5 Things You Should Never Store in Plastic Bins (And Where to Store Them Instead)

The experts reveal why plastic bins aren’t always the answer and what we really should be storing our possessions in

(Image credit: IKEA)

It’s all too easy to turn to plastic bins as a quick and affordable storage solution. We’re used to seeing them in kitchens, closets, boot rooms and even general living spaces. However, they aren’t the most attractive thing to look at and have you ever thought that they may not be the most sustainable or hygienic solution either? 

When you're looking at how to declutter your home, plastic bins aren't the best solution for everything you're looking to store. We spoke to the experts who let us know exactly what we should and shouldn’t be storing in plastic bins and what other options there are available. 

1. Delicate clothing 

Storing your seasonal clothes away is a great space-saving idea, however plastic bins aren't the best storage for clothes of all kinds? If you have items that are fragile, embroidered or made out of a delicate material you may want to reconsider packing them away in a plastic bin.

Founder and CEO of Composed Living Elsa Elbert says ‘delicate clothing and accessories made of silk, lace, cashmere or leather should not be stored in plastic bins. The plastic can trap moisture and eventually ruin these items. Instead of plastic, we love using a breathable bin that’s made out of a natural fabric’. 

2. Leather goods 

a closet painted in dark brown

(Image credit: Plain English)

Similar to delicate items of clothing, leather is a type of fabric that should be well cared for. Initially, you may think it’s highly durable (which it can be) however you want to make sure you’re storing it correctly so it stands the test of time. 

‘While many items should not be stored in plastic, it is important to note there are varying degrees of seriousness and in some cases a clear plastic bin is better than nothing, cardboard or a bag,' Ben Soreff from H2H Organizing says. 'The big no-no is leather goods, including purses, footwear, clothing. Leather needs to breathe and plastic bins can trap moisture which will lead to mildew’.

As an alternative for things like handbag storage, Ben suggests that ‘cotton dust coverings or bags is a better way to go when it comes to storing leather goods’. 

3. Dried goods 

Clothing and shoes aren’t the only things we like to keep stored away at home. When it comes to the kitchen or pantry, we often store long lasting food that doesn't need to be consumed immediately. Did you know that using plastic containers for this isn't actually the ideal solution? 

‘For the same moisture issue as delicate clothing, certain foods like dried goods should not be kept in plastic. If possible, glass containers would work better’, explains Ben. Repurpose old jars to store foods such as pasta and rice that will keep them safe and secure. 

4. Pet food 

a light kitchen with a dark pantry

(Image credit: Tony Li. Design: RoseRock918)

It’s sometimes easier to unload pet food into a big plastic container which you can then scoop out of when it’s needed. However, this isn’t the best food storage container for your pets. Did you know that plastic containers can transmit poisonous chemicals when they come into contact with pet food? Ben explains that ‘pet food should not be stored in plastic. Pet food is typically oily and over time will start to smell and give off gas. If possible, put the entire bag in the container with an air-tight lid for a win-win’. 

Additionally, using a metal or glass container will be a much safer option than plastic and you can still pick these up from a local home store for an affordable price tag. 

5. Important documents/photographs 

Plastic boxes are guilty for trapping humidity inside them, which can quite easily damage fragile items. Important documents or photographs are definitely something that you’re going to want to keep safe so make sure you choose the right storage for them. 

Professional organizer Shara Kay says that ‘you want to avoid storing art, photos and important documents in plastic bins unless the plastic is photo-safe and archival quality’. Instead, invest in a modern filing cabinet that boasts a contemporary design. This is a stylish way to store all of your paperwork. 

Becca Cullum-Green
Freelance writer

Becca Cullum-Green is a freelance interiors content creator and stylist. She fell in love with interiors when she landed her first job as an editorial assistant at a leading UK homes magazine fresh out of university. You can find her renovating her 19th-century cottage in the Suffolk countryside, consciously trying not to paint every wall with Farrow and Ball’s ‘Pitch Black’. Her signature style is a mix of modern design with traditional characteristics. She has previously worked for House Beautiful, Grand Designs, Good Housekeeping, Red, Good Homes and more.