hand touching a christmas light

Guide to storing Christmas lights

There are few things more frustrating than bringing the Christmas decorations down from the attic and realising it's going to take at least an hour to untangle the lights.

Christmas Lights Close-up in dark background

Make sure to store your Christmas Lights correctly to avoid tangles. 

How do Christmas lights get so tangled?

You may wonder how your Christmas lights end up so tangled in the first place. The problem of tangled lights usually begins when you take the decorations down in January.

Most people are happy to take plenty of time over putting the decorations up in December but are a bit less enthusiastic about the task of taking them down when the festivities are over. Getting lights back into the original box can seem like an impossible task. It's too easy to give up and shove them away to deal with later. This leads to them becoming a tangled mess that needs sorting before hanging them for Christmas.

Bokeh Christmas Lights in the background

Even if you have the best intentions to sort the lights before next year, it inevitably doesn't happen.

Taking down Christmas lights

The key to keeping Christmas lights tangle-free is to take them down carefully and immediately store them properly for next Christmas.

Consider how carefully you wind the lights around the tree and hang them outside your home. The same care and attention should be taken when you bring them back down again. 

You'll be grateful you did when you come to unravel the lights to put them up for Christmas. Not only will they be quick and easy to set up, but the lights will also have less damage, with fewer broken or missing bulbs.

If any of your lights use batteries, be sure to remove them before placing the lights in storage. The last thing you want is to have to replace lights due to a leaky battery pack.

Ways to store Christmas lights

Cardboard tubes

You know all those crisps you ate over the festive season? You weren't being overindulgent - you were actually creating the perfect storage solution for your Christmas lights! Simply wrap the lights around the outside of the empty tube and place the plug inside it. 

Kitchen roll and wrapping paper tubes can also be used but might be a bit less robust. This method works particularly well for tree lights, which tend to have shorter strands.

Christmas Lights with red boots on the background

Secure the lights with a piece of masking tape to prevent them from slipping off the ends of the tube.

Cardboard boxes

Just as you may be left with empty crisps tubes after Christmas, you'll likely have a few discarded boxes lying around. Cut a rectangular piece off the box and wrap the lights around it. Try to ensure there's no overlap between the lights.

About A4 size should be fine for tree lights, but you might need a bigger piece of card for longer strands. Snipping into the card at either end will allow you to hook at least the cable ends into place.

christmas tree agaisnt dark blue wall

You might find that cutting small slits into the top and bottom of the cardboard flap helps keep lights secure.

Cable carriers

Similar to the above method, but a bit more robust, cable carriers are great for keeping your Christmas lights free of tangles. They're inexpensive to buy, easy to use and will last for years.

Multi-coloured Christmas Lights

Cable carriers can even outlive your Christmas lights!

Coat hangers

If you don't have any of the above items available but still want a foolproof way to store your Christmas lights, grab a coat hanger from your wardrobe. A plastic hanger with shirt notches or indents is best, but any one will do. Slide one end of the strand into the notch at one side and carefully wind the lights over and under the hanger to the other side. When you reach the other end, use the notch in the hanger to secure the end of the light strand.

close up christmas light

Storing your lights properly will save you time to decorate your tree with family.

Cable ties

It's not necessarily ideal, but one of the easiest ways to prepare lights for storage is to bunch them up with a cable tie. Simply wind your lights into an 'O' shape and gather them in the middle. You can then attach a cable tie around the middle to keep them in place.

When storing lights, it's always wise to use bubble wrap to protect them. Tissue paper or leftover wrapping paper make good alternatives. Once you've covered the lights, place them in a storage bin or large tote bag so they're nice and easy to retrieve next year.

Where to store Christmas lights

Once you've made a neat job of securing the lights so they don't get twisted and knotted, you need to find a good place to store them. Ideally, Christmas lights should be kept in a cool, dry place. The attic or top shelf of a cupboard is perfect.

If you store your lights in a garage, ensure they're in an airtight container. Doing this will keep the damp out. Be mindful of temperature changes that might affect the quality of the lights over time.

Stacking wrapped lights carefully in a waterproof bag or box will help prevent moisture, spillages and dust from getting into them. Using a sturdy box with a sealed lid for storage is the best way to prolong the life of your Christmas lights.

Keep your Christmas lights in a corner where they are unlikely to be disturbed very often. The less often they're moved, the less likely they are to be accidentally damaged. 

child decorating christmas tree

You should always ensure light strings are stored well out of reach of children and pets.

How to dispose of Christmas lights

No matter how well you look after your Christmas lights, there will come a point when they no longer work, and you need to get rid of them. When this time comes, don't just throw them in the bin unceremoniously.

They are classed as Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE), which cannot go to landfill. However, string lights can be recycled. Take them to your local household recycling centre and place them in the section for small electrical items.

If your fairy lights still work but you want to replace them for whatever reason, donate them to a charity shop. Even if they can't sell the lights, they can be used to brighten up festive window displays and add festive cheer to the shop.

Building light up with christmas lights

Approximately 500 tonnes of Christmas lights are thrown away every year in the UK.

From wrapping them around a tube, to bunching and tying them up, there are a few tricks to keeping Christmas lights untangled. Whatever you do, stop yourself before you fling the lights in a box with the rest of the decorations! Taking a little time and care to store your lights properly will make it so much easier and quicker to unravel them next Christmas, and you'll thank yourself in December.

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