Mouldy Documents in the Lock Box

Like any good Barefoot Investor follower, we went and purchased a flood proof and fire resistant lock box to store our important documents. But unlike a shoeless disciple, we didn’t follow the instructions to open up the lock box on a regular basis. Still, we didn’t anticipate opening up the lock box to find everything had gone mouldy!

It had been a while since we opened our lock box. Life got busy and months blended into one another and passed us by with the blink of an eye. I’m not sure why I opened the lock box that day. It seems weird to open it on a whim as it means hunting down the key to open the heavy strongbox. However, I’m glad I did.

What awaited me was dark blue passports covered in white spreading spots of mould, damp wrinkled birth certificates (and marriage certificate, divorce certificate, marriage certificate), wet feeling Last Wills and Testaments of three people and other important bits and bobs.


To say I was horrified would be an understatement. Imagine the cost and hassle of replacing all those mouldy documents!

A quick internet search on what to do in this scenario was done. While sheepishly reading about opening the lock box every two weeks, I set about finding a solution to our problem with what I had at hand.

All the advice recommended disinfecting the documents and leaving them somewhere to thoroughly dry.


I took the four passports out of the plastic sleeves to inspect them and found mould was also growing inside the passports. The saddest part was we hadn’t got the chance to use our passports yet due to Covid, and our first overseas trip early 2020 was canned.

Being Australian, with a sporadically closing border with New Zealand and no access to other countries, it seems unlikely that we would be going overseas until the end of 2022.

Back to the passports. After inspecting these expensive little booklets, I took out all the certificates, which apart from being damp and unnaturally undulating, seemed in better condition than the passports.

As I’m a bit of a closet hippy the only disinfectant I had was tea tree oil, and reusable washable cloths. I made the cloth barely damp and dabbed on the tea tree oil to methodically wipe down the cover and all the pages of each passport.

Then spreading the passport pages out and placing the certificates single layer on a table in front of the wood heater, I stoked up the fire and turned up the fan.

And left it like that ALL NIGHT.

In the morning, all was thankfully mould free and dry.

Although, I must admit I was hesitant to put everything back in the sealed lock box (which had also been disinfected and thoroughly dried).


The moral of this article is to make sure you open your lock box every two weeks or risk your eyes seeing a mouldy feast occurring on your most precious paperwork.

Beware, dear reader, that this does not happen to you.

Has a similar paperwork disaster happened to you? Please tell your story in the comments box below.

4 thoughts on “Mouldy Documents in the Lock Box

  • 26 June 2021 at 8:47 pm

    Wow what a drama…you can also try putting some dry rice in there somehow. Or those little packet of things that come in your shoe boxes to make sure it drys out and doesn’t get damp. I’m sure Bunnings would have something similar. I went and bought one of those boxes myself back in 2017 and after a couple of weeks I returned it for a refund. My issue was in case of theft [where was I going to hide this] it screams “this is valuable take me”. Obviously in case of fire it would be good…touch wood theft is probably more likely than fire. I was uncomfortable knowing where to put this because it would be obvious for theft vs some papers in a folder.

    • 26 June 2021 at 10:21 pm

      We had a large bag of silica in there at the time and still had the mould problem. It certainly was a drama! What did you end up using for securing documents?

  • 26 June 2021 at 10:46 pm

    Yeah… following SP’s advice to the letter can lead you down paths that make you go ugh. (As you’ve found in this instance.)
    Like you, I baa-ed and bought a safe. Being lazy, I left it in the box for months. I then read about mouldy documents, so I took it back to Bunnings and got a refund.
    My old fashioned filing cabinet has worked for 20+ years. No reason to think that it won’t continue to do the job going forward.

    • 27 June 2021 at 6:46 pm

      It’s great Bunnings gave you a refund!


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