Tips on how to store your Christmas lights so they don’t tangle

Dec 29, 2023
Source: Getty Images

One of the things I love about Christmas is being able to decorate. For as long as I can remember, I’d eagerly await December 1 so that we could pull the decorations out of their 12-month hiding places and get busy erecting trees and lights.

Over the years, my family Christmas decorations have become more elaborate and now the decorations go both inside and out of the house. However, one of the worst tasks I’ve had to endure is the untangling of Christmas lights. There have been many occasions where I’ve been tossed up my hands in defeat, ready to put the lights in the bin. It’s dreadful… Not to mention a real festive buzzkill.

As inexpensive as some lights can be, when you’re living on a budget (like I am) it does not make any sense to throw something in perfect working order in the bin, so I set about finding simple ways I could salvage my lights and avoid the untangling headache for the following year. Maybe these will come in handy for you too!

Get yourself some cardboard

In the past, I would have grabbed my lights and started wrapping strands around my arm (from my thumb to my elbow), but I quickly realised that when I pulled my arm from the wound lights the tangles would appear. A similar solution, not involving any part of your body, is to cut a piece of strong cardboard — such as that from a packing box or the like — to about the size of an A4 sheet of paper. At one end, cut a slit. Slide one end of the strand into the slit and start wrapping your lights around the long edge of the cardboard until you reach the light’s end. Tuck the loose end into a notch. Finally, to protect your lights wrap some tissue paper or bubble wrap around the cardboard. Then you can put them away for another year.

Hold onto those cardboard rolls

If you’ve got a leftover cardboard roll from your wrapping paper, a cardboard roll from your kitchen paper towel or an empty Pringles tube, you can use it to keep your Christmas lights untangled. (If you’re using the Pringles tube, by sure to clean it out, you don’t want to attract any insects to your storage area with leftover crumbs.) Using your cardboard roll, cut a vertical slit at one end about an inch (2.54cm) long. Slip one end of your lights in the slit (widen the slit if the lights don’t fit). Then wrap your lights around the cardboard roll, working your way up and down the length of it until you’ve run out of lights. Try and finish so that the lights finish at the same end of your vertical slit so that you can tuck the end in.

If you’ve used a Pringles tube, you can place the lid on top, which will help prevent the ends from slipping out and unravelling during storage. If using a plain cardboard roll, protect your lights by wrapping tissue paper/bubble wrap around the tube before putting them into storage.

Use a coat hanger

A plastic coat hanger — the ones with the little hook at each end — can also work a treat when it comes to storing your Christmas lights in a way that won’t have them tangle. While the method works just fine without the hooks, having them adds an extra bit of security. You’ll want to take one end of your lights and tuck them into one of the hooks (if you’re hanger doesn’t have the hooks, just tie the end of your lights to the body of the hanger). Then, wrap the lights around the outside of the hanger. Gradually work your way from one side to the other, then back to the original side. Depending on the length of your lights, you might have to do this several times. Tuck the remaining end into the other hook. If there’s not enough room or you don’t have the hooks, just tuck it between the strands of lights.

To store the lights, you can either place them in a box or, because it’s a ‘hanger’, hang it out of the way somewhere until next year. If you’re going to store the hanger with other items, I’d recommend using tissue paper/bubble wrap waround the outside to protect your lights.

Rolled in plastic

The above methods work really well if you have standard strand lights, but I’ve got a couple of icicle lights and have found these need another storage method. What I’ve discovered does work well for icicle lights is rolling them in a plastic sheet. You’ll want something about 30cm wide and you want to roll out a length that matches that of the strand of icicle lights. Place each icicle strand on the plastic sheet and roll. This keeps the individual strands together and prevents tangling. All you have to undo next year is unroll the plastic.

I should note that you can also use old newspaper for this tip, placing the individual strands on the newspaper and rolling.

These methods have worked a treat at my house and the time it takes to store Christmas lights like this means one less headache at Christmas the following year. And of course, be sure you follow regular electrical safety precautions when you’re stringing up, taking down or storing your Christmas lights.

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