What causes mould and damp in homes?
There are a number of factors that can lead to damp and mould in your home. Some are structural, the building may have been poorly constructed, for example, or there may be maintenance issues that are causing rising damp or penetrating damp. Alternatively, the problems may be due to condensation which is often caused by drying laundry indoors or by using the bathroom or kitchen.
Mould can be harmful to health so, if you have a small amount of mould growing in your home (less than one square meter), you should clean it off straight away to minimise any health risk. If you have a large area of mould, or it is caused by sewage or other contaminated water, you will need professional help to remove it.
Once the mould has been removed, you need to tackle the underlying problem that is causing the damp or the mould will reappear.
You may want to try a non-toxic solution to clean mould off your walls. Protect yourself from mould spores by wearing goggles, long rubber gloves and a mask that covers your nose and mouth. Open the windows but keep doors closed to prevent spores spreading to other areas of the house. All the cleaning rags you use should be put into a plastic bag and disposed of afterwards. Here are two good, non-toxic cleaning options:
- Pour undiluted white distilled vinegar into a spray bottle. Spray the vinegar onto the mouldy surface and leave it for an hour. Any smell from the vinegar is harmless and should disappear within a few hours. Wipe the area clean with water and a clean rag. When finished, use a dry rag to remove moisture from the wall.
- Add 15 drops of tea tree oil into a spray bottle and mix it with water. Spray it onto the mouldy area and leave it for two hours then wipe the mould away with a clean rag dampened with the tea tree solution.
Rising damp is more common in older properties. It tends to affect the lower part of ground floor walls up to a height of about one meter. It usually happens in properties that don’t have a damp proof course (dpc) or where an existing dpc has failed.
If you live in rented accommodation and an existing dpc has failed, your landlord should be responsible for repairing it.
There are a number of problems which can cause damp to penetrate into your home including a leaking roof; cracked wall; leaky guttering; damaged drainage pipes; and ill fitting or damaged windows and doors. Penetrating damp usually shows up as damp patches, peeling wallpaper or blistered plaster on walls and ceilings.
If you live in rented accommodation, your landlord may be responsible for carrying out the repairs. Make sure you report the problem straight away.
Construction damp is due to a defect in the way your home was designed or constructed. If your property is less than 10 years old, it may have a new home warranty which covers certain build defects.
Condensation damp appears when moisture in the air meets a cold surface in your home. It is often worst on window panes and in areas of a room where there is little air flow such as behind furniture. It can result in the growth of mould, damage to fabrics and even mite infestation.
If your home has condensation damp, read on to discover how you might reduce it.
How to reduce mould and damp in your property
Maintaining a minimum temperature
If you have unoccupied rooms that are prone to condensation, keep their door shut and try to maintain them at a minimum temperature of around 15°C. Do not open the door to warm them up in the evenings as this will cause warm and humid air from the rest of the house to condense onto the colder walls of the unoccupied room.
An energy efficient boiler and appropriate heating controls are the best way of maintaining the correct temperature in different areas of your home as leaving the heating on all the time just to avoid damp uses a lot of energy and is expensive.
Avoid the use of portable gas or paraffin heaters as these give off a lot of moisture into the air.
Reduce the amount of moisture you create
The less moisture you create within your home, the lower the chance of mould or damp occurring.
- Avoid drying clothes indoors. If this isn’t possible, then dry them in the bathroom with the door closed and a window open or fan on.
- If you use a tumble dryer make sure it is vented to the outside or is self-condensing.
- Keep lids on pans when cooking.
As a short-term solution when humidity levels in your home are very high, you may want to consider using a dehumidifier. These use electricity and can be expensive to run so look for an energy efficient model.
Keep your property well ventilated
Poor air circulation contributes to problem damp as moist air is not carried away from the inside of your home.
To increase ventilation:
- Use extractor fans in kitchens and bathrooms. If the weather is dry, or you have no extractor fan, open the window for a while.
- Don’t block air vents or close trickle vents in windows.
- Consider adding more ventilation such as a new external vent in a problem corner or a new extractor fan with a timer to automatically switch the fan off after a selected length of time.
- Don’t fit any new draught-proofing in a room with a condensation problem.
- Open bedroom windows for a while as we create significant amounts of water through breathing and perspiration overnight.
- Make sure air can circulate freely by leaving gaps between furniture and walls.
Need to know more?
If you are concerned about the appearance of mould and damp in your property, please call us on: 0800 999 6671 or email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more ideas on how to reduce monthly bills and make your home more energy efficient visit our Home Energy Saving page.
For an in depth analysis of the heat performance of your property, in addition to a bespoke energy plan which will identify the most cost effective solutions to any issues, you may wish to request a home energy survey.