Dealing with damp and condensation

A major problem in many British homes

During the colder months condensation is a major problem in many British homes.

It is caused when warm, moist air hits a cold surface such as a window or external wall and condenses, running down the cold surface as water droplets. If left this can develop into black mould which looks and smells bad and can cause health problems as well as thousands of pounds worth of damage to clothes, furniture, books, shoes and decorations.

Condensation can be a problem in any property no matter how old it is. It is often worse in homes that have been modernised as ventilation and the circulation of air is reduced. Controlling ventilation and air circulation around the home is very important in the prevention of condensation because this allows moisture-filled air to escape.

Did You Know?


A family of four can add moisture to the air equivalent to 30 to 40 litres of water a week just by breathing.

Showering, cooking, bathing and washing can all add up 15 to 20 litres of water a week.

Drying clothes indoors can add up 10 to 15 litres of water a week into the home.


Rising or penetrating damp can cause problems in your home although it is less common than condensation. If you think damp is causing a problem in your property you will need to seek advice as to what is causing it and how it can be fixed.

Rising Damp

Rising damp is caused by a failed or ‘bridged' damp-proof course. This allows moisture in the ground to rise up through the groundfloor walls of your home, sometimes to a height of one metre.

You can usually identify rising damp because it is often associated with a tide mark at the edge of the area of damp caused by salt deposits.

Penetrating Damp

Penetrating damp is classed as any water that finds its way inside from the outside. It can occur at all levels of the building and is usually higher up.

Overflowing gutters, missing roof tiles, leaking pipes and downspouts, badly fitting windows/doors and damaged pointing, cladding or flashing or render as well as covered air bricks can all be a source of penetrating damp.

Signs of penetrating damp:

  • Growing areas of damp on walls/ceilings.
  • Blotchy patches on walls.
  • Wet and crumbly plaster.
  • Signs of spores or mildew.
  • Drips and puddles.


Condensation can cause mould to form in your home, lead to staining/damaging wallpaper, wall surfaces, window frames, furniture and clothing.

The mould and its spores carry the musty smell that is often associated with a damp house. Black mould can't grow where salt deposits are present (as with rising damp) and is therefore a sign of condensation.

Water vapour is generated in your home in many ways:

  • Steam from cooking and boiling the kettle.
  • Baths and showers.
  • Drying clothes inside.
  • Unsuitable venting of tumble dryers.

The best way to deal with mould is to remove it from walls using a special fungicidal wash which should be used in line with the manufacturer's instructions. Special paints are also available that will delay the return of the mould, but unless you take steps to reduce condensation it will eventually grow back.

The major difference between condensation and other forms of dampness is that you have the ability to reduce or solve the problem by changing behaviour at home.

Areas prone to Condensation

Kitchens and bathrooms where a lot of steam is created.

Outside walls, walls of unheated rooms and cold corners of rooms.

Wardrobes/cupboards, behind furniture against outside walls.

Cold surfaces such as mirrors, windows and window frames.

Reducing Condensation

There are four things to consider when dealing with a condensation problem - heating, insulation, ventilation and excess moisture.


Condensation is most likely to be a problem in homes that are underheated.

Try to keep temperatures in all rooms to above 15C as this will reduce condensation forming on external walls.


Insulating your home helps in three ways:

  • Warming the surface temperature of walls, ceilings and windows.
  • Generally increasing the temperature of the home.
  • Reducing heating costs thus allowing the home to be heated to a higher standard more affordably.


Condensation will occur less if you allow air to circulate freely. Make sure vents and airbricks are not covered or obstructed.


Condensation in the home occurs when there is too much moisture in the air.

Top Tips For Reducing Condensation

  1. In cold weather try and keep temperatures between 18 and 21C in main living areas whilst indoors.
  2. To kill and remove mould wipe down wall and window frames with a fungicidal wash which carries a Health & Safety Executive approved number.
  3. Dry washing outside and don't dry clothes on radiators which make your boiler work harder to heat your house and cost almost as much as using a tumble dryer, whilst creating more condensation.
  4. If you have to dry clothing indoors and don't have a tumble dryer, place clothes on a drying rack in a sunny room where a window can be opened slightly and keep the door closed.
  5. No drying rack? Put your clothes on hangers and hang from a curtain pole above a slightly opened window; this can also reduce the need for ironing.
  6. Don't block airbricks or air vents.

Reducing Condensation Around The Home

In The Living Room

  • Open window trickle vents during the day or when going out, or open windows for at least 10 minutes every day.
  • Lay thick carpet with a good thermal underlay.
  • Hang thick, heavy lined curtains during the winter.

In The Kitchen

  • Close internal doors whilst cooking and open a window.
  • Use an extractor fan if you have one.
  • Put lids on pans (this also reduces boiling times and helps save money).
  • Only boil as much water as you need in a kettle to reduce steam and save money.

In The Bedroom

  • Wipe down windows with a window squeegee.
  • Open window trickle vents during the day or when going out, or open windows for at least 10 minutes every day.
  • Don't put furniture, including beds, against any outside walls and try to leave a gap between the wall and furniture to allow air flow.
  • Lay thick carpet with a good thermal underlay.
  • Hang thick, heavy lined curtains during the winter.

In The Bathroom

  • Open windows whilst bathing/washing and leave them open for about 20 minutes after, if it is safe to do so.
  • Use an extractor fan if you have one.
  • Take shorter and cooler showers.
  • When running a bath put the cold water in first; this results in signi cantly less condensation.
  • Wipe down windows/mirrors/tiles/shower doors with a window squeegee and mop up the moisture with a super absorbent cloth which can be wrung out in the sink.
  • Don't leave wet towels lying around.
  • Try drying yourself with a smaller towel and wringing it out, wrapping yourself in a bigger towel or dressing gown for warmth. Microfibre towels are great for this as they both absorb more water and dry quickly


  • When wallpapering use a paste containing a fungicide to prevent mould.
  • Use thermal lining paper under wallpaper when decorating.
  • Use mould-resistant paint on areas prone to mould such as ceilings above windows.

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