Damp and mould
Condensation and mould growth in your home is evidence that there is too much moisture being produced and that it is not heated and/or ventilated adequately.
Condensation dampness is recognised by damp patches with no definite edges and staining from running water. Along with the damp patches, mould growth can be formed. The mould growth can be black, grey, white, or green and can be found on walls, ceilings, behind furnishings where there is little air movement and in some cases is a crescent shape at skirting board or ceiling level where the junction of two internal walls meet. You may also notice a musty smell.
Any sign of condensation dampness or mould growth is a visible indication that the air in your home is too wet.
Air will always contain a certain amount of moisture and this will vary according to the temperature. The warmer the air temperature the more moisture it can hold. The cooler the air the less moisture it can hold.
When moisture is generated in your home by household activities such as washing, cooking, drying clothes and even breathing the air vapour containing the moisture will move and will condense, depositing water on any surface which is at or below a temperature at which the air becomes saturated with moisture - this is called the dew point. (Drying your washing in your home will produce about 9 pints of water).
The term to describe whether air is dry or moisture laden is referred to as relative humidity (rh). When air is above 65-70% relative humidity for lengthy periods there is a risk of condensation, mould growth and destruction of materials; such as walls and plasterboard, along with personal belongings such as curtains, carpets, bedding, mattresses, clothing and leather goods.
To assist you in knowing whether your home is too wet both relative humidity and temperature can be monitored by purchasing a temperature and humidity monitor - a hygrometer - which will allow you to adjust the temperature and ventilation in your home to acceptable levels. About 40% relative humidity is the recommended household level. When it reaches 65%-70% there will be too much moisture in the air resulting in condensation.
Damp, humid conditions in your home provide an environment in which mould spores and house dust mites can easily multiply. Mould spores, dust mites, pet hair and tobacco smoke are triggers which can worsen asthma and chest conditions and can affect your mental health and well being. A prolonged exposure to these allergens can also increase a sensitivity reaction such as sneezing, runny nose, eczema, coughs and wheezing, particularly for those aged 14 and under.
House dust mites live in your carpets, mattresses and soft furnishings. They are invisible to the human eye and do not cause any direct harm. It is their droppings which, when breathed in, may cause a sensitive reaction. Warm, moist air from too much humidity encourages dust mites to breed rapidly.
Dust mites cannot be eradicated entirely from your home, but the population can be reduced by maintaining humidity levels below 50% relative humidity. Mites can also be killed by washing or drying your bedding and soft furnishings in a temperature of 60°C for 10 minutes or more, by the means of a washing machine or tumble dryer. Equally, dust mites exposed to temperatures of -17° to -20°C for at least 24 hours will die, by placing non-washable items in a freezer.
Mould spores are always present in the atmosphere both inside and outside of your home and like moisture are invisible to the naked eye. They only become apparent when the spores land on a surface upon which they can exist and then multiply. To exist and thrive mould requires 4 elements: food, moisture, a suitable temperature and oxygen. The food is usually obtained from the surface it lands on, such as wallpaper or paint, the moisture is obtained from condensation, a suitable temperature is supplied by the householder and oxygen is obtained from the air. Of these 4 things mould growth is predominantly dependent upon moisture and is something you can remedy by carrying out the steps listed above.
The mould growth will not go away by itself. By taking the appropriate action you will be able to eradicate the problem from your home.
These steps you can take will help you with your housing conditions and associated health problems:
Keep your home free from damp and mould
- Cover pans when cooking, keeping the kitchen door shut and leaving the windows open and/or extractor fan on. (Remember to close your windows for security when you go out). Do not leave kettles boiling.
- Dry clothes outdoors or dry clothes in the bathroom, with the door shut, the heating on and the window open and/or extractor fan on.
- Wipe the windows, window sills, walls and surfaces with a paper cloth every morning to remove condensation. Throw the paper cloth away.
- Keep all internal doors shut to prevent moisture moving from one room to another room when there is moisture producing activities. At other times leave the doors open to enable the air to circulate.
- Allow air to circulate around all your furniture. Move beds away from externals walls.
- Open the bathroom window and/or keep the extractor fan on when taking a shower or bath. Keep the bathroom door shut when taking a shower or bath.
- When filling the bath, run the cold water first then add the hot - this will reduce the steam which leads to condensation. Leave the bathroom door closed whilst the bath is filling.
- When you have finished using the bath, open the window until the moisture has disappeared from the windows and walls. (Remember to close your windows for security when you go out). If you have an extractor fan, keep the window closed and keep the extractor fan running until the moisture has dispersed.
- Open the kitchen window and shut the kitchen door when cooking. (Remember to close your windows for security when you go out).
- Keep trickle vents in windows open. They are designed to ventilate your accommodation without causing draughts
- Open the bedroom windows (for up to 20 minutes) as soon as you wake and throw back the sheets or duvet to air the bed and bedding. A window slightly open is as good as one fully open. (Remember to close your windows for security when you go out).
It may appear that you are losing heat, but what you are doing is allowing warm moisture- laden air to escape and permit cool dry air to enter your home. Dry cool air is cheaper to heat than warm moist air.
- If using a tumble dryer it must be vented property to the outside air.
- If possible, keep a low background heat on all day, even in the bedrooms, kitchen and bathroom. Warm air can hold more moisture than cold air so if your house is heated adequately you are less likely to have condensation dampness. It will cost more initially to warm the walls, but when the walls are dry your heating bills will reduce.
- If you have an Economy 7 Night Storage Heaters understand how to use it effectively. Generally night storage heaters have two knobs. The right one will control the heat input. The left hand one will control the heat output. The left hand knob controls a flap within the heater. To keep the room at a reasonable temperature you will need to adjust the heater to allow heat to escape gradually throughout the day. The control knobs are usually marked from numbers 1-10 around the outside of the dial. As a guide in mild weather (10-17°C) the input control should be between 4 and 8. In cold weather (10°C and below) turn the dial to 8 or above. (It may be that during period of very cold weather you may need to supplement your heating to maintain a comfortable temperature
- If you have mould growth it should be removed as soon as you see it.
- To kill and remove the mould, wipe down the area using soap and water and dry the area thoroughly. Do not brush or use a vacuum as this can disturb the mould spores.
- Do not over-ventilate your accommodation by leaving the windows open as your walls will lose all the heat stored in them. Open the windows for a short period at a time so that any moisture can escape then close them, leaving a small gap of about 5 mm, or at any time that condensation is forming on the glass.
- Do not put your heating on for short periods of time (one hour or less) - this will make the problem worse. The air will absorb the moisture more quickly than the walls can warm up. When the heating is turned off the air will cool quickly and condensation will be formed, cooling the walls further.
- Do not leave condensation or any water which has accumulated on windows, window sills, walls or surfaces. Wipe the moisture off immediately.
- Do not overfill your cupboards and wardrobes. Keep your furniture away from the walls so that air can circulate. It is better to place furniture against internal walls than external walls which may be colder.
- Do not block up external vents in any room where there is a gas cooker or fuel burning fire.
- Do not draught-proof bathroom or kitchen windows.
- Do not over-crowd your home. The more people and pets living in your home the more moisture will be produced which needs to be removed.
- Do not turn off any extractor fans in the bathroom or kitchen. Extractor fans are cheap to run, use less energy than a standard light bulb and can remove moist air quickly.
- Do not use portable LPG (Calor Gas) heaters as they can produce excessive moisture.
The mould will not go away by itself. It is important that you take the most appropriate action to reduce the condensation in your home to ensure that you:
- reduce the health risks from mould spores and dust mite allergens
- do not lose part or all of your tenancy deposit to pay for any damage caused to your accommodation
- do not damage your personal belongings
Your landlord has a legal obligation to provide you with a suitable fixed form of heating and means to ventilate your accommodation. But you also have an obligation to use your accommodation in a 'tenant like manner'. This means that you must not make your home damp or mouldy by excessive condensation.
The Council is the enforcing authority for properties which do not meet the required standards as set out in the Housing Act 2004. Condensation dampness and mould caused by the lifestyle of the occupants cannot be enforced and therefore an inspection will not be carried out of your property.
Also, this Council will not consider condensation dampness and mould caused by the lifestyle of the occupants for the purpose of the housing register banding.