Stringing up fairy lights is a delightful way to spread some holiday cheer. As they twinkle across your Christmas tree or home, these festive lights infuse the long winter nights with a magical sense of the season's joy.
- Cardboard tube or rectangle
- Duct tape
- Tissue paper or bubble wrap
- Clothes hanger
- Zip ties
- Storage boxes
- Empty hose reel or power cord reel
- Dining chair
However, if you've made the mistake of storing them incorrectly or leaving them tangled up, you could be setting yourself up for frustration when taking them out again, which isn’t the holiday spirit you’re looking for!
In between browsing the after Christmas sales, we have plenty of helpful suggestions on how and where to store your Christmas lights to keep the strands separate, untangled and organized for easy storage and unpacking every season.
From choosing the best place to keep them free from damage to ensuring they’re tangle-free year after year, our guide on how to store Christmas lights will walk you through everything you need to know.
Quick steps: How to store Christmas lights
- Take down your lights safely and remove any knots or tangles
- Wrap the lights around a cardboard tube or rectangle
- Wrap the lights around an old clothes hanger
- Use an old hose reel or power cord reel to wind up the lights
- Use your forearm and wrap the lights from hand to elbow
- Use a dining chair to create a figure of eight
- Use a ready-made storage solution for Xmas lights
- Protect lights using tissue paper, newspaper or bubble wrap
- Store and label your Christmas lights
Step by step guide: How to store Christmas lights
1. Take down your lights safely and remove any knots or tangles
It’s essential to turn off any lights and unplug them before you start to take them down. This will help to prevent the risk of electric shock as you untangle them and make it easy to manipulate the wires.
Starting at the top of the tree is the safest way to remove your lights, keeping the tree's weight even and preventing lights from falling and becoming tangled in the lower strands. Work slowly and methodically as you unwind, removing tangles as you take down the lights.
If your lights are particularly knotty, spread them out on the floor once you’ve taken them down. From the plug end, carefully work the plug in and out of any tangles until no knots are left. Now, you can choose one or more of our storage methods.
2. Wrap the lights around a cardboard tube or rectangle
The easiest method of all, and the one we choose in our home, year after year, is the DIY cardboard rectangle or tube. Simply cut out a cardboard rectangle (you probably have a lot in your home after Christmas gifting), and snip small notches into either end of the longer sides. Start with one end of your lights, wrap them around the cardboard, and secure the strands in the notches. Then, slowly and methodically, wrap the lights around the cardboard in even rows, securing the end of the lights in the notch at the other end.
“Making notches on the edges of the card will keep your cable neatly in place,” says Ryan McDonough, interior design expert at MyJobQuote. “Just make sure you untwist the wires as you go to prevent straining and breakages.” You can also use duct tape (available at Amazon) to secure the lights at either end.
A cardboard tube, such as a wrapping paper tube, can be used in the same way. Snip a notch in the top of the tube to secure the first strand, then neatly wind the lights around the tube.
One important tip is to use a long enough tube or large enough piece of card so that you don’t have to overlap your coils of wires. It will make them much easier to unwrap next year.
Ryan is an interior designer who has 15 years of experience in the industry. He works closely with MyJobQuote to provide expert interior design knowledge to homeowners, tradespeople and news outlets.
3. Wrap the lights around an old clothes hanger
We love this idea for storing and hanging Christmas lights in a wardrobe or storage rack. Take an old clothes hanger with wide notches or dips on either side. These help secure the strands at either end, or you can use duct tape. Then, wrap the lights vertically, moving from left to right. Once you’ve wrapped up the entire length of the lights, you can loop the plug around the neck and hang your lights up in a closet or storage area.
Don't have any coat hangers to spare? There are plenty of affordable coat hangers at Amazon.
4. Use a hose reel or extension cord reel to wind up the lights
If you have a hose or power cord reel handy, these can provide a great storage solution and keep your lights tangle-free. Pop one end of your lights into the spool notch, then wind up your lights slowly and gently, ensuring the spools are even. If you’re using an extension cord reel, simply plug your lights into the socket to secure the other end.
5. Use your forearm and wrap the lights from hand to elbow
A popular and simple method used by many. Once you’ve untangled your lights, use the length of your forearm to create a simple spool, wrapping the lengths from hand to elbow. When fully coiled up, use a zip tie to secure the lights in the centre of the loop.
6. Use a dining chair to create a figure of eight
A genius way to create an organized bundle of lights. Overturn a dining chair so the legs point upwards, then slowly loop your lights around two legs to create a figure-of-eight pattern. Make sure you don't wrap them too tightly, or you’ll have a problem sliding them off again. Continue until you have two feet of wire left, then slip the lights off the chair and wrap the remaining wire around the centre of the figure of eight to secure the bundle.
7. Use a ready-made storage solution
There are lots of storage solutions available at hardware stores and online for Christmas light storage, from ready-made cable reels and spools to pre-cut plastic rectangles and padded boxes. One of our favorites is the Zober Christmas Lights Storage box (Amazon), which can hold up to 800 bulbs at a time while protecting them from dust and damage. A cheaper but no less effective option is the Woods Cordstor (Amazon), which costs just a couple of dollars.
8. Protect lights using tissue paper, newspaper or bubble wrap
Now you’ve wrapped up your lights, it’s essential to protect delicate bulbs and wiring from any damage. Wrap the lights in tissue paper, newspaper or bubble wrap. This will protect the lights and keep them free from dust over the next 11 months or so.
9. Store and label lights clearly
Whichever way you coil, loop, tie or wind your lights, it’s essential to store them correctly, says McDonough. “To protect them, place them in a lidded storage box and store them somewhere cool and dry, such as a cupboard, attic or dry basement.” Label them clearly to know which lights are for your tree, garden or roof.
How to store Christmas lights: FAQs
Can you store Christmas lights in a shed or garage?
“It’s fine to store Christmas lights in a garage as long as it’s dry,” says McDonough. Just be sure to protect them from rodent damage with a lidded storage box - mice like to chew through wires - and check on them throughout the year. It may be best to hang them up in the garage to reduce the possibility of damage from moisture or pests on the ground.
McDonough advises against keeping your Christmas lights in a shed though. “Sheds are usually unheated and uninsulated, so, they can be subject to moisture. They can also get very cold during the winter and hot in the summer throughout the year, so they’re not always ideal for storing Christmas lights.”
How many years can you keep Christmas lights?
How long your Christmas lights last will depend on their quality, how often you use them, and how well they are stored. However, you should expect to get at least a decade of use out of good quality modern LED lights. In fact, many LED light suppliers say their lights can shine for around 100,000 hours. Using your lights for four weeks continuously every Christmas gives you around 148 years of use!
Make sure you inspect your lights every year, before and after storing, to ensure they are undamaged and that no bulbs need replacing. This will help to maximize their lifespan.
How often should you buy new Christmas lights?
It depends, according to McDonough. “If your lights are the old filament or incandescent type, they’re prone to overheating, so you’re best off replacing them. Even though LED lights cost more upfront, they will last far longer and are much cheaper per hour to run.”
As a general rule of thumb, LED lights need replacing every 10-15 years while incandescent lights need replacing every 4-6 years.
Properly storing Christmas lights keeps them organized, tangle-free, and protected from dirt and damage.
It’s important to take Christmas lights down safely and untangle any knots before neatly wrapping each strand around cardboard, hangers, reels or forearms. Protect delicate bulbs and wires by wrapping them in paper or bubble wrap. Store wrapped strands in labeled storage boxes in cool, dry places that are free from moisture or pests.
Following these Christmas light storage tips means you can unpack decorations every holiday season with zero frustration over knots and tangles.