5 Ways to Properly Store Christmas Lights

Decorating with Christmas lights is a beloved holiday tradition for many families. However, proper storage of your lights after the season is over is crucial to ensure they remain in good condition year after year. Follow these 5 tips to properly store your Christmas lights and keep them working for seasons to come.

Use Plastic Storage Containers

Plastic storage containers are ideal for keeping Christmas lights protected in storage. Look for sturdy plastic bins with secure lids that will keep out dust, dirt, moisture, and pests. Clear containers allow you to easily see the contents inside. Ensure the storage bins are large enough to fit your strands of lights without tangling or kinking the wires. A few large containers are better than many smaller ones. Label each container to keep extension cords and light strands separate. Plastic totes are affordable, stackable, and available at many department stores or home improvement centers. They make ideal long-term storage containers for Christmas lights.

Wrap Lights Properly

Before placing lights in storage containers, take the time to wrap them properly to prevent a tangled mess next season. There are a few options for wrapping:

Wrap Strands Around Cardboard/Plastic

Wrap each strand of lights neatly around a piece of cardboard, an empty paper towel roll, plastic storage wrapping paper, or plastic food storage containers. This keeps the bulbs and wires neatly coiled and less likely to knot. Wrap tape around the cardboard roll or use zip ties to secure the strand in place. Label each wrapped strand with tape and marker so you know which room or section of the yard it belongs to.

Roll Lights Around Hand

An alternative is to carefully wrap each strand around your hand in a circular fashion, creating loops. Make sure the wires are not kinked and the lights lay flat. Place these hand-wrapped strands gently into the storage container, using divider cards between rolls if desired.

Hang Lights with Plastic Food Wrap

Some people have success carefully hanging each strand full-length on a wall and then wrapping them up with clear plastic food wrap or cling wrap. Wrap the strands individually and label them. The plastic cover keeps the lights contained and untangled.

No matter which method you choose, the key is wrapping the light strands evenly, lightly, and with care to prevent knots and breakage. Take the time to do this wiring step properly before packing away the lights. It will save much frustration when decorating next season.

Store Lights Indoors

To maximize the longevity of your Christmas lights, store them in a cool, dry indoor location. Choose an area out of direct sunlight and away from sources of heat like furnaces, pipes, water heaters, and vents. Avoid wet basements, attics with roof leaks or humidity issues, and garages that are not temperature controlled or sealed against moisture. If lights have to be stored in a garage, place the plastic containers up on shelves or pallets away from any rodents. A closet, basement corner, or under a bed are good options for indoor storage. Wherever you store lights, check containers periodically for signs of wires corroding, critters getting in, or moisture damage.

Avoid Excessive Folding or Knotting

Take care not to tightly knot, twist, fold, or tangle light strands when packing them away. Excessive bending and folding can damage the internal wiring and copper filament of the lights. This can lead to broken circuits or failed bulb connections. No amount of untangling next season will fix broken wires inside the cord casings. Lightly wrap using the techniques above and keep light strands loose in their containers, not tightly packed. Handle the lights gently when decorating and storing to maximize their lifespan over many seasons.

Test Lights Before Packing Away

Before packing up Christmas lights, always test that each strand is still functioning properly by plugging them in. Replace any that do not light up or are damaged. It is easier to remove faulty lights now versus discovering issues months later when decorating. Check end-to-end for any failed bulbs, frayed cords, loose plugs, or sections that are noticeably dim or flickering. Repair or replace damaged strands. When lights pass testing, wrap them up carefully for storage as described above.

Other Storage Tips

  • Label cords and strands clearly and separate by usage locations. This saves time decorating next year.
  • Check light strands for cobwebs, bugs, mouse nests, etc before reusing. Clean as needed.
  • Allow light strands to dry fully before packing away if they become wet or damp during display.
  • Install new batteries in battery-operated light controllers before storing.
  • Keep spare fuses handy in the storage containers for easy replacements next season.
  • Set a reminder on your calendar a month before the holidays to get lights out for testing.

Questions About Storing Christmas Lights

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about proper storage methods for Christmas lights:

Are clear or colored Christmas lights better for storage?

Clear Christmas lights generally hold up a bit better in storage than colored lights. The colored plastic or coating on some lights can become prone to cracking, peeling, or fading when packed away for long periods. Storing in a cool, dark location can help prolong the life of colored lights. Consider replacing colored lights every 3 years or so if signs of wear show.

How do you untangle Christmas lights?

Preventing tangles in the first place by properly wrapping and packing the light strands makes untangling much easier. If your lights emerge from storage a tangled mess, try hanging the strand to allow gravity to let the knots fall and gently separate. For stubborn tangles, plug the strand in to illuminate where knots are occurring. Carefully unloop the lights starting at the plug end, untwisting and separating the wires. Avoid pulling hard on the lights to prevent snapping the copper wires inside the casing. Be patient untangling – it is frustrating but worth saving the lights.

Should you keep Christmas lights plugged in all year?

It is not recommended to keep Christmas light strands plugged in and illuminated all year long. This adds unnecessary strain to the lights and wiring over extended periods. The prolonged electrical current can lead to shorts, failed bulbs, damage to wires, and excessive heat that melts the plastic casings. Only illuminate lights when actively using them for displaying during the holidays. At all other times, unplug and properly store the light strands.

How long do LED Christmas lights last when stored properly?

When properly maintained, newer LED Christmas lights typically last 8 to 10 years or more based on a display schedule of 3 months per year. LED lights when stored properly inside in cool, dark conditions with care not to tangle wires may even last 10 to 15 years depending on quality. Some signs of aging to look for include dimming, color fading, failed bulbs, or entire strands going dark. Replace LED strands at first signs of deterioration.

How can you reuse Christmas light boxes?

The boxes that new Christmas lights come packaged in make great storage containers for the light strands after use. Sturdy plastic light boxes allow you to stack and neatly organize wrapped strands of lights with lids to keep dust out. Label the light strand contents using a marker on the box itself or on painter’s tape. Collapse these reusable boxes for compact storage while your lights are not in seasonal use.

Proper Christmas Light Storage By Lighting Type

Proper storage is important for all Christmas light types from classic incandescent to newer LED options. Follow these tips per lighting technology:

Incandescent Christmas Lights

  • Wrap strands to avoid tangling and knots
  • Store indoors in cool, dry location
  • Use clean, dry plastic containers
  • Inspect before reusing and discard damaged lights
  • Limit storage to 5 years maximum before replacing

LED Christmas Lights

  • LED lights are more durable but still require careful storage
  • Wrap strands loosely on cardboard rolls or plastic wrapping paper
  • Keep stored cool and dry in sealed plastic totes
  • Avoid bending, twisting, or tightly folding LED light strands
  • Test LED lights after 2-3 years in storage for deterioration

Battery Operated Lights

  • Remove batteries before storing to prevent corrosion
  • Clean battery contacts with rubbing alcohol and quality batteries before storing
  • Check batteries yearly and replace as needed to power lights
  • Store battery pack separate from light strands to avoid activation

Outdoor String Lights

  • Take down and dry out damp outdoor lights before storing to prevent corrosion
  • Clean off dirt, grime, snow, and moisture before packing away
  • Check waterproofing gaskets on connectors; replace if damaged
  • Consider storing outdoor lights separate from indoor lights

Christmas Light Controllers

  • Remove batteries from controllers to avoid leakage
  • Store handheld remotes in a protective bag or box
  • Keep track of small parts like remote controls, timers, and extra fuses


Taking the proper steps to store Christmas lights keeps them looking their best and eliminates frustration when unpacking decorations next holiday season. Investing some time on the front end makes the holidays less stressful for years to come. With plastic containers, indoor storage, and careful wrapping techniques, your family can continue making long-lasting memories using your beautifully-kept Christmas lights for seasons to come.