Don't Pack These Household Items When You Move

Dawn M. Smith
Written by Dawn M. Smith
Updated October 26, 2021
Young couple handle boxes for a move
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When it's time to move, give special attention to the items on this list and remember safety first

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Knowing what items to pack and move is part art and part science. Choosing items to pack or leave behind takes some finesse, but leaving hazardous materials out of your moving vehicles is just good science. Add in the moving company’s policies for what they will and won’t move coupled with state laws about what can and can’t be transported across state lines, and you’re going to need a little help knowing what to pack. Use these tips to figure out what to leave behind and what needs extra care.

1. Poisonous, Flammable, Hazardous, Corrosive, or Explosive Items

You might not think of bathroom cleaners or nail polish as dangerous items to move. They are, after all, common household goods. But, they’re dangerous when pressurized, in high-temperature environments, or stored near firearms or car batteries. 

Before tossing your everyday household items into new moving boxes, evaluate if they’re safe to pack. These are items to keep an eye out for:

Flammable and Combustible Items

  • Ammonia

  • Alcohol

  • Batteries: Remove from household items, like remote controls and toys. 

  • Fireworks and flares

  • Gasoline, motor oil, and kerosene: Don’t forget to empty lawn equipment.

  • Lighter fluids

  • Matches

  • Paint and varnish: Leave matching touch-up paint for new residents; otherwise, throw it away correctly. Ask your local waste disposal company for EPA-approved solutions.

  • Propane tanks: Return empty to the merchant you used to buy full tanks.

  • Canned heat sources

Compressed Gases and Poisons

  • Aerosol sprays: Commonly found in spray paint for home projects, spray cleaners, and hairspray.

  • Oxygen tanks

  • Fire extinguishers: While you’re at it, check the expiration date and dispose of if it’s expired. 

  • Pool chemicals

  • Gardening chemicals and fertilizer

  • Insecticides and pesticides

  • Household cleaners: Including bathroom and kitchen cleaners, adhesive removers, and carpet cleaning solutions.

2. Perishables

Hey, we’re all for saving money (it's expensive to re-buy a complete collection of spices and herbs) and reusing what you can, but transporting perishables is tricky. For quick local moves across town, a cooler with cold packing and insulation gets frozen foods, meats, eggs, dairy products, fruits, and vegetables safely to your new house. But before a long-distance move, it is best to set up a day for friends and family to come over and take what they can use. Or, if you’re a creative cook, host a super casual leftover dinner for anyone you’d like to say goodbye to one last time.

Don’t try to pack anything fresh in your moving truck, even if it's only for a day or two and sealed in containers. You’d be surprised how fast pests like bugs and mice can find your favorite cereal and quinoa.

3. Pets and Plants

A dog sits on moving box next to a plant
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It should go without saying, but for their safety, pets of any kind cannot ride in a moving truck. Instead, they should ride in the car in a crate or using an animal seatbelt. Or, for long distance and overseas moves, check out pet transportation companies endorsed by the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association

For some plant parents, caring for indoor plants carries the same emotional weight as caring for pets. If they’re packed securely, and possibly removed from breakable pots, indoor and outdoor plants are easily moved across town. But, if you have a cross-country move, it all depends on your car space. Depending on the plants’ size, you might have to rehome your beloveds.

4. Personal and Irreplaceable items

If you have visions of your family’s heirloom wedding dress heading down the aisle one more time, leave it off the moving truck. Even with the best care, accidents can happen, which can leave you without your most precious items or the ones that are hardest to replace. Plus, no one wants to go to the DMV for a new ID. It’s best to find somewhere to pack these items with you:

  • Moving paperwork, especially the bill of lading

  • Car titles

  • Checks and cash

  • Financial documents: tax, insurance, housing 

  • Passports, birth certificates, marriage license

  • Wills

  • Medical records

  • School records

  • Jewelry

  • Laptops

  • Cellphones

  • Collectibles, antiques

  • Family photos, home movies

  • Copies of keys for cars, safe deposit boxes

  • Medication

5. Broken or Unused Items

Although exciting and possibly life-changing, moving is time-consuming and expensive. One of the best ways to ease your burden is to rid yourself of anything that isn’t move-worthy. If it's time to donate your sofa, let it go. If you’re holding onto clutter from years ago, don’t pack it. If you bought a serveware set for entertaining and it never made it out of the box, sell it and recoup some of your moving expenses. The lighter the move, the better you’ll feel at the end of your relocation.

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