Help Desk: What Not to Store in Your Car or Garage During the Winter
You’d be surprised how many things in your storage areas need new homes in colder temperatures.
Sure, when a chill hits the air we know to pull out the A/C unit, cover door and window drafts, brush off the sweaters, and put a pot of stew on the stove. But you need to ask can all the items we store in our garage and car handle the colder temperatures? These are the items you should never, ever keep stowed in those places during winter.
What Not to Store in Your Car
Many medications—prescription and over the counter—aren’t stable when exposed to temperature fluctuations. This is particularly true during winter and summer, so please, take yours indoors and be sure they’re stored in a dry, moderate place, like your medicine cabinet or a pill sorter you can pop in your bag.
Cosmetics and Toiletries
Emulsifiers and preservatives in beauty and self-care products keep them shelf-stable and make them easy to apply. But moisture from condensation can create a perfect environment for bacteria. Just a few hours or overnight in a cold car can alter their contents (and shelf life) dramatically, costing you dearly. Take them on the go in a tidy toiletry bag.
Never, ever store your smartphone, tablets, smart toys, or any items with lithium batteries in your car. The batteries can be damaged when temperatures fall below freezing, so it’s best to turn off your electronics—particularly your phone—if it’s very cold (below 15-20 degrees Fahrenheit). Better yet, keep your phone in your bag or pocket.
Plastic Beverage Bottles
The freezing and thawing of a plastic bottle can not only alter the plastic, releasing potential toxins into the liquid, but also create an environment for bacteria to grow. While it’s tempting to sip from an ice-cold drink left in your car, don’t. Recycle it, and grab a new bottle. Portable, reusable beverage containers are your best bet, and can be run through the dishwasher.
Buying some pretty greenery to spruce up your home this winter? Be sure they’re at the end of your errands, so they don’t spend too long in a chilly parked vehicle. Plants are very sensitive to temperature fluctuations. Keep leafy plants away from your car windows so the foliage doesn’t get burned, and make sure to take them somewhere temperate as soon as you return home.
Notes on Winter Car Maintenance
Be sure to have a reliable tire pressure gauge and air compressor in your trunk, since the drop in mercury can cause your tires to deflate.
Don’t get caught with a filthy windshield after a nasty bout of sleet because your windshield wipers weren’t working. Be sure to use windshield wiper fluid that can withstand freezing.
Cars can become musty in cold weather; a moisture- and odor-absorbing agent can help keep their interiors smelling fresh.
What Not to Store in Your Garage
It may seem like a spacious place to store your off-season garments, but the garage is inhospitable to your clothes. Fluctuating moisture levels, stagnant air, and hangry vermin are the evil trifecta and will prevent your threads from looking their season best. Better to seal them in space-saver bags and stow them under your bed or on a closet shelf.
For safety reasons, never, ever store your propane tanks indoors. After you’ve cleaned your grill for the winter—or if you’re a hearty soul who likes to get your winter grill on—simply get a grill cover and keep your setup outside. Most propane tanks are good up to -45 degrees Fahrenheit, and if we see temperatures below that, we’ll probably have other more pressing matters to concern ourselves with.
When the thermometer drops below about 50 degrees Fahrenheit, fridges will stop running as often to cool. At 30, they don’t run at all. That makes food inside susceptible to spoiling. Ditto your cold bottles of Chardonnay, which probably are not benefitting from being stored outside their ideal temperature range of 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. You could always buy your Super Bowl/trivia night/March Madness beers last minute and exile them to your deck, porch, or rooftop in what we like to call “Nature’s Refrigerator.”
You thought those canned tins of beans and sardines would take you through Armageddon or at least a Walking Dead reenactment. Sorry, but they’re also likely to spoil when stored in extreme temps. Any food, even canned and boxed, is likely to tempt pests in the garage. Better to stack it on shelf organizers indoors.
Opened pet food is like a dinner bell for winter-ravaged mice families and their kinfolk. Keep it stored in an airtight container indoors, where it receives a regulated temperature to stay fresh. Fluffy and Fido will thank you for their crunchy, pest-free feasts.
Paint, opened or not, can suffer from extreme temperatures. Its quality will never be the same, and you’re likely to see rust rings on your garage floor. Better to store it indoors in a closet, or recycle leftover paint.
Photo and Record Albums
Unless you have a temperature-controlled garage with a dehumidifier, your paper products aren’t going to fare well this winter. Photos will warp and the color will start to alter, that’s if the mice haven’t already made a nice fluffy bed out of them. The record album jackets can become moldy and damp, and the transition from cold to warm when a record is brought indoors can create condensation, causing the jackets to stick to the vinyl. Keep your precious memories and music stored indoors in a crate or photo-friendly box.