a max storage time of two years.

What unit sizes are available?

Every storage company offers different sizes, but the most common include:

  • 5 x 5 – size of a small closet
  • 5 x 10 – size of small walk-in closet
  • 5 x 15 – size of a large walk-in closet
  • 10 x10 – size of half a standard garage
  • 10 x 15 – a little smaller than a one-car garage
  • 10 x 20 – the size of a standard one-car garage
  • 10 x 25 – a little larger than a one-car garage
  • 10 x 30 – larger than 1.5 car garage