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By November 27, 2013 Read More →

How to Vacuum Seal Clothes

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.

 vacuum cloths

 

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?

  • Waterproofing
  • Saves Space
  • Storage
  • 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:

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.

Silica Packet

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

Mylar Bag

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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About the Author:

Stephanie is a writer for the American Preppers Network, a small local paper and for her blog, The Home Front. She is also the credited writer of "Emergency Bag Essentials (Swatchbook): Everything You Need to Bug Out" to be released in August 2014. "I write articles based on my own experience about emergency preparedness, self-sufficiency, homesteading, food preservation and life around the farmstead. I grew up in a very rural area where I learned to garden, the art of canning, to hunt and fish, and to raise my own animals for food. Yes, families such as mine still do exist! I also spent 6 years volunteering for the local county Search and Rescue group where I learned a variety of survival skills and a little bit about law enforcement protocol. " "As a general rule of principle do not write articles about information that I have only read - if I am writing about something it's because of I have done it myself and gone to great lengths to provide you with the facts. I also have a full time job with an hour commute - my alter egos are as a Marketing Director, and an amateur photographer. " To connect with me --> click on one of the many little square social media buttons below!

10 Comments on "How to Vacuum Seal Clothes"

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  1. 20five says:

    Once in a while, I have a food saver bag lose its vacuum. I recommend a second seal (dry seal) at each end of a sealed item. This would be next to the first seal on the flap end, not the side of the first seal with the item in it.

    I like the idea of freezing the bag to kill moths and other bugs.

    Also, I’ve always wondered what one does (like your dad going hunting) when traveling with sealed clothes when the unsealed dirty clothes have to be brought home. Those clothes aren’t sealed, so how do they fit into the suitcase or bag on the return trip?

    • 20five,

      Good tip on the double seal – I have not had any of my seals fail with clothes. A few times I have sealed food that has poked holes in the bags and they failed that way, but I have never had that problem with clothes. I have messed up a few seals in the past and then applied a double seal as I knew the first wouldn’t last.

      _______________________

      When you are hiking or hunting – depending on where you going there is always the chance of the rain, humidity or falling in some body of water. In which case it is very handy to have a dry set of clothes to put on. I have hiked Olympic National Park and there is no rain cover for your pack that is good enough for those conditions. And even if its not raining the humidity is off the charts, anything that is not sealed up feels wet and is cold by the time you put it on. Alaska frequently has conditions that mirror these especially in the coastal regions. Sealing your clothes means you are guaranteed to have something warm and dry to put on.

      On space. When you go hiking or camping or hunting – do you pack back exactly the same stuff that you packed up? Or do you use some of it? Eat food? Drink water? Burn fuel? I have never been in a position where i have had exactly the same amount of stuff in my pack coming back as when I left. And as I general rule of thumb experienced travelers, hikers and hunters don’t fill their packs to the brim if they can at all avoid it.

      When we are hunting or day hiking we usually have “emergency clothing” sealed in our packs. One packs “emergency clothing” so if you get caught outside over night you have something warm and dry to wear that will save your life. OR if you fall in a river or stream you can get out of your wet clothes and put something warm on – which will also save your life. In this scenario – ditching the wet clothes is perfectly acceptable as once your life is no longer in danger you can go back for them if by some remote chance there absolutely no room in your pack. HOWEVER again, experienced hikers, travelers, and hunters do not habitually fill their packs to the brim. So I honestly can say we’ve have never had that problem. Even traveling for work which I do 5 times a year or so – I don’t fill my luggage to the brim because you just never know what you are going to bring back with you and so you learn to save some room.

  2. Mike says:

    I did this before deploying. One change of underwear per package. Keep them clean (nothing like sand in your briefs!) and I didn’t have to scrounge through my rucksack to find a set. It also reduces the space needed. I now seal everything I can fit in a seal-a-meal to keep in my BOB or for hunting.

  3. JJM says:

    MANY years ago, read that to get rid of odors in pillows and seat cushions, to put the object into a plastic garbage bag and then suck all the air out using a vacuum cleaner. Amazing how small a couch cushion can get!! Of course this was only temporary and all pillows easily fluffed up again. Hint, when you open the bag is a time to spray Fabreeze, Neutra-Air or pleasant scents along with the in-rushing air. Suppose that if on a trip you could borrow or buy a cheap vacuum to repack your goods in tied-tight trash bags.
    Disappointed to hear that DOWN will not survive prolonged compression.

  4. Psalm91 says:

    I’ve done this in the past with my clothes in my ruck bag for deployment. I vaccuum sealed two sets of underclothing (t-shirt, underwear, socks, and one set of thermals) and never opened them unless I was out on a mission and got soggy and needed dry clothes. I do this in my bug out bag as well so that if I get wet and my bag gets wet, I have dry clothes to change into. It also saves space.

  5. nola franzen says:

    I also use my vacuum sealer for silverware & my silver serving pieces (wrap in flannel or acid-free paper), shoes, batteries, anything that we put in the saddlebags on the motorcycles when we ride, almost anything can be sealed. Keeping stuff clean & dry is only one aspect. Keeping it safe & usable is the most important.

  6. Yes, another use for our overworked Foodsaver machine is vac-packing our bug out bag clothes. Also ammo (still in the boxes, lightly vacuumed), matches in their boxes, virtually anything you want to keep dry and protected. Just adjust the vacuum rate so that the packages don’t crush flat. Then of course all the myriad ways of food preservation the gadget was intended for in the first place!

    • Hi Silas! Miss seeing your input since I have been off the forum. Agreed – I have burned through one really nice FoodSaver model already – use it for so many things! Thanks for the comment!

  7. 20five says:

    Foodsaver machine tip (learned the hard way). When the instructions say “always store in unlocked position” that means if you lock the lid tight, it’s tight on the heat sealer. So the life of the sealer strip will be shorter. And your machine is junk when the sealer strip doesn’t work. So follow that instruction for longer sealer life.

  8. Mike says:

    Who knew? Multitasking at its finest. I sealed some steel wool and petrolatum saturated gauze to put in my truck. That and my Mora Firestarter gives me yet another way to start a fire. I think the possibilities are endless (as is the grief my wife gives me when I use up all the bags and don’t tell her).



Earlier this month, APN Author Stephanie Dayle got some scary news about her twin babies.  Let's see what we can do to help out.