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One day last year I heard an extraordinary sound of something "giving way," in the garage next to my bedroom. At first I wasn't very sure of what the sound could be, either being a burst pipe or something deadly serious like the boiler giving out. Either way, by the morning I scrutinised the garage very carefully, checked the pipes, the boiler and any other serious electrical boxes nearby but nothing gave me an impression of anything being wrong. Then something caught my eye when I looked up at the ceiling, something bulbous and white in a plastic bag that shouldn't have been there on the false floor of the roof storage floor. Two large QVC vacuum storage bags full of double duvets had re-inflated during the night and broken off the hanging hooks - resulting in a mess that meant the purchase of more vacuum storage bags. Luckily one of them had not broken upon contact, but it's still a problem I'm taking up with QVC following the extra guarantee I had initially paid extra for - they were purchased in September 2010.
I'm no stranger to most vacuum storage bags, having purchased cheap vacuum bags with lousy seals that are supposed to be "one way," but inflate as soon as the vacuum cleaner hose is removed with no chance of sealing the bag properly, to thicker made PVC plastic that is supposed to stand up to abuse but start to leak gradually and let in air a couple of months down the line despite their "twist" type seals. Then, in November I discovered Packmate Flat Storage vacuum storage bags. I was attracted by the promise of a 5-year guarantee provided you send the company a copy of the receipt as proof of purchase. The company actually produce three types of storage bag, with two of the ranges being primarily PVC plastic storage bags with the obligatory hole for putting your vacuum cleaner hose over to suck out all the air. The difference with these bags is that they aren't made of thick plastic, but have a lovely green flowery pattern on the underside and like the American Zip-Lock food bags, have a double "peel and seal" action on the sealing strips that close up the bags before the air is sucked out. You may think thinner plastic means less protection - but unless you store your vacuum pack storage bags in an area that sees constant traffic "checking" the bags are still inflated, or aren't tampered with, there's less likelihood that these kinds of bags will start to inflate again.
Generally speaking, I need vacuum storage bags and lots of them for various materials like spare duvets, blankets, coats, jackets and plenty of seasonal clothing that takes up far too much room. If not put in the garage, space under my double bed and spare bed is already taken up with hard plastic storage boxes that could fit only a quarter of the clothing that takes up a tiny acre of these bags! Not any more however since the boxes are now out!
The Product, Price & Promise
The "Flat" Storage pack is available as a two piece/bag set comprising of one large vacuum storage bag (I've managed to pack 15 thin M and XL sized Lambswool jumpers and 10 school shirts in this bag alone) measuring 55cm by 80cm, or if you like the total space taken up by two bed pillows sat side by side. The other bag that you get in the pack is the "Jumbo," sized bag and measures 90cm by 110cm, and has the same total space judged by six single pillows when laid out
two by two. It is in the top right hand corner of the packet that you'll find the measurements and amount of bags you get whilst the back of the pack has very clear and colourful easy to use instruction diagrams. Packmate suggest infact that the large size is ideal of single duvets, pillows and of course jumpers amongst other fabric types whilst the Jumbo can accommodate King or Queen size duvets, wedding dresses or anything of bulk. Well they aren't far wrong on both accounts! The amount of space I have saved out of my closets and cupboards have been tremendous. Suits and shirts that once were stuffed so closely together can now have a decent chance of reviving as well as having ample space between each style.
The only trouble is, Packmate sell TWO types of "Flat" Storage bags and at Lakeland they're known as "Vacusac" which is an older name. The other pack, which has the same coloured decals on the front, same picture of the bags and a cupboard showing off clothing etc, has three bags available consisting of two large bags and one extra large bag (measuring 70cm by 50cm). In the other "Flat" storage bags, Packmate's 3-bag pack costs between £11-79 and £15. The ones I have been consistently buying are more expensive, even though I'm only getting two bags, albeit in larger sizes and the pack has so far cost me between £15-99 and £20 at a franchise hardware store.
Good old Lakeland online however have the 2 pack bags on sale at £15-99 with a "buy another and then get another at half price," offer at the moment and an Extra large pack for £12-99. So far I have spent around £130 on these bags alone (not all for me, two packs were for gifts) and I'll tell you why!
Put simply, in my opinion and experience, Packmate are one of the best finds so far and they are so reliable, easy to pack and then store away with the plastic condition being far lighter to lift than heavier made PVC bags and doing away with the more traditional "screw cap suction hole" that often looses air the moment you take the vacuum cleaner hose off before trying to screw in the air. Since November 2010, the increasing amount of various fabrics and seasonal clothing I've managed to pack away has been fantastic with Packmate! Up until then I kept most of my storage bags in the garage since they claimed to be dust free - well until they inflated again - whilst the damp in the garage destroyed a designer jacket I wasn't too pleased about losing. The loft however is out of the question - I simply can't put anything in the loft as it is "Hooverland," up there where storage is concerned, amidst a couple of rolls of freshly purchased insulating material about to be laid!
The beauty of the bags design means that if you need something in a hurry, the bag's seal can be pulled upwards, it inflates and the bag's sealing strip is easier to open after you slide the lock slider to the right hand side. Clothing comes out in the same way you put it in - hopefully clean and fresh - and if you iron the clothing first off before vacuuming packing, the clothing comes out just as pressed!
Filling the bags are really easy - provided you put the bags flat out on a flat surface like a floor or a table - don't put them on your bed as I found out the bags wouldn't seal up properly because of the spongy, bouncy nature of the bed underneath! The bags have a single seal on the top and at the front of the bags, a double plastic tooth zip lock style seal complete with a very handy plastic slider that you can actually take off or put on at any time if the seal has any excess plastic sticking out and hasn't stuck down. This procedure is so much easier than storage bags I've had in the past where a plastic open tube has to be placed on one side with a cylindrical stick on the top before the two push the plastic sides together. With Packmate, you can really take your time with these bags or pack them quickly with folded items before sealing up the seals via the white plastic slider. I always go over the strip with my finger to ensure no gaps are viewable and that the plastic zip lock style has been securely fastened.
The handy design point of the Packmate bags is that once the slider has been slid to the right hand side of the bag, the seals are effectively able to be pulled apart to get access to the bag and the contents, similar to the action you'd employ if you use sandwich "zip lock" bags frequently. The top of the Packmate bag where the two-way seal is (where to suck out air and let the vacuum magic begin) can accommodate any size of vacuum cleaner hose because the seal has a vent and a smaller aperture than most where the hose fits over the hole easily. Simply pull up and you'll hear a click - that's when the valve is open. Place the hose over the hole, switch on the vacuum and see the miracle of air as it is sucked out of the bag and compacts clothing down to sizes as if you've washed a wool sweater in a washing machine on the wrong setting! Miniature sized blankets and A3 sized shirts are my kind of sizes compared to the norm! Then release the hose and you should find that the seal has already pushed itself in. If not, you can push the seal back in and confirms the function with a little click sound.
The amount of space that has been liberated, is simply fantastic and well worth the effort. Where previously old or seasonal clothes sat in plastic storage boxes, I've found I can free up a lot more room space than before by either retaining the boxes I've been using, but being able to fill up so much more with the vacuum packed clothes in the Packmate bags. Rooms that have had bulging cupboards full of clothing are no more however - certainly if you are left wanting for storage because of clothing, blankets or general fabrics, Packmate Flat Storage bags could be the perfect answer!
Bonus Info with Your Vacuum Cleaner
Where vacuum cleaners are concerned, if you have a Vax Mach Air, Dyson or any "loud" bagless vacuum, you're going to get a lot of noise due to the air outlet valve at the top of the bin assembly. It will let out air because the system of bagless cyclonic vacuums stops the suction from overheating the motor and it is quite noisy! It took me far longer to suck out air with my Vax Mach Air compared to bagged vacuums.
Other older or premium vacuums however such as Miele, Sebo, Electrolux, Hoover, Panasonic or Rowenta have more conventional systems and won't be overly noisy as the vacuum sucks out the air. There is even more relief to be had, if you have a vacuum cleaner which has a variable suction dial - and only needs the vacuum to be put in the lowest band of speed compared to high. This may be a little slower to compact the bag down, but it means a relief to your ears!
Pictures of Pack Mate Vacuum Storage Bags
Three types are available from the company, but it's the "flat" ones which are more versatile.
Packmate Flat Bag Quality
Like a lot of storage bags on the market, the Packmate bags are slightly similar on appearance but to the touch, they mirror the "steam fresh" baking bags you can now buy for steaming your own food in the microwave. This translates as thin, glossy and crisp like PVC on both the top and bottom of the bag. Packmate have used a substance here called "triple laminated bi-axial," and it seems to be a tried and tested formula with the roll up travel vacuum pack bags you may have seen advertised. Also unlike a lot of storage bags, these Packmate bags are hand washable (mild detergent) before being clothing line dryable. I rather like that fact, god forbid if these bags do get dirty - at least they can be washed whilst the flowery white on green "everglades," pattern is unusual, unisex (matches an old John Lewis laundry bag I bought a few years ago) in appearance and doesn't look like a standard boring old bag even if the top is crystal clear to the eye.
When my Packmate bags are compressed, they hardly measure 5inches in diameter. These bags can have two to three pieces of clothing heaped (after folding neatly of course) on top of one another in the bag before it is sealed up and it is here that if you have a king size or a double bed with an open space at the bottom, it makes all the difference where to put the storage bags after they have been sucked and sealed (so to speak!). From the floor to the base, I have around 42cm space before the bed frame. Under one single bed for example I can store three to four of the jumbo bags on one half of the carpet under the bed whilst being able to store 8 to 16 of the large bags on the bottom part if I wish to thanks to their "pillow" like floor space, on top of one another side by side.
Not only that, but thanks to the thin plastic backing, these bags can actually be folded over - unlike the thicker PVC plastic storage bags you can buy which prevent this - which mean my toes don't get a crispy feeling if the edges of the bags stick out from under the bed! This means even more space available and packing in the bags as much as possible without wasting any more storage space.
The plastic coating of the bag can accept permanent ink too if you choose a bag for particular items. I use removable adhesive stickers for this purpose, should I want to use the bags again for another purpose.
Of course, the old adage of what you can pack and what you can't pack still applies - no sharp objects that are going to pierce the plastic should be put in these kinds of bags - or food. Other than price and availability as downsides, there aren't that many disadvantages because the bags are very simple to use, robust and well protected (just not with sharp things) and pack away after use.