Putting the lid on another barbeque season means more than polishing off the potato chips. Storing garden and gas tools, as well as your trusty barbecue, takes some know-how if you want them to be ready to go next spring.
Putting all your toys and tools into self-storage involves a bit of work as well. Slightly different work, since the rules in a self-storage facility are probably not the same as the rules in your garage. (Disclaimer: I’ve never seen your garage.)
So before you stash everything and shut those doors, properly prepare your items for the dark, coming months. When it’s time to let it all back out into the sun, you’ll be happy you did.
Cleaning the blades of your shovels with a piece of burlap or an old rag before winter makes good sense. Sure, tools were made to get dirty, but leaving clumps of dirt on those metal surfaces and even any wooden handles can expose them to moisture, resin and sap, which is not good. There is also the chance that you’ll be allowing some creepy little critters to fester and incubate – not good for your garage, and certainly not endearing to self-storage facility management.
Making sure your tools are dry before you store them is a given. You might also spray a little WD-40 on those metal surfaces and wipe them off with a clean rag or a paper towel, to get them extra clean and rust-resistant. (Note: Avoid that lingering odor of oil; Go easy on the WD, go hard on wiping it off.)
Hedge clippers, pruners and other tools with moving parts will benefit from a little extra lubricant to keep those parts moving freely. If you spot any rust, it would be a great idea to get rid of it with a wire brush. Again, wipe clean and dry and let it all air out.
Before you close up shop, drain and dry out your garden hoses and lawn sprinklers. In your garage, water can do some damage to a hose when it freezes and expands. In your garage as well as in a climate-controlled facility, there’s the potential for rust, not to mention the minor hassle of having water leak out onto some of your other stuff. Get all of that taken care of before storing.
Gasoline is like milk, not wine. It goes bad over time.
The gas you leave in your lawn mower or your chainsaw can turn into something like varnish over the winter, potentially corroding the engine’s lines and clogging up the carburetor. If you’re not savvy with tools, I’ll translate that for you: that’s not good.
Luckily, prevention is simple. Experts like our friends at Popular Mechanics advise pouring some stabilizer into a gas can, mixing in some fresh gas, and pouring the mixture into the tank. Let the engine run a couple of minutes to work it through the system and you are good to go (for about three months). Check the manual for your mower (or chainsaw, or leaf blower or weed whacker), but generally, for longer-term storage, it’s advisable to run the tank–which is exactly what you’ll need to do if you are putting these things into self-storage, or onto a moving truck for that matter.
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You might also consider changing the oil in your mower if you’re storing it in your garage for the winter. For a self-storage facility, you’ll want to drain (and properly recycle) that old oil. And be sure to also check and clean the underside of your mower. All the grass, dirt and gunk under there does your mower no favors over time. Give that blade a good cleaning too, in the same manner as with your garden tools.
Warning: Disconnect the mower’s spark plug before putting your hands anywhere near the underside of your mower!
All you hardcore winter grillers up north and year-round barbecue fans down south can skip this part. The rest of us have more work to do.
Outdoor grills should be cleaned well before storing for three reasons:
- Mice and other critters looking for a warm, dry place to hunker down can be lured in by leftover bits of food stuck to the grill and sitting at the bottom of the grill’s interior.
- Mold can and will grow on any organic matter over time, even if you totally burned those Labor Day burgers. Cleaning out any food and greasy residue in the Fall will minimize the chances of a tougher cleaning job in the run-up to Memorial Day.
- Moisture can lead to corrosion and oxidation, not only of the wire grill but all your big bad barbecue’s components. Cleaning out all those food remnants will reduce the chances of moisture collecting over the winter. This includes any drip pans, ash catchers and charcoal grates.
And yes, disconnect the propane or LP gas tanks from your grill and leave them outside. They shouldn’t be stored in your garage and your self-storage facility people won’t let you keep them in your unit. To keep them protected from the elements and potential rust they should be placed on cement or brick, or even some metal grating, not on the ground where they could end up with wet feet for three months straight. Covering them up with a nylon tarp or some durable plastic will help keep the nozzles and valves from rusting as well.
Remember, no matter how incredibly smart you are about cleaning your things, self-storage facilities ultimately have their own policies for storage. Old Man Winter plays by his own rules. Either way, taking a little time now can save you some trouble down the road, when it’s time to bring your backyard back to life.