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How to pack: What not to pack

Toxic chemicals, combustibles and pressurized tanks are all on most moving companies' Do Not Pack list.

Toxic chemicals, combustibles and pressurized tanks are all on most moving companies' Do Not Pack list.

When packing up your home and getting ready for a move, you'll want to be sure to include everything that's important to you - furniture, electronics, books, CDs, clothing. As an aspiring mad scientist, however, you simply can't do without your collection of various acids and toxic chemicals. Those items aren't cheap and you may want to bring them with you to your new home, but check before you box those items up with the rest of your stuff. There are some things moving companies will not help you move.

Every moving company, whether it's one that offers traditional van and truck services or one that offers portable storage containers for self moves, has a list of items it will not transport for a client. Many of the items are the same from company to company, but check to be sure.

Combustible items are strictly prohibited by most moving companies. These typically include items like propane tanks, lighters and flammable chemicals. There are some less obvious places for combustibles to hide, though, which movers might not immediately consider. If you have a gas-powered lawn mower or other lawn care equipment, you'll need to drain the fuel tanks before handing them off to the moving company. Similarly, motorcycles and mopeds will need to be drained of fuel and oil.

These items could shift during transport, and while the most likely outcome would be a fairly harmless mess, there's always a chance that fuels could ignite, setting your possessions on fire and destroying the moving truck. That's not a risk moving companies are willing to take with your belongings - or their safety.

Food in glass jars, pressurized tanks and aerosol cans are also banned by most moving companies for similar reasons. While most moves happen over land, sometimes it's more practical to ship cargo by air freight. With changing pressure in the cargo hold, there's a slim possibility pressurized tanks might explode. A more likely scenario, however, is that they shift and fall during transport and, as with the combustible items, explode, destroying some of your stuff in the process.

Other do-not-pack items often include firearms or live plants. These two items may seem as different as night and day, but both can be strictly governed by state and local laws. In the case of plants, many areas of the country - most notably the Pacific coast and Hawaii - are concerned about invading moth species, and require all non-indigenous plants be thoroughly checked before entry. Guns, meanwhile, are subject to more rules and regulations than almost anything in the country. In some states, it may be illegal to possess certain firearms, and transporting them across state lines - even as part of a move - could lead to serious trouble.