Thinking of Storing Your Instruments in Self Storage? Here’s How to Do It

Jon Fesmire |

If you’re a musician, or you have one in your family, you know the bond you can feel between you and your instrument. It can be tough to put one in storage. Maybe you have several guitars and not enough room at home for all of them, or your piano-playing child just went to college and it makes sense to put the grand piano in storage while they’re away. Whatever the case, you’ll want to keep them in great shape.

Musical instruments have delicate parts, so you need to do things right. Here are our tips.

Climate Control

This is essential wherever you are.

Humidity and dryness can expand and contract wood and heat can warp metal. If the weather gets hot and humid in the summer and cold and dry in the winter where you live, your instruments can suffer serious damage just sitting in a storage unit.

Climate-controlled units keep your instruments safe. In them, facilities keep the temperature between about 50 and 80 degrees and the humidity between 30% and 50%, ideal conditions for not only musical instruments, but most of your stuff.

Let’s cover the basics of preparing and storing a variety of instruments, and then cover some general information.

Brass Instruments

Disassemble your brass instrument, remove any reeds and mouthpieces, and polish it thoroughly with a white cotton cloth and brass polish from a music store. Don’t miss the keys, valves, and the spaces underneath and between them. Cleaning out the inside of brass instruments is tricky, so use a brass instrument cleaning brush for inside the tubes and horns.

Woodwind and String Instruments

Because they’re both made primarily of wood, some of the same methods used to clean woodwinds and stringed instruments are the same. You’ll need to clean these instruments with a special wax rub available at your local music store. Do not use oil or alcohol-based polish, which can dry out wooden instruments.

Before you polish your stringed instrument, relax the strings. And before you polish your woodwind instrument, disassemble it and clean the keys and valves. Your local music store will have supplies for cleaning your woodwinds.

Pianos

Pianos are made to handle the tight strings inside, so whatever you do, don’t loosen them. You’ll only have to pay for someone to tune the piano later, and that’s expensive. Check your music store for a piano polish, then polish it according to the instructions, and wipe down the keys with a clean microfiber cloth.

When it’s time to put this instrument in storage, cover it with a sheet or tarp. Keep in mind that pianos are heavy, so we encourage you to hire a professional mover to take it to your storage unit.

Percussion Instruments

Drummers are used to disassembling their drum kits after performances or rehearsals, so much of this may be familiar to you.

Before storing, you’ll need to disassemble your drums again. If you have leather drum skins, you’ll need to properly oil them, and your music store can provide the right oil and instructions. Store each drum in its own case.

Electric and Acoustic Guitars

Guitars and electric basses are pretty easy to prepare. Use a clean, damp cloth and wipe off the smudges and dirt. Then use a dry cloth, preferably microfiber, to rub the guitar down to a shine. Relax the strings before you put it in its case. Put three guitar humidifier packs on the case. You can get these at a music store like Guitar Center, and the packs come with instructions. These are made to keep the wood from drying out.

Electronic Keyboards

Before storing an electronic keyboard, dust the keys and wipe it down with a clean microfiber cloth. Remove the electrical cord and store it in its own section of the case. Put the keyboard in the case and it’s ready to go.

Some Basics

These tips apply to all musical instruments. As we’ve alluded to throughout this article, musical instruments belong in cases made specifically for them, or at least for the type of instrument. You can provide extra protection for the instrument by lining the case with buffered, acid-free paper available at music supply stores.

Store your instruments off the floor and away from doorways and vents. Shelves work best. Consider using a large, sturdy palate for pianos.

Know the value of your instruments and purchase enough insurance, either from the storage facility or through a separate self storage insurance provider. Instruments vary in monetary value; you’ll want to know how much yours are worth and how much it would cost to replace them.

If you have a manual for your instrument, read the care instructions before preparing it for storage, or search on Google for how to clean specific instruments. Our tips here are general because this is a big topic.

Then, once you’ve prepared your instruments and are looking for a storage space near you, check our listings, which cover the U.S. and Canada, and remember that if you can, rent a unit with climate control to protect those musical instruments.