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The LBS's in my area tend to have major sales around the same time once or twice a year. During this time, I can get replacement tubes at about half their normal price. I can buy several tubes, enough to last a year or more.

What is the best way to store the tubes so they last as long as possible?

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4 Answers

Store in a cool dry and dark place. In my other life as a whitewater kayaker I own a drysuit with latex gaskets. The latex is very similar to the rubber on the tire. We use seal saver a silicon gel to lubricate and moisturize the gaskets for longer life. The gaskets go through way more abuse than a typical tire does but the silicon gel works miracles. I think if I was going to store inner tubes for more than a 2 years I would think about applying some before packing the tubes away.

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If I was planning on storing them for 2 or more years, I'd wonder about the value in buying them in a sale; far better to use the LBS as a storage mechanism! –  Unsliced Oct 16 '12 at 8:08
    
@Unsliced Never really looked closely, but I've never seen a date of manufacture on a tube. If the bike store doesn't do proper stock rotation, it's possible that a tube could be sitting on their shelf for 2 or more years. I know I've seen some pretty questionable bike tubes at my LBS. I always try to rummage through the tubes and find the box that looks the newest, and since everyone else does the same, there ends up being some tubes which look like they've been sitting there quite a while. –  Kibbee Oct 16 '12 at 15:07
    
@kibbee that's a good point about buying carefully - in many stores (both LBS and chain) in the UK the tubes are behind the counter (perhaps they're an easy target for shoplifting) so you often don't get much choice in the matter. And, in stark contrast to my advice, on reflection I get so few punctures that my stash at home could easily have tubes that are well over a year old, so my throwaway quip perhaps isn't so valid. –  Unsliced Oct 16 '12 at 16:03
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Rubber doesn't like to change temperatures too often, so when you pick a (dry) place to store your tires, try to determine where the temperature is going to be most consistent.

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Temperature changes and cool is not how I would describe a garage--which is the most obvious place to store them. Would putting them in a garage refrigerator be too cool (it would at least be a constant temperature)? –  James Schek Oct 16 '12 at 16:36
    
A refrigerator would be too cool. I usually keep my spare tubes in a closet, your average closet isn't going to change temperatures drastically. Some well built and well insulated garages don't change temperature very often and would work just fine. –  hillsons Oct 16 '12 at 17:04
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In addition to the cool dark place, I would also suggest keeping them in their retail box/container to minimise the chance that something could brush against them and puncture them.

(This is from experience - I left some on a shelf in a shed and some garden implement or other ripped a hole in the side!)

N.B. this is the main reason for having the little cap on the valve - to avoid accidental self-puncturing.

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Dry and cool place is the way to go. But also play attention to other items stored near the tubes. Do not store them near paint or solvent containers. Many chemical products can damage tubes, even just the vapours. Anything like gasoline or other fuels should be avoided. They chemically degrade rubber and can easily render them useles. Gasoline vapour for example, over a year can turn a tube into a black paste stain...

Other factors that affect rubber on the long term are UV light and oxigen or ozone. Thus you should also avoid storing them exposed to direct or strong sunlight. UV light degrades rubber so it becomes dull looking and less flexible. When it happens to a tube, it does't show until you inflate them, and it looks as cracked or notoriously porous surface.

It also helps to store them in a somewhat thick plastic bag and tuck them tight (Ziploc type would be overkill there) specially if they come packaged in plain cardboard boxes. Some high powered electric motors, generators or dynamos produce sparks in their brush and collector parts (i.e. electrical conection between moving parts). These sparks are known to produce ozone, so, if by any chanche you have such equipment, do not store the tubes near it. (High speed lather, electric grinders, etc.)

Personally I have had sucess storing used tubes for very long periods (some more than 3 years) by puting them in a thick plastic bag in my closet. I usually apply talcum between the tire and the tube, so these tubes where stored all covered with talcum. I think it helps because previous attempts, I washed the tubes before storing, and they ended stuck with each other and where damaged when I tried to separate them; they where otherwise in similar conditions.

However, in my tropical country, temperatures are almost all year between 15 and 30 ºC (60-87 ºF) so I have no clue on extreme temperature effects.

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