Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Adventures with vacuum storage bags


I've begun the annual ritual of putting away winter blankets, coats, etc. until they're needed again.  This year I'm trying something new:  I'm using vacuum storage bags.  After doing some comparative research, I decided on this brand, since it was relatively economical in the 30-bag pack, and its customer reviews were reasonably good.

So far, the experiment is proving very successful.  I've packed throws, fleecy blankets, and several winter-weight coats, and all have shrunk dramatically, needing a lot less storage space than before.  I can only wonder why I never tried this in the past.

However, I couldn't help but notice customer reviews, for this product and for other similar ones, complaining that:

  • Some bags (in some cases, up to half) didn't seal properly, rendering them useless.  Several reviewers complained that the plastic clip on the ziplock seam fell off and proved useless.
  • Some bags were very hard to seal, with the ziplock seam hard to close and pulling open when a vacuum cleaner hose was applied;
  • Some bags split when filled, proving very brittle instead of flexible.
I haven't found any of those problems, but I was forewarned by the reviews.  I therefore did some advance planning before using them, and took several precautions.

  1. I made sure not to over-fill the bags.  Some people seem to ram clothes into them until they bulge, and then wonder why the seams split or the ziplock seal won't close.  If you don't overwork them, they seem to function just fine.
  2. I folded the clothes and blankets neatly, and eased them into the bags carefully, rather than just stuffing them in any old how.  That put less stress on the opening and the seams.  (I also added a couple of large dessicant packets to each one, to absorb any moisture that might get in.  Tightly sealed clothes and moisture don't mix well - think fungus.)
  3. I made sure to seal the opening very carefully, running my fingers up and down the double seals several times.  That made sure it was properly closed, so that when the vacuum was used, it could handle the pressure change.  Also, I found the plastic clip on the seam was never intended to be permanent - it was a slide-on aid to closing the bag rather than an integral part of the seal.  I discarded it and didn't bother to use it, and didn't miss it.
  4. I didn't regard the bags as a clothing equivalent of a Food Saver bag, intended to have all the air drawn out and sealing-in a complete vacuum.  I don't think they're intended for that.  Instead, I took out only enough air to compress their contents to a reasonable extent.  I'm pretty sure that if I'd tried to flatten them completely, particularly on the well-filled bags, the ziplock seals and/or the seams might have given way.  Moderation in use is not necessarily a bad thing.

By following those steps, I haven't had any problems, and all the bags I've used so far have worked perfectly.  I can only presume that some of the reviewers who didn't like them, or complained about them, didn't use them properly.

I'm going to try a few of the smaller vacuum storage bags to compress a change of clothing in our emergency kits.  It should make them easier to store and transport.  (I'm also going to try Commander Zero's suggestion of using Food Saver vacuum bags to protect other important emergency items.  It might save a lot of trouble in case of urgent need.)

Just a few thoughts that I hope you may find helpful.



Peteforester said...

I used these before. Trouble with them is that they leak ever so slowly. If you have a stack of blankets compressed on your closet shelf, they'll eventually decompress and you'll have a stack of blankets bound between the shelf and the ceiling!

Cederq said...

I have used those for years living and traveling around in a travel trailer. It sure save a lot of space, space being a problem in a small trailer. Yes, you can't over fill them and try to vacuum them down to a outer-space pure vacuum. I use a desiccant and a couple of dryer sheets in the bag as clothes even under vacuum can get a musty smell. It also helps keep rodents away.

Stephen said...

My experience with using Food Saver bags for emergency items carried in a backpack is that they would develop leaks about 20 - 30% of the time. Oddly, dropping the Food Saver bag into an ordinary gallon freezer bag eliminated the problem. The freezer bag alone was prone to opening partially and -- somehow -- ballooning up under normal activities. The two together worked fine. Everything stayed compact and intact.

Peter B said...

I haven't tried that brand but I've tried several, including name brands. Some of the bags--regardless of fill level--always develop slow leaks. Sometimes it's the seal, sometimes the bag itself. I've taken to buying more bags than needed; check them again in a couple of weeks or a month to see if this is the case with yours.

Anonymous said...

I tried several of these bags from Harbor Freight. The ones that did seal all leaked out within 3 months. Get what you pay for, I guess.

Old NFO said...

I'll be interested to see if they 'leak' in the coming months. That's what happened to the ones I used.

Stan_qaz said...

We used bags like this in out RV, they did leak over a couple months so we just added giving them another shot of vacuum every month or so.

coyoteken48 said...

Every time I've use them they have leaked no matter how filled they were. a real waste.---ken

Beans said...

If you put a bar of soap of your favorite flavor in the bag, the clothes will smell really fresh and good, and help combat any mustiness.

Same with storing clothes and linens and bedding in plastic totes. A bar in each corner will make the contents smell good and chase the bugs away.

My favorite is Dial Gold.

Will said...

I've tried several brands, and they all seem to have a similar failure rate, at least 80%. Some are fast leakers, ballooning in a day or three at most. Others are slower, perhaps a week or two. I wish there was a practical way to test them.

When purchasing, look for a sealed box. I've found some with rips that were probably returns that just got tossed back on the shelf.

I have no idea where the leaks are likely to be located. Seams? Pinholes? Gaskets? If they had a screw cap, it might be possible to pressurize them to search, but the normal design gives no way to do it. Bad engineering. I've given up on them, reluctantly.

Anonymous said...

This may not be relevant for your situation. Vacuum bags will destroy the loft in down garments and bedding almost immediately. The items may fluff up temporarily upon removing them from the bags, but they will never truly recover, as the vacuum pressure breaks the delicate structure of the down. Not a problem with most other natural fibers.

Anonymous said...

I've had the ones from Dollar Tree last a couple of years on a shelf. The clothes come out smelling like plastic.

Anonymous said...

Nine years ago I decided to do this with the bags sold at wally. Bought a brand name and stuffed all the extra bedding I never used into the bags, shoved them under a couple of beds and forgot about them. Sold home early this year and found them again. They were all still sealed with no air leakage. They got packed and moved to a storage unit. Spring I've got help coming and probably 50% will, hopefully, be sold in a large yard sale.

Craig said...

Contractor trash bags. Can be cut to size, seal with quality duct tape. Has worked in the past.

Anonymous said...

I've used them, and discovered a range of quality among some different brands. While I don't recall which was which, the thicker polyethylene ones worked best and were less likely to rip or fail to seal properly.

We put vacuumed bags in a corrugated box, and tape it closed so even if the vacuum in the bags is reduced through leakage or whatever, the size does not expand beyond the box.