You’ve heard of vacuum sealing dehydrated dry goods – but have you heard of vacuum sealing clothes?
When I was younger my parents saw their first FoodSaver Vacuum machine at the local fair. Kid you not – in small rural communities new technology was still introduced at larger local fairs. They were so impressed by the food preservation capabilities they saw they purchased one on the spot and brought it home.
After one season of using it solely for food my Dad brought my mom a shirt and asked if it could be vacuum sealed for one of his Alaska trips. As a hunting guide in Alaska, every summer/fall my dad would fly people into remote areas and help them hunt. He was always looking for ways to save space, weight and water proof things. He was so impressed with the results he had her vacuum seal all of his clothes.
Soon all of our hiking and hunting clothes were vacuumed sealed. I have found it to be particularly handy for clothing set aside for emergency preparedness and still to this day find that the bags I make from FoodSaver bags are more durable, and more compressed than using a Space Bags. I’ve had countless Space (saver) Bags break on me and lose their seal. While I like the fact that Space Bags are reusable, I don’t have much faith in them to keep my clothes dry in an emergency. If I need a resealable bag to put clothes I just use a Ziplock bag.
Why Would Anyone Vacuum Seal Clothes?
- Saves Space
- For use in Emergency Preparedness Get Home Bags
(click here to read more about Get Home Bags)
- For use in Emergency Preparedness Bug Out Bags
- Emergency Clothing for Vehicles
- Emergency Clothing at Bug Out Locations
- Travel (river travel, backpacking, hiking)
How to Vacuum Seal Clothing!
Start with the following items:
- FoodSaver or other Brand of Vacuum Sealer
- FoodSaver or other Brand Bags
- Article of Clothing
- Silica Packets (if humidity is a concern)
- Oxygen Absorbers 500 cc or Bigger (if moths are a concern)
1) Make sure the clothes you want to seal are as dry as a possible and completely clean!
2) Cut a bug to size for the article of clothing. Make sure the bag is longer than you think it needs to be. This leaves space to pinch the top together and get it in the vacuum channel on the sealer. For this purpose a roll of uncut bags is preferable over the pre-cut bags.
3) Heat seal one end only to create the bag, leaving the other end open.
4) Fill the bag with the clothing you want to seal. Add a silica packet to take care any lingering moisture, this will prevent mildew. If moths are a concern in your home, also add an oxygen absorber packet. FoodSaver machines merely create a vacuum – they do not remove all the oxygen, so if moths are a concern adding an oxygen absorber will take care of any remaining oxygen in the bag killing any live moth larvae (source).
5) Flatten and insert the bag into the vacuum channel and using the “dry” setting select the “vacuum and seal” option.
6) When the machine is finished you will have a compressed waterproof clothing packet!
Other Sealing and Storage Options
If you want to place the clothing in storage for longer than a year or so you can further protect it by placing multiple clothing packets in 5 gallon buckets. This adds another layer of protection and protects the clothing from light.
Another option for storing clothes long term is using Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers. Simply add the clothing, silica packet, and oxygen absorber to the Mylar bag, compress as much air out of it as you can then heat seal the bag closed. The oxygen absorber will take care of the oxygen within the bag, kill any moth larvae and will usually compress the bag as it absorbs the oxygen. Mylar, which is also waterproof, will repel insects and will help to protect the clothes from rodents.
NOTE: While mice cannot smell through Mylar they can chew through it if they are bored or just blindly searching for food. Mylar bags can usually dissuade mice because they can’t smell the contents of the bag, however they are not completely mice proof. If mice are a concern you can add the bags and clothes to a small metal trash can, and secure the lid, this should repel even the most determined mice.
Dealing with Clothing Moths
Clothing moths are common nuisance in many areas. They are attracted to natural fibers, wool in particular and are especially drawn to dirty clothing or clothing that is damp as moths need moisture to thrive. They usually reproduce in carpets and find their way to clothing via clothes on the floor, but any stray moth can find it’s way to your clothing drawer to lay it’s eggs (source).
To protect your storage clothes from moths you can try avoiding natural fibers, and/or depriving them of oxygen. Unlike weevils, clothing moth larvae and eggs will die in the absence of moisture and oxygen, therefore adding silica and oxygen absorber packets to your clothes will take care of any moths that may already be in your clothes (source).
Moth larvae are also susceptible to cold. Freezing articles of clothing for at least 3 days below 18°F (-8°C) will also kill moth larvae. Natural remedies and repellants include: lavender (packets of dried buds in your drawer, refresh them with essential oil on occasion) and camphor (peppermint, rosemary). Many people find these repellants more tolerable than moth balls, and finally keeping your clothes off of the floor and as clean as possible will also help deter these destructive insects. (source).
PLEASE NOTE: Do not vacuum seal articles of clothing or sleeping bags with real down filling in them. The compression will permanently damage the feathers and the items will never regain their loft! Synthetic down should be fine – but real down should not be vacuum sealed.
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