Safe and Pest-Free: Best Practices for Storing Belongings During a Move

By Caleb Leonard

When my partner accepted a sweet relocation package, we jumped at the chance to escape our building’s pest problem. However, our excitement quickly turned into concern as we discussed the best ways to keep bugs out of our stuff while moving and storing our belongings.

Here’s how we managed our safe and pest-free move.

Start with a clean space

Before experiencing an infestation firsthand, I thought they only happened to slobs who left food out overnight. I was wrong.

When I witnessed a roach crawl out from behind a light switch plate, I understood they could live just about anywhere.

I’d been spraying the counters with rubbing alcohol and mopping the floors with pine-scented cleaners for weeks, but the results were short-lived.

Having a clean space to pack and store finished boxes meant we didn’t have to live in a maze of boxes, and it was easier to see that each box was pest-free before sealing it.

Another thing to consider when packing with pests around is knowing their schedule. For example, roaches are primarily nocturnal, so packing after sundown was a no-go.

Get the necessary supplies

Moving is expensive, but cutting corners leaves room for pests to hitch a ride to your new digs.

While seeking free (used) boxes from grocery stores or Facebook Marketplace is tempting, those well-worn boxes have already served their purpose and might be harboring pests.

And while folding the box top closed might have worked for switching dorm rooms, you’ll need high-quality packing tape to seal out pests.

While at the store, pick up some foam wrap, packing paper, and biodegradable packing peanuts.

To avoid insect stowaways, thoroughly wipe everything down with a powerfully scented rag. Pests hate these natural scents:

  • Citronella
  • Lavender
  • Peppermint
  • Geranium
  • Vinegar
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Tea tree
  • Garlic

A quick YouTube tutorial will show you how to make an indoor pest deterrent. I used a mixture of 1/3 rubbing alcohol and 2/3 water.

Before I knew about these natural deterrents, I cleaned everything with a bleach spray until pest control informed me that roaches eat bleach.

Pack with purpose

Whether this is your first move or you’re a rolling stone, you’ll want your belongings to transfer safely and sans pests. Here are a few tricks I’ve learned from my many moves. 

When packing clothing, curtains, and bedding, you can vacuum seal everything as soon as it comes out of the dryer to save space. Sheets, comforters, and linens will be inaccessible to pests in plastic bins with a secure lid.

If your bins are going into storage, throw in a silica package to protect your things from humidity. These packets are a must for storing documents and photos.

If you don’t have a vacuum sealer, you can hang your shirts and slacks in a trash bag and tie the bag near the neck to make a reusable garment bag. Throw in a dryer sheet to keep pests out.

Best of all, you can reuse these packing supplies once you move into your new home.  

Wash all pet beds, bath mats, pillows, and blankets in your washer’s highest temperature setting.

The water must reach 118 degrees Fahrenheit to kill fleas, lice, bed bugs, and their eggs.

Bonus tip: Use bath and hand towels to pad dinner plates and coffee cups. Layer everything like a lasagna in a medium box so nothing moves.

Remember to label each box with its intended room and a few of its contents. If you use plastic bins, index cards in sandwich bags make weather-proof labels.

Wrap wine glasses in packing paper and place them in the box upside down. Always pack glassware tightly and mark the box as fragile. If there’s extra room in the box, toss in some packing peanuts.

Clean and disassemble your furniture

Whether you are taking your furniture with you or listing it for sale, everything needs a deep clean.

Here’s how to clean upholstered furniture:

  • Remove the cushions and thoroughly vacuum the crevices.
  • Lay the couch on its back and sweep the base with a broom.
  • Carefully inspect your furniture for pests. What might look like dust bunnies could be egg sacks.
  • Thoroughly vacuum the cushions and then spritz with your natural deterrent. Don’t forget the legs and feet, too.
  • Use a fabric steam cleaner (if you have one).

Buy mattress and sofa covers to protect them during the move. These covers are invaluable for items going into storage.

Follow these tips before moving wooden furniture:

  • Pine and cedar furniture naturally keep bugs away, but applying a wood polish is a great way to prepare your pieces for transport.
  • Break down your furniture to avoid damage. (Take the leaves out of your dining room table.)
  • Cover your furniture with a moving blanket to shield it from dust and moisture.

Declutter and donate

Whether downsizing or buying your first home, don’t move anything unnecessary. Moving is an opportunity to reevaluate your belongings.

Will you ever wear those rad outfits from the ’80s again? Will the furniture you bought for your bedroom nook have a space in your new home, or will all that clutter detract from the gorgeous views that made you fall in love with the property?

We sold our massive sectional, a few pieces of outdated artwork, and a spare bookcase, then donated the rest.

Letting go felt great, and we made a few bucks to lessen our moving expenses.

Save your donation receipt for tax day.

When leaving an infestation, there might be some casualties along the way. I threw away a giant framed print because the roaches infested the frame and backing.

Check the truck

Inspect the moving truck and storage unit for pests before loading your belongings onto it.

It’d be a shame to diligently remove bugs from your belongings only to have them become infested on the truck. But with mindful packing, your things should be impervious to pests.

It was a lot of work to get out of that infestation, but as I sit in my pest-free new home, I’m thankful I was diligent.

If you’re planning a move and want to leave pests behind, contact Great Day Moving for a free estimate, flat-rate pricing, and exceptional service.

Caleb Leonard is a freelance writer and marketing professional. A graduate of the University of North Texas, his interests include gardening, podcasts, and studying Spanish.

Safe and Pest-Free: Best Practices for Storing Belongings During a Move