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How to Store and Care for Video Tapes

When you are in the act of recording video, you’re probably not thinking about what to do with that footage 20 years from now. The reality is that your tapes and film can start degrading in as little as 5 years, usually because of poor video storage techniques.


The first thing to understand is that videotape was never designed to be a long-term storage solution.  It was primarily designed to be easy to use and easy to copy. The good news is that with proper storage you can extend videotape life (by years... not decades). Storing your videotapes is just as important as editing video and sharing video of your finished product.


As one of the premier preservation and archiving services in the country, stashSpace believes that keeping your memories alive for years to come is of utmost importance. If you are not able to send your videotapes into us for archiving through stashBox (or after you have had your tapes returned to you), please be sure to follow these storage and care tips from stashSpace to keep your videotape stock in good condition.


How to Store Your VHS and other Video Tapes

Where are your video tapes right now?  Are they in a shoebox in the attic or the garage? If so, please stop reading right now, find your tapes and come back.


OK.  now that you are ready to go, here are the basics:

  • Do not open the cassette or touch the tape unless it is an absolute necessity.

  • Do not let the temperature regularly exceed 70 degrees Fahrenheit

  • Do not let the humidity exceed 20 to 30%

  • Avoid storing your video tapes in a room with southern exposure

  • Keep tapes in their cases when not in use.

  • Label tapes as soon as they are out of the camcorder.

You should be able to conduct normal activity in the storage area without breaking a sweat, becoming out-of-breath or sneezing.  Any of these results are warning signs that your storage room is not suitable for your video memories.


How to properly care for video tape

You want to keep your video tapes free from moisture, excess heat and dust.  Once that is taken care of, there are other environmental issues for consideration also:

  • Never store your video tapes by your Television set.  Magnetic fields generated by your television will damage your video tapes quickly over time.
  • Exercise your video tapes by fast-forwarding through to the end of the tape, and then rewinding to the beginning of the tape.  This will reduce reel-tension and reduce the tendency for tape adhesion.
  • Never store your video tapes in your car.  On even a moderately sunny day, the temperature can easily exceed 90-100 degrees when in direct sunlight.
  • Smell the container in which your video tapes are being stored.  If you smell vinegar or other odors, chances are your tapes are in an accelerated stage of decay.

Tape Degradation

Tape degradation can be broken down into several categories: time, storage, handling and use.

    Time: Over time the components of a video tape degrade.  Most importantly the magnetic particles that contain data become instable and their physical properties change.

    Storage: The environment in which you store video can accelerate the degradation process.  The magnetic particles respond to environmental factors such as temperature  fluctuations, extreme temperature, humidity, pollution, and sunlight.

    Handling: Poor handling can expiate degradation.  Avoid dropping the tape or handling the tape.  It is easy to transfer dust, dirt and, grease onto tapes.

    Use: The quality of your tape deck is important.  A misaligned deck can stretch/tear tape and pack tape poorly.  A dirty deck can turn small debris into large scratches.  Each time a tape is played friction occurs assisting the degradation process..

While there are many factors that contribute to the longevity of a video tape most experts agree that the life span is 8-12 years.  However as time passes tapes continue to degrade.  We recommend transferring your tapes to digital within the five years.  Transfer tapes to DVD with ease, go to the: video transfer page to get started and keep your memories safe



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