There are some home builders and remodelers who will just slap a cabinet or a closet into place without worrying about how functional that storage space might be. Sometimes, this can leave you with a closet shelf deeper than you can reasonably reach. Especially when it comes to deep top shelves that you can only reach with a step ladder.

If you are contemplating a full or partial remodeling and trying to make the most out of your available space, then you might be wondering just how deep should a closet shelf be? The answer can depend on the type of closet, its location, and what you are planning to store in it.

To help guide you on shelf depth, when planning a remodel, or how to make the most out of deep shelves in an existing closet, we decided to take a closer look at closets.

Reach-in & Wardrobe Closets

Reach-in closets and wardrobes are designed for quick functionality. As the name implies, want to be able to see what you need on a shelf and grab it quickly, without having to hunt around in the depths of an overly deep shelf.
The ideal depth for a reach-in or wardrobe closet tends to be 10 to 12 inches for a closet that is 26-inches deep.
A shelf depth of 12 to 14 inches can still be manageable for a reach-in closet that is more than 28-inches deep.

How To Optimize Deep Reach-in & Wardrobe Closet Shelves

If you have an existing reach-in closet or wardrobe closet with ridiculously deep shelves, you can still make use of the back recesses for additional storage. One easy thing to try is to repurpose old shoe boxes to store seasonal items.

That way you can store away swim trunks and winter scarves when they are out of season, to make room in other storage areas. It also helps serve as a sort of “Back Stop” to help keep loose items from migrating too far back. Just make sure to clearly label the box with a removable tab to help you find what you want when the seasons change again.

Walk-In Closet Shelves

Most walk-in closets use shelves that are paired with a hanger rod or two under them. This often governs the amount of space on the shelf above. Typically you want a walk-in shelf that is between 16 to 18-inches deep. This will allow for the right proportion of space for the hanger rods, while also giving you enough depth to put up shoe boxes and medium storage totes.

How To Optimize Deep Walk-In Closet Shelves

Some walk-in closets have extremely deep shelves. This is even more likely to be an issue with a walk-in closet that has dual hanger rods staggered under the shelves or a walk-in closet that is built into the slant of a cathedral roof. Adding to this problem is that a lot of deep walk-in closet shelves are up high.

To be able to make the most out of these spaces you should consider keeping one or two heavy-duty step stools. Collapsible models can be leaned against or hung on unused walls. This lets you step up to clearly see boxes on the deep overhead shelves, while also giving you the confident footing you need to bring down a big heavy box from up high.

Linen Closet Shelves

Linen closets and deep shelves go together like peanut butter and jelly. After all, a shallow linen closet shelf simply wouldn’t have the depth you need to store bulky seasonal blankets, towers of folded towels, and washcloths plenty.

Though for some people there is such a thing as too deep when it comes to being able to retrieve things out of the back of your linen closet. Most linen closet shelves shouldn’t be any deeper than 24 to 28 inches. Any deeper than this, it becomes difficult for the average person to reach something like a stray washcloth that has tumbled toward the back.

How To Optimize Deep Linen Closet Shelves

If you have an existing linen closet with exceedingly deep shelves, you can make the most out of the deeper recesses by storing things like bulk rolls of toilet paper, and dry bathing items inboxes. When you need to retrieve something from the back of your linen closet, you can then pull the box or basket forward to grab what you want.

Shelf dividers and adjustable shelves can also help you maximize the available vertical and horizontal storage space. This lets you keep in-season bedding and towels neatly organized toward the front of the linen closet, while out-of-season items sit back in the deeper recesses of the shelves.

Entry Way Shelves

The entryway or foyer of your home is often the first thing that guests see when they visit. An entryway closet should only have shelves that are 12 to 14 inches deep to let you and your guests keep essential items like hats and gloves. Any deeper than that and they risk losing something into a black hole.

Lighting Options To Illuminate Your Deep Closet Shelves

If you have deep closet shelves, there’s no sense in letting the available storage space go wasted. Yet you still need to be able to see what you are looking for, and a handheld flashlight can make it difficult to lift down an awkward or heavy box. Shedding a little extra light on the area can make it safer and easier to find what you need at a moment’s notice.

Battery Powered LED Lights

Light-Emitting Diode technology has advanced to the point where LED light fixtures are smaller, lighter, and more energy-efficient than ever. Many of these units can be battery-powered and last for months, if not years without draining the batteries. They also tend to be light enough that you can stick them on a ceiling or closet sidewall with nothing more than a Velcro tab. Many of these LED light fixtures are touch-activated, which lets you free up your hands.

Pull Out Basket Systems To Optimize Deep Shelves

One of the hottest new innovations in the world of storage solutions is lightweight wire baskets. They can be installed on sliding racks, just like drawers. You can then pull the wire rack out from the deep recesses of a shelf to access what you need at a moment’s notice.

Get A Leg Up With Stepladders & Footstools

Deep shelves can be handy for bulk and seasonal storage. They also tend to offer a lot more real estate, which invites you to store big heavy boxes on them. If this sounds like something you are doing to make the most out of your closet’s deep shelves, then you need to also be safety conscious. Before trying to lift one of these boxes down, or trying to reach to the far back of a high, deep shelf, make sure you have a sturdy step stool or step ladder to give you good footing.