Storage containers offer freedom to us in several ways, including; the ability to travel without a home base, the freedom to move across the country with all of our belongings, and the freedom of space by storing things away from our living quarters. Perhaps the biggest threat to these advantages is, shipping container condensation caused by moisture.
Moisture is the result of temperature changes inside an enclosed area. For instance, when the weather is warm during the day and then temperatures drop towards the evening, the combination of heat followed by cool temperatures causes humidity, or damp conditions. The biggest problem with moisture build up isn’t just things getting wet, it’s mould. Mould not only damages precious sofas and wooden items, it also presents significant health risks.
But wait, before you throw out the whole storage idea, there are quite a few options for preventing the condensation disaster altogether. We’ve compiled a list from professionals as well as those that have simply tried and failed and were willing to share some knowledge. Some of these ideas will appeal to the less ambitious, and others take a little more initiative. Either way, you should be able to identify several tactics for preserving those special household items.
- Cat litter. This isn’t a joke and it’s also one of the easiest ways to absorb excess moisture in a container. When you put a bucket full of litter in the storage area, it acts as a desiccant by pulling water out of the air and containing it until it has reached capacity. If something just doesn’t sit right with you about putting kitty litter in with Grandma’s china cupboard, there are some other options along the same vein. Water absorbing packs from the hardware store, buckets of silica, charcoal, calcium sulfate and calcium chloride. All of these lower the dew point at which moisture is transformed to liquid. If you do choose to use desiccants then you may need to check in on the storage container to see if they need replacing. This may only be necessary if you’re storing items over a long period of time in a particularly wet area. If you don’t think you’ll be able to change the buckets, you might want to add some dry bags on the floor as an additional measure of protection. Check out some moisture absorbers online here, and here.
- Another slightly more elegant take on the cat litter is to buy some moisture absorb poles that contains salts within that do, indeed, absorb moisture. The dampness is taken from the air and directed into the tank in the pole where it is converted to a gel form in order to keep it contained. If the storage area is particularly humid then they may need changing after several months. The upside to these is that if they do fill up, the water is now in gel form and won’t be released back into the atmosphere, so they’re a good option if you can’t check up on things.
- If you’re serious about storing right, the best thing you can do is install vents! This isn’t necessarily the easiest option but it is feasible and it is effective. Whirlybird vents on the roof are a good option but less so in really rainy areas where water may get in through the vent. This can be remedied by hanging a tarp over the container or locating it under a roof to begin with. Other than the whirly birds there are aftermarket shipping container vents sold that will maintain ambient temperature inside which will prevent condensation from sharp weather changes. Find Australian made vents here, and here.
4. Mattress bags and air-tight plastic wrap around anything you can manage will go a long way in discouraging mould growth.
5. If you’re storing a refrigerator or washing machine, make sure they are completely dry with no leftover ice etc. left inside to create a damp environment .
6. If you’re reading this in regards to an existing container you have, make sure it’s watertight! All ANL containers are already wind and watertight upon sale.
7. Elevation. Setting your container on blocks above the ground tends to combat temperature change coming from up through the ground.
8. You can buy rust preventative paint to recoat your container if you know it will be subjected to periods of rain while you’re away. You can find anti- rust paint through these guys.
9. Some storage veterans claim that adding a slight tilt to your container (perhaps with the blocks from #7) will prevent water from pooling on the roof which will also protect from rust and possible leakage.
10. If you, or a friend, have access to the container, it can be helpful to air it out once every couple of weeks, especially if you aren’t installing a vent.
11. For the crafty folk, installing a frame with a “tropical roof” over the container will further protect it from inclement weather, as well as any possible leaks, if you are using an old container from somewhere else. As mentioned earlier, this would also address the issue of water leaking in through a whirlybird vent. Again, ANL containers are all sealed, lockable, and watertight, but the roof can protect against rust and drastic temperature increases that lead to humidity, and eventually mould. Check out these forums from people who have done it already.
12. If you haven’t already packed up your ANL container, try removing excess moisture before putting everything in. One tried-and-true method is attaching an old towel to a broomstick and running it along all surfaces. This will pick up any lurking moisture that may thwart your other efforts. Make sure you don’t pack anything that already has mould or water damage as it can contribute to the damage of other items stored alongside.
13. If you’re using pallets to elevate or separate items within your container, pick plastic over wood as they are resistant to mould and don’t hold moisture to begin with.
14. If your container will have access to power you can set up a dehumidifier inside. You’ll have to empty it regularly or hook up a hose to direct the water build-up to the outside. This is a good option for anyone in a humid area who is using the container for long term storage adjacent to their home. You can also try this non-electric dehumidifier made in Australia, or a more classic one here.
15. Luckily, ANL containers are already insulated, but you can go the extra mile if you’ve got some really precious belongings. Adding cladding to the interior walls and roof keeps the contents warmer than the dew point so that extreme external temperature changes won’t affect the inside. For a real D.I.Y. experience you can encase bubble wrap in aluminium foil to line the interior, including the floor, or buy polystyrene insulation from the hardware store. An even easier option for insulation is a spray called Supertherm, or equivalent, which is simply sprayed on walls to insulate as well as absorb excess moisture. You can read more about Supertherm here.
So whether you’re throwing in a bucket of cat litter or installing vents and a tropical roof, you’ll be able to make a difference in protecting your goods, with as much or little effort you can muster. To get a quote on a sealable, watertight ANL container, head over here and get all your questions answered.