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Damp, mould and cold homes

Use this page to find out how to deal with damp, mould and cold homes.

Damp homes and mould

Damp and cold homes can be really hard to deal with, especially during the winter months. Properties can show signs of damp, condensation and mould, which can get worse as the weather gets colder.

Condensation is a common form of damp, where moisture generated through everyday living condenses on cold surfaces.

Other forms of damp include:

  • Penetrating damp: where damp penetrates through the walls of the building and can usually be seen as an area of ‘wet’ staining on the wall or ceiling
  • Rising damp: where moisture rises up through the building from the ground. This will only affect the ground floor as moisture cannot rise above 1 metre and will show as a ‘tide’ mark.

There are several ways you can reduce damp and mould in your home:

Heating

Heating one room to a high level and leaving other rooms cold makes condensation worse in the unheated rooms. Try to leave some background heat on throughout the day in cold weather. Most homes take quite a long time to warm up, and it may cost you more if you try to heat your home up quickly in the evening.

If you don't have heating in every room, you could keep the doors of unheated rooms open to allow some heat into them.

To add extra heat to rooms without any form of fixed heating, it is better to use electric heaters, for example oil-filled radiators or panel heaters, on a low setting.

Gas and paraffin heaters

Try not to use portable bottled gas heaters in homes suffering with condensation, as they give out a lot of moisture whilst in use.

If you so use bottled gas and paraffin heaters, you will need to allow extra ventilation. Flueless heaters produce more than a pint of water for every pint of fuel they burn. So, using a bottled gas heater for 8 hours would produce around 4 pints of moisture.

Don't use your gas cooker to heat your kitchen, as it produces moisture when burning gas.

Check your gas boiler

It is important that your heating system is checked regularly so that it works efficiently. A gas boiler which is not in good working order can produce more moisture. Ensure you have a current satisfactory gas safety certificate by a Gas Safe Registered Engineer.

Ventilation

Ventilation is essential. Help to reduce condensation that has built up overnight by keeping a small window open where possible and opening any trickle vents on windows upstairs and downstairs. They should be on opposite sides of the house, or diagonally opposite if you live in a flat. At the same time, open the interior room doors, this will allow drier air to circulate throughout your home.

Ventilate your bedroom by leaving a window slightly open at night, or use trickle ventilators if fitted.

If you have an extractor fan, use it when cooking or having a bath/shower to stop the windows getting steamed up. Keep it running for a while after you have finished.

Allow air to circulate around stored clothes. Keep a small gap between large pieces of furniture and the walls, and where possible place wardrobes and furniture next to internal walls instead of external ones. Pull shelves away from the backs of wardrobes and cupboards and try not to overfill wardrobes and cupboards as it restricts air circulation.

Reducing water vapour

Drying clothes indoors, particularly on radiators, can increase condensation unless you open a window to allow air to circulate.

Hang your washing outside to dry if at all possible, or hang it in the bathroom with the door closed and a window slightly open, or an extractor fan on.

If you have a tumble dryer which is not vented to the outside you will need to allow more ventilation when you use it.

Always cook with pan lids on, and turn the heat down once the water has boiled. Only use the minimum amount of water for cooking vegetables.

Removing existing mould

Existing mould can be removed by wiping down walls and window frames with a fungicidal wash that carries a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) approval, or by using a diluted bleach solution. These are often available at local supermarkets or DIY shops. Always follow manufacturers’ guidelines.

Dry-clean mildewed clothes, and shampoo carpets. Do not try to remove mould by using a brush or vacuum cleaner.

After treatment, redecorate using good-quality fungicidal paint and a fungicidal-resistant wallpaper paste to help prevent mould from recurring. The effect of fungicidal or anti-condensation paint is destroyed if covered with ordinary paint or wallpaper.

The only permanent cure for mould is to reduce the amount of condensation in your home.

Please follow this advice for 8 weeks. If the problem does not improve, please contact our Housing Standards and Improvement team using our online form.

Cold homes

Living in a cold home is unpleasant and can affect your health.

There are several things you can do to keep your home warm or find out ways to keep on top of your bills:

You can also view a wide range of free advice leaflets and videos available on the Centre for Sustainable Energy website.